Conversations with Kate Rusby (1)
Conversations with Kate Rusby (3)

Conversations with Kate Rusby (2)

AwkwardKate's new CD: sleeve design by Adam Savage

In the second part of Salut! Live's interview with Kate Rusby, we hear about collaborations with other artists, and in particular her thoughts on Ronan Keating, from eager approval of his derrière - this is a site based in France, after all - to total nonchalance when reminded of the occasional sniping their partnership provoked.

Kate also updates us on her fear of flying, the music she is currently listening to and the challenge of facing record production without the guiding hand of John McCusker.

You have collaborated a lot with other artists, from those beautiful support vocals on Martin Simpson's song about his dad to work with Roddy Woomble, Eddi Reader and even Ronan Keating. Tell me a little about this side of your work.

It’s always lovely to sing with other people. Something I have been brought up with, whenever we were taken on long journeys mum and dad would sing songs and us kids would all sing along, making up harmonies before we even knew what the word meant. There’s just something lovely about voices singing together, even more so when it’s family, and I’m so chuffed that Joe is singing on this record. Siblings have the same vibrato so the sound they make together is almost inseparable. Joe was so shy about singing on it that he stayed up late one night after I’d left the studio and recorded himself in secret and played it me the next day, I totally loved it, he’s a great singer.
So what did you make of Ronan Keating? How aware was he of your work before you did something together? And how do you react to the occasional criticism you got from certain fans to the duet with him?
He’s such a lovely, lovely fella! Clued up, hard working, polite , funny (with a cute little bum!). What is there not to like? He’s a dead nice fella. I was dubious at first 'cos they said I would have to do the video and lots of telly, and not having made a video before I didn’t really want to start down that route at the age of 33. That’s for the youngsters, eh, dancing about pretending to sing. I’m not into that carry on really. But they talked me round and promised I didn’t have to dance! So I thought, 'why not, it’ll be my only chance to have a look into that crazy world of pop music?', and it was really good fun. And I got to be on Top Of The Pops!! Thought that was quite cool really, something to tell the grandchildren. As for the couple of criticisms I heard, I don’t care. I don’t take direction from people I haven’t even met, It’s for me to choose if I want to do something or not, and I am very pleased I did. I even got to meet the Royals, my Nanan Connie would have liked that.
You have always had what I think John McCusker used to call "dodgy tastes in pop music". Who are you listening to these days - folk, pop or whatever?
Ha ha. I always listen to a mixture of music, doesn’t matter what genre. If I like it, I like it, it doesn’t have to be ok’ed by NME! I have been listening to Idlewild’s new record, I love it, so much energy on it. Erm, and have been listening to Arcade Fire, Aqualung, Tony Rose, Maps, Ryan Adams, Ricky Scaggs, and totally love Regina Spektor's album, so loads of stuff as usual.
What projects do you have lined up, in the short, medium or longer term?
Well, we’re just about to embark on our autumn tour, then in Dec we’re guna do a Christmas show, something I have wanted to do for a long time. I’ve been wanting to do some of the South Yorkshire carols Kate Rusby Band style, so that we are. And hopefully sometime this year, begin a record of the carols. We have planned to go to the States next year again; haven’t been for a few years 'cos I didn’t want to fly, but I have flown a lot in the last 18 months so getting used to it again, although I have just heard that some of the promoters out there don’t believe I’m guna go. I have never cancelled anything for any reason other than the odd gig for being ill, so they can maybe stuff off, we’ll see how it goes. Then I’m off snowboarding again in January, then beyond that having a band reshuffle, and then who knows, might do a gig on the moon!
10: Is there a part of the world you especially like playing?
Cornwall, 'cos it’s so beautiful and I get to see my cousin and have a big laugh. But my fave gigs at the end of the year always seem to be Sheffield City hall and The Lowry, Manchester, they always seem so welcoming and warm. My fave country other than here that I have been to tour was Malaysia, so very beautiful, and such friendly people, I’d love to go back there one day. (I’d like to say it’s a pleasure to tour the States, but it’s all just a bit anal at the mo, it has been since 9/11, it makes it a very unpleasant place to tour having guns in your face every day at the airport, I’d rather stay at home with my dog. Hopefully it’ll get better 'cos it used to be good). Oh, and we had a lovely tour of Spain this year, it’s the first time I have played there, I loved it.
Have you managed to conquer the fear of flying?
I have flown quite a bit in the last 18 months, I still don’t like it, but I can tolerate it again. Sudoku is my secret weapon. But still, the part I hate most is the turbulence. We had a big bit recently coming home from Ireland, one of those when the plane drops and people scream, I had my face in my sudoku book counting backwards from 100. The flight home from touring Spain was a little bumpy too, so I had my coat on my head; if I can’t see it’s much easier to deal with. A strange thing though isn’t it, being shaken about in a tube in the sky? The boys just ignore me and pretend I’m not with them!!
The children of your sister Emma are very important to you. Bring us up to date on the exploits of Auntie Kate
Aw, they are my sunshine! I absolutely adore them. I just took them down to Cornwall and we had a whale of a time. We played on the beach, a friend took us fishing on the sea, Josh caught a rock so we thought best to not cook that. We bodyboarded, we sang (their fave of mine at the mo is The Village Green Preservation Society, they nearly know all the words!). We ate ice creams, and seafood platters, and fish and chips at the harbour. Very lovely, in fact the happiest I have been in a long time. Just after finishing our fish 'n' chips, some people came up and asked for a photo with me, so I stood up and had my photo taken, the boys couldn’t stop laughing. Apparently I had peas on my face and jumper as well as a huge mosquito bite on my for head and frizzy sea hair. They think the people will be disappointed with the pic! They think it’s quite cool though when I get asked for my autograph. They are both budding musicians as well as great sportsmen, so they said they’re getting tips for the future. They’re much cooler than me though, so they have nothing to worry about

What is your view of the present state of folk and the younger musicians following your example?

I think it’s in a fantastic state, a very exciting time. I heard a girl recently called Ruth Notman, I thought she was fantastic, really special. And Joe has just been in the studio with Damien O'Kane and David Kosky. It’s incredible playing, very exciting times. It makes me feel quite old though, doh! And the future is safe too. Lots of musicians I know have had babies in the last couple of years, and there’s more on the way. Nothing to worry about there.
Big change with the new album, of course, with you and Joe sharing the production honours. Was this something you were aiming for in any case or was it directly as a result of splitting from John?
It wasn’t something that was planned, but the split from John two years ago has inevitably put a strain on our working relationship, and sadly meant that it wasn’t the right time for us to make a record together. So the best thing was to produce this record myself, it’s been a long and at times lonely road, but with help from Joe we got there in the end. John still played on the record. He’s a brilliant musician and a great fella.

* For the final instalment of this series, I peppered Kate with quick questions to which she provided equally swift responses. Come back to Salut! Live on Saturday to discover what Kate Rusby was like at school and how Dolly Parton figures in her life.
Go back a step if you missed Kate's moving description of making her debut as a record producer in the midst of family bereavement


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