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Ten Questions with...

CHANTEL McGREGOR

Chantel is our Featured Artist in August 2011 when she plays the Cambridge Rock Festival.  In March she released her debut album 'Like No Other' and she continues to build a strong grass roots following via her numerous gigs and festival appearances.

Chantel McGregor, photo by Noel Buckley

What are you currently up to?

At the moment, I'm preparing for the next gigs, and doing some festivals over the summer whilst trying to write the next album, I'd like to record that at the same time next year as I did the last one - March - so writing is high on my list at the moment, oh and trying to find enough time for a holiday lol!

You never seem to be off the road according to your upcoming tour dates! How important has playing gigs been in helping build up your profile and what was your first live gig like?

For me, touring is the most important thing. It's about connecting with an audience, making friends with them and entertaining them. I guess that's the fundamental way of building a following, touring as much as you can and meeting as many people as you can. I love touring.

I remember my first live gig, I was 12 and it was at a jam session in Bradford, I played a few Sheryl Crow songs and I really enjoyed it.

After that, I would go to that jam every Sunday, one in Clayton on a Monday, one by Bradford Uni on a Tuesday, one in Mirfield on a Wednesday, one in Brighouse on a Thursday, and then we'd try and find a band to go and watch on a Friday and Saturday. Somehow I managed to fit in homework!!!

It's only the last two years that I've been able to gig any distance from home, before that it was a case of fitting the gigs around my lectures for my degree.

 


I've never really listened to just one style of music, so I guess my style has become a mixture of everything that I've ever listened to.
 



What made you want to take up playing the guitar and what attracted you to a more bluesy style of playing?

We can probably blame my dad for that one lol!!!! He used to play and there would always be a guitar lying around, and I would toddle over and de-tune it for him. So when I was 3, he bought me a half size of my own, and at 7 he bought me a 3/4 size along with lessons and it went from there really.

I took lessons until I did my grade 8 aged 16, meanwhile I was playing as many jam sessions as I could. I never really made a conscious decision to play in a bluesy style, it's just really the way my playing developed.

I've never really listened to just one style of music, so I guess my style has become a mixture of everything that I've ever listened to.

How did you hook-up with your current band of Martin Rushworth and Richard Ritchie? Have you ever been approached to join an established band?

I've known Martin for a while, I used to guest with a band he played in and when I decided to set my own band up, he chose to follow me. Rich used to play jam sessions years ago when I used to visit them, and when I was looking for a bass player last year, he was advertising on a website, so that's how that came about. I've not been asked to join an established band, I've had a few established musicians asking to join mine though lol!

 


If you're not Top 40, they don't really want to know. I find this a real shame as there some amazing music about and its confined to thriving venues (like the 100 Club or Academies), with great audiences, so there is a fan base for this 'underground music', but the main media is blinkered by 'Top 40'.
 



Is blues/blues rock music in a healthier state now than ten years ago? How important has it been to have specialist magazines in the High Street stores raising the profile of the music?

I think the music scene is thriving, in a very underground sort of way. I think the audiences are fabulous, I'm getting some amazing crowds, the numbers are really doing fantastic. The difficulty is breaking through to the commercial media.

The specialist magazines/radio/local news/radio are fantastic, really helpful, however if you try to work with national press and national radio, commercial stations, it's very hard to get in.

If you're not Top 40, they don't really want to know. I find this a real shame as there some amazing music about and its confined to thriving venues (like the 100 Club or Academies), with great audiences, so there is a fan base for this 'underground music', but the main media is blinkered by 'Top 40'.

You've done exceptionally well in your academic achievements in music. Would you perhaps consider going into guitar teaching a later stage in your career?

Ohhh I was a nerd lol!!!! I worked so hard to juggle my degree with gigging, but I just became obsessive about both and it was worth it. Getting a degree was about ticking a box for me, so to get a 1st Class Honours degree, for me was a shock, a happy shock.

It was so worth being obsessive about the playing as well because I had a career already established to go to when I left Uni, a lot of the other students at Uni struggled to find any jobs within music having just finished their degree. I knew what I wanted to do when I left, so I set that up whilst I was there, and then once my degree was finished, I could just throw myself into touring completely.

What have been the live highlights so far and why?

Ohh there have been so many, the festivals in my opinion are brilliant, and the headline academy gigs are always great. I love the European festivals, the difference in cultures is wonderful.

I guess it's all down to the audience, if you played a festival to one man and their dog it wouldn't be great (thank goodness we haven't had to do that), whereas if you played an intimate sell out gig to 300 people, it will be a great gig. I think the audience is what defines a great gig.

In this age of downloads and declining CD sales has the internet helped you get your music out there or has it in some ways hindered it by websites offering free downloads etc.

I think the internet has been wonderful. Yes there are issues with illegal downloading and free streaming sites, but for me, they are a tool to help spread the word. If someone finds out about my album, goes home and listens to it on Spotify, decide they like it, and buy it, then the free streaming programme has done it's job.

YouTube has been a blessing to me, so many people from all over the world get in touch saying that they love the videos, it's an advert for the live shows, not only attracting people to the gigs from from the UK, but people have travelled from America, Sweden, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, all because of Youtube!!!!! It's really humbling!!!!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from music?

What's spare time? If I do get a bit of time off, I like to go shopping, I enjoy fashion, make up, holidays, cocktails, real ale, travelling to new places; the usual really!


Anything else to add and a message for your fans...

A massive thank you for all of your support, you are all wonderful and I appreciate every one of you!!!! xxx

 


Interview by Jason Ritchie, August 2011

Photo by Noel Buckley

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