Debbie Kruger
Eddi Reader
I have two lengthy interviews with Eddi Reader — read the full transcripts.
March/April 2000

by Debbie Kruger

Eddi Reader is ready to do it alone. After a decade of drawing heavily on collaborations with other writers, she realizes it’s okay — in fact it’s appropriate — to have faith in her own prowess.

It’s been a long haul. From the folk halls and busking street corners of Glasgow to backing vocals for the Eurythmics, Reader fought for her true voice — vocally and on paper. In the heavily synthesized pop scene of the 1980s, London-based quartet Fairground Attraction charmed listeners with its acoustic lucidity and sweet folk tunes. Mark E Nevin wrote most of the group’s songs but it was Eddi Reader’s voice that grabbed the punters.

Young, artless and painfully insecure, Readers’ own songwriting talents were all but squashed during her Fairground Attraction days. Her “working class-ness,” as she describes it, and deference to “real” songwriters, made her doubt her own abilities, and Nevin’s control was overpowering.

“A lot of what I was writing was very naïve and a lot of it was very melodically great and catchy but not very well thought out,” she says. Her one composition on Fairground Attraction’s only studio album, First of a Million Kisses, was “Whispers,” an inspiring tribute to one of Reader’s favorite subjects, “the mother.”

“I’ve been working with Boo Hewerdine now who’s a completely different kettle of fish. He’ll come in and I’ll have one line all week and he’ll just sit there and he’ll play it and he’ll play it, and he’ll play different chords behind it, and I’ll play different chords, and he won’t let me leave it alone. I’ll throw something out all spontaneous and vomity and just free association, and he’ll tape it, he’ll collect it, he’ll play it back to me, he’ll go, ‘See? See how good it is?’”

On her latest album, Angels & Electricity, Reader has relied heavily on collaborating and covering the work of past and contemporary heroes, from Fred Neil and John Prine to Ron Sexsmith, whose “On A Whim,” is the only song he has written especially for another artist. On her first solo album, 1992’s Mirmama, Reader took the lyrics of civil rights activist Si Kahn’s “What You Do With What You’ve Got,” which she had heard sung by Dick Gaughan, and wrote a completely new melody for it. On hearing Reader’s version, it’s hard to imagine the song any other way.

Along with Boo Hewerdine, her musical cohorts include Fairground percussionist Roy Dodds, folk siblings Ewan and Neill MacColl, and keyboard player Teddy Borowiecki, who has worked constantly with Jane Siberry and with kd lang. Reader has also frequently used lang’s bass player, David Pilch, and in 1994 went to Los Angeles to record her second, eponymous, solo album, produced by lang’s Ingenue co-producer Greg Penny. The result was something too slick and unrealized for Reader’s taste, and is her least satisfying musical experience to date. Her third solo effort, Candyfloss and Medicine, was a far more enriching experience, with Reader and Borowiecki co-producing.

For Reader, writing is purely organic and closely tied in with her voice. “What I do is sit with people and feel the guitar player hit a note that makes me sing something else, and let my body go enough into that fearless place that I can completely express myself without worry.

“I get an emotional sense of whatever it is I’m singing. That’s what happens. I’ll be singing and I’ll break my own heart, and I won’t know why. And then I have to figure out what the hell’s going on, what the hell am I thinking about when I’m singing that.”

She is happily ignorant of musical theory. “I’ve been surrounded by people who are very technically good at what they do and it can be threatening, because I make up chords. My vocabulary is limited on guitar but what I have got is well-used, and I don’t want to go out into the world and do what I’ve been doing in the past, which is totally rely on other writers to come and provide me with some platform.”

So her next project will be an album of material composed alone. “There is a part of me which is coming to the surface now which is saying very definitely to me that I’m letting myself down by not trusting exactly what comes out of my own brain and putting it onto paper. And I have trusted it in the past, but it’s kind of scary to have a whole album of that.”

Angels & Electricity is as good an introduction to Eddi Reader as anything she has recorded, reminiscent of her first solo album, Mirmama, with its whimsical melodic musings and lyrics that are both heart-wrenching and nurturing. Most captivating are her vocals — honest, pure and impossibly effortless — and the intricate arrangements of deceptively simple tunes woven together by her band of merry collaborators, including Boo Hewerdine and Teddy Borowiecki. From the exuberant “Prayer Wheel” through the country-inspired feel of “California” to the intimate folk beat of “Follow My Tears,” Reader spans her usual diverse array of styles while never pausing long enough on any one to be pigeon-holed.

Visit Eddi Reader online

- Top of page -

About - PR Whiz - Writer - Broadcaster - Jetsetter - Homebody
Links - Contact - Site Map - Home