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Eddi Reader
Singer Eddi Reader was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, eventually landing in London finding backing vocal work with the Eurythmics and Gang of Four. She joined the British chart-topping group Fairground Attraction before going solo in the early '90s. After many years of living in London, she has now returned to live in Scotland and is in great demand as a performer - live and on tv - and as a recording artist .

(This interview was recorded in Edinburgh in December 1998.)

Fiona:

We're here with Eddi Reader in Edinburgh, and last night you performed at St. Mary's Cathedral which is a big Episcopal Cathedral here in Edinburgh, so tell us what that was like for you?

Eddi:

Well, it was quite daunting, because it was such a big building and it was full of all that stuff that is very stereotypic of what you think meeting God would be like. I suppose that's what they were built for, way back then. It was like you were coming into God's house, and it did have that energy, so I was very reverential and I felt that I couldn't say anything bad like "bum" or anything. But I did manage to slip out the odd sweary word during sound-check!

Fiona:

The acoustics were great too. I mean, that has to be a bit of a dream come true for a singer. In fact, I seem to remember you saying it was like singing in the world's most elaborate and largest, as American's would say, 'restroom'. Tell us what it was like as a singer, just to experience singing in a big space like that?

Eddi:

Yeah, you know, where you go and sing when you're little is in the bathroom, and you practice within the bath, and everybody does, and in this Cathedral it was the best sound I've ever had.

All the engineers I've ever worked with, I wish they'd been there because I'd have gone, "That's what I want, this is it!" It's to do with stone, and it's to do with your voice bouncing up into the air, and you just have to whisper and it carries. So, all of that, it was fantastic for me on stage and has totally spoilt me now. I'll not be able to go back to playing in the club in Tunbridge Wells now, down in the South of England, that I played last month.

Fiona:

Let's go back to your childhood bathroom roots. Tell us a little bit about that. You mentioned it last night, the idea of trying your voice out in an echoey space when you're wee, and thinking about singing. When did you, in the bathroom or in the shower or wherever, when did you start to think, you know, this is sort of what I'd like to do?

Eddi:

Well, when I was little, we lived in the city centre of Glasgow which, at that time in the early '60s, had tenement buildings that were cheap housing for the workers and their wives and kids. They were big stone buildings with china walls or china tiles around the walls, and they were great for singing in.

And the kids, me and my sisters and brothers and everyone, all the children of the area, what we'd have to do, we would have to wash the walls and the stairs down. The adults, each neighbor, had to do their turn and the kids usually got the job, and they got a couple of pennies for doing it.

That's where I started singing because we didn't really have a big enough bathroom for me to hog it. I would wash the stairs. It sounds very romantic and Edith Piaf, sort of washing the stairs and singing my songs. I can't remember what I used to sing. I think I just used to improvise and la, la, la.

My Mum and Dad were real Elvis freaks so I did a lot of "Crying in the Chapel" and, what was the other one, not "Old Ship," that was not the one that we had. What was the one that they love? "Are you Lonesome Tonight" -- that was the one I sang!

We were working class, and that was the way that we entertained ourselves. I learned there, and echoey spaces have always made me sing. Now, as soon as I go into a room I sing in it, to see if it works. If I'm buying a house, or if I'm moving into a flat, I've got to be able to sing in it, or forget it.

Fiona:
 
Was it a large family you were from then? A large family and a musical family? Would you have had other folks singing around you or was it just something that Eddi did?

Eddi:
 
Well, yes, no, yes and no, yes and no. It was musical to the extent that everyone felt that they were a singer. Everyone thinks that they're a singer in Glasgow, so I never ever felt, until I was twenty-seven, I really didn't have any idea that what I did was any different from anyone else really. I mean people in London used to go "Ooohh, that's great, absolutely fabulous," but I just thought it was because everyone from Glasgow sung and they all hadn't got to London yet.

But I remember feeling that my family, my mother, for example, sang like Doris Day, she had a Doris Day voice. My father impersonated Elvis alot at parties, that was his thing, and most of my aunties, they were into Brenda Lee and the '50s singers, Jerry Southern and Kay Starr, and all those songs would come in, at New Year's time usually, because that's when all got together for a big party and you'd hear them, and everyone had their song.

But it's true, you know, everyone had their song, and you couldn't sing that person's song. So, like, Aunty Mary had hers, Uncle Frank had his Frank Sinatra, Uncle Terrence had his Dean Martin song, Aunty Marion had her Beatles song and it was a real education in pop culture for me, being with these grown-ups.

Fiona:
 
It does paint a kind of romantic picture, but I think it's a good point that in some cultures, or in some households, there's a culture of singing. It's not about whether or not you're a good singer, it's about having a song and being able to contribute something into a family gathering or whatever. In fact, I've often thought it's amazing that the whole idea of Karaoke didn't start in Glasgow, because it makes sense.

Eddi:
 
Incredible how Karaoke has missed centuries here, because we have got it. In a sense though, if I go to a New Year's party now and there's a Karaoke machine, it isn't quite the same. There's something about a lone voice struggling with a couple of notes. And, you know, that great comedian, Billy Connolly, he often talks about it.

You know, you would hear someone singing something and you wouldn't necessarily know what the heck they were singing about, it didn't really matter. It was the way they were doing it. The way that this usually stoic, reticent, taciturn guy would be standing there pouring his heart out in a Dean Martin song. It was such a juxtaposition, it was kind of mind-bending really. You couldn't quite take it on board that they could do that with their bodies.

It's romantic too, and I made it romantic because I'm a total story teller and a drama queen, and I turned everything into a big story in my life. All the horrible stuff and all the aggression and the primitive aggression that was around me, that got translated into some happy ever after story, you know.

Fiona:
 
You've mentioned other people's songs -- Doris Day, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra -- but growing up for yourself, what kind of music was inspiring you?

Eddi:
 
Well, I had all that basis, the pop culture thing, but it wasn't enough for me. I needed to find something really authentic, so I'd look to the folk clubs in Scotland, which were pretty important at that time.

I remember, it was the late '70s and everyone was getting into punk rock, and I was kind of sixteen and going for something else. I wasn't angry enough to be a punk really, and I wasn't really a fashion victim enough. I don't know why. I suppose I was just isolated because I had been singing since I was three, so it was like, that was what I did.

I'd found what I did, and hang with everybody else. I didn't need a peer group or anything. So, I went off to folk clubs and I discovered traditional Scottish song, and traditional English song, and British music. In fact, just music that was played and that was written by the common man or woman.

Fiona:
 
And it's a thread that's continued to run through your music ever since. You've often included a Burns song or another song and you might sing it unaccompanied, almost as it's always been sung. Or you might take it and provide a totally different and new arrangement of it, like you make it your own, which is again part of, I think, the tradition of Scottish music and singing that we often miss.

Talk a little bit about that time for you and about finding your voice in a situation like that -- when you're in folk clubs, and you're picking up songs, and then you're thinking, "Could I maybe go out and sing them myself and busk?" or whatever. Tell us a little bit about that transition.

Eddi:
 
Well, I was pretty young and I didn't really have a persona to sell, and so a lot of the stuff that I had in my repertoire would be Elvis, which just wasn't acceptable in folk clubs. I felt that I didn't have the goodies, you know. Everyone had this information that I had nothing to do with, and I didn't know where to find out about it. If I heard a song, I would try and copy it, and I'd get up and I'd try and sing it.

But I had learned song through American song, songwriters and singers, so I sung with a kind of mid-Atlantic accent and I couldn't make it fit. I didn't know what I was doing wrong for a long time, and then I discovered my own voice. My speaking voice became softer and my singing voice, I pulled it back over this side of the Atlantic a little bit, and heard people that I loved.

Like, there was a wonderful singer in Kilmarnock Folk Club, and she's not famous, but she used to sing a traditional song, a Burn's song. Every week she'd sing a new one, and she sang "The Blacksmith" and she sang it with her own accent, and I heard it, and it was the same as my accent, so I could copy it.
So I copied it, and then I discovered it was alright to sing "understand" in a song, instead of "underrstaynd." I could actually sing it like the way I speak it. It was just weird, turning myself into myself. It was a thing that I had to learn to do.

Fiona:
 
You're one of just a very few people I've heard talk about this, because I find it odd that, here in Scotland, people so often don't seem to be able to sing in their own natural voices. They seem to have to adopt a persona and it's mid-Atlantic or it's all the way over in some mythical American place that doesn't exist. It's a combination of styles over there even.

And unless you grow up with traditional song, and you're surrounded by people who are singing in an extension of their speaking voices, it is something that people here have to actually consciously reclaim isn't it, when they come into singing, especially if they've been surrounded by American song. They have to reclaim their own voice and find their own way of tackling it.

I want to come back and talk a bit more about folk influences and contemporary folk influences, with your work on the TransAtlantic Sessions, which is a fun thing to talk about, but can we talk a bit more about how you then moved on from there and started to perform with Fairground Attraction and how that got started?

Eddi:
 
I went to London, which was a big mistake, because it's a big bottle neck in Britain. It's where everybody goes to look for the "paved with gold streets" and all of that. It was a mistake in a lot of senses, because it was more isolating for me again, to take myself out of my culture and my friends and family, and I started busking.

I used to know a lot of buskers and it was a way for me singing in the street with an acoustic guitar and making a bit of money too, and not starving, and having a ball too, really.

I went to Paris and Belgium and Switzerland and Germany and the South of France, and I stayed in the South of France for a year. Then I ended up back in London and I thought, "Well, I don't want to go down The Underground and play music anymore, I want to do this properly," so I started to answer adverts in the music press, and I did some work with Annie Lennox and The Eurythmics and Billy McKenzie of The Associates and The Waterboys.

But I still had this kind of edge to me that wasn't really sure which place I belonged in. I had one foot in the folk music camp, but because no one else was doing it, and I didn't seem to have a bunch of friends who were all doing the same thing.

Like now, there seems to be people like The Big Sea, they all do it together, and I'm very envious of people like that, because they've all found each other, whereas I seem to be a big sore thumb out on my own. And everyone else was into punk and New Romanticism and very high-tech, and I got very angry with music at that time.

When I met Mark Nevin of Fairground Attraction, I had said to him, "I'm not going for a record deal, I hate the record industry, I don't want to work with drummers, they're fascists and they tell you what time to march in."

And I wasn't interested in smoke machines on stage. I called them pedestals, stages, and god-like things that people try and pretend they're something other than who they are, who belch the same as everybody else. I just don't want to be that.

I want to be honest about what I do and I was very into Edith Piaf at the time. I'd discovered her, and Maria Callas, for technique, I'd learned phonetically some arias, and then Edith Piaf, for her life story, just how she did it, which felt very similar to me. Just singing in the streets of Paris, and I was singing in the streets of Glasgow, and she came from, I think, a far poorer background than I did, but definitely, she was dealing in a lot more prostitution and all that stuff, and I didn't get that. I had a very sheltered working class background. I had all the Barbie dolls I ever needed, you know, and I was pretty okay with that.

But I felt that, with Fairground, I wanted to do something that was really different from what I was seeing around me. The high-tech industry, and all the session work I'd done with all these people, felt kind of soulless and rootless, and I didn't like doing that to something I depended on.

Singing was something that was my company for all my life, and I felt like I was dissing it, you know, I was kind of disrespecting it, and not being serious about what I was doing with it.

So I found Mark, and we went to some pubs in London. In the back room, they used to have these after-hours places where comedy stores started and, in America you'd know people like Ben Elton maybe or, I'm not sure, Lee Evans, would go into these back rooms, and people would pay £1 to go and listen.

And we would go along, and I would put my plastic bag full of shopping down, because this was my vibe, I wasn't interested in being a star. I'd put my glasses on and, you know, I would wear no makeup and I was not using a microphone, and I would stand and sing these songs that Mark and I had kind of...well, Mark had written about three at that time and I'd written about four, and then we chose some other things, and we just would send them nuts. It was great!

It seemed to be, I was using the folk club thing in a contemporary setting, you know. Vic Reeves would come on after us and Julian Clary. I don't know if these people are known over there, but they're now massive here, and we would be the romantic relief from all this cynicism, all the post-modern comedy that was going down. We would be the romantic voice saying, "But remember, we're still little kids that want to be loved." And we'd sing these songs about lost love and fairgrounds and the roller-coaster life, the roller-coaster ride of life. So, that's what we were about.

Fiona:
 
But, for all your determination to do it in a simple way, and in a non-commercial way, you did find quite a lot of commercial success with it, and suddenly you were on pop-music programs and performing before the nation. A lot of people were quite captivated by what you were doing, which must have stood as quite a contrast to most popular music at that time. Did that surprise you, and how did you feel about that?

Eddi:
 
Well, in a way I kind of resented it, yes, and in a way that probably sounds really ungrateful and "How dare she, she should be back in the streets, washing the stairs." I went on holiday with my then French boyfriend and we'd done some tapes in my little squat that I lived in, and Mark took them to some record companies and, because I'd worked with The Eurythmics and The Waterboys and Billy MacKenzie, he got a foot in the door. "This is a singer who did this." So they'd listen, because you always have to have an angle with these people. And he would go to them, and they were all clamouring over us and, by the time I got back from holiday he had five of the majors all interested.

Part of me felt great, but part of me was thinking, "Oh, is this going to spoil it now? Am I going to be like these people that I don't want to be? Am I going to be up there pretending to be a god when I don't want to do that? Am I going to have to sing a song for fifty million years that I don't really like?" I just didn't want to spoil it. I'm totally romantic about everything, and romantic in a bad way and a good way. I like to see the good in everything, and I needed to feel that was I was doing was vital.

But we got back and yeah, we were number one. One of the songs that we did was Perfect, I loved Perfect. For me, finding that tune was brilliant. I found the words that I can actually speak to people now. This is me, this is how I talk, this is how I sing, and it felt great, but I still had to cover myself up in a big costume and hide.

I didn't want pictures taken of me. They could take pictures of the drummer, but not me. And, of course, the drummer that I found, Roy, he wasn't a fascist, he was this 'rickety-tickety, rac-a-tac-a, tsch' drummer and I loved him, his brushes, and it was really unusual. And Simon played this plummy sounding guitaron, which is like a Mexican bass.

So it was wild, and weird, and wacky enough for me to accept it as a band, and then I accepted that we were going to play to people, which is where I felt most at ease. Doing TV shows and miming and videos, I didn't like all that, and photographs and interviews, but singing stuff like Hallelujah to two thousand people in Glasgow, and having them all looking at you like they were about to melt is the best feeling in the world.

Fiona:
 
Since those days in your career, as Eddi Reader you've sought, perhaps not consciously, but the way your work has gone, not so much as to soar into everybody's consciousness with a song, or a performance on television, but to have a career of great longevity with a following that's grown and grown and will come see you wherever you are.

It doesn't have that shooting star sort of trajectory, but it's got this ongoing burning embers, there's a kind of a glow that's continuing. Is that what you want to be doing, or would you like to have another big hit or big way of grabbing everyone's attention, or do you like the idea that it's got this constancy?

Eddi:
 
I'm really interested in what I put on tape and how I communicate with people through songs. If I hear a song that's wonderful and I can sing it because of that, then what it does to itself, and what other people do to it is their business. And I don't have, as you said, ambitions to be centre stage, but I am very interested in being good at what I do.

There's lots of living as well, around me, and I've seen people that are constantly on tour, and constantly in the charts, and constantly having to provide this fantasy for people, and that's a hard thing to do to a human being. It almost rubs you out as a person who lives in the planet. You don't do things like have babies, and go down to the shops, and wipe dirty nappies, and comfort a little child who's frightened.

I'm into living, I really am, and I'm into experiencing lots of things. I want to act, I want to write better songs, I want to write books, I want to meet great people, and I want to travel. And I'm a bit of a gypsy and I like singing to people. And I have a massive desire to come to America and play lots of little clubs and lots of folk and blues clubs and be direct with people and present what I do.

The new album, Angels and Electricity, I think over in America they've got Mirmama, which is my favourite album, and the first one I did after Fairground. And then I did a couple of record company albums, the first one, Eddi Reader, which I wasn't that keen on because it was too produced, it was out of my hands and I didn't like it.

But the second one, Candyfloss and Medicine, I think has got some great work in it. And then, this new one, Angels and Electricity, is back to that vibe that I was looking for which is out West something. There's something over there, and I wanted to use a lot of pedal steels and things that evoked that early 70s Americana thing that I've often romanticised in my head.

Fiona:
 
There's a song on that album, "Follow My Tears," which to me sounds like it could be a Woody Guthrie song. It's almost like a traditional American type of folk song, I know you wrote it, and it has that narrative ballad.

I think it's a song that will resonate for a lot of Americans and it will sound very familiar to them. It will sound like something they might have grown up with. What were you thinking of when you wrote it? Were you filled with some of these inspirations?

Eddi:
 
Well, in fact, it was me and Boo Hewerdine, and Boo had the chorus, which was the "follow my tears" thing, and I heard it as a kind of Gospel, chanty thing. We went to the studio and he reckoned, and I reckoned, that it was about this thing that we had seen the night before on TV that I relate to, which is about being taken out of your culture and off seeking your fortune in another land.

A lot of tradesman in the '60s were offered that. A lot of my uncles and my father, he was a welder, and he was offered Australia or Canada or South Africa as a tradesman, a plumber, welder, pipe fitter or engineer. They were all offered these free tickets to go to these new lands and build communities, and the wives followed with their pregnancies and with their kids, and they got there and looked around and there was no-one else there in this paradise that they were looking for.

And I felt that was kind of interesting because we'd seen a program that was about how this one woman, who was now eighty, and her man had died many, many years before, and they had done that and she had never seen her mother again, and her sisters and her brothers, and she'd built a life for herself there. But what she'd done was she'd rubbed out her old life, so she couldn't really go back to it either, so she was, in a way, rootless and displaced. She didn't have a place where she felt she belonged totally. So we were interested in writing about that and what it felt like.

Fiona:
 
I'm interested in the themes that songwriters pick upon. You were talking about how, for you, it's more important to be living than to be being a star or being a persona, and it strikes me that the more you are living, the more you can then be creating the songs. How can you be writing songs if you're not living a life and out there.

So can you tell us just a little bit more about the process of song writing for you, what feeds your creativity and also some of the other themes that you touch on because I know that Glasgow, the city of Glasgow, is a theme for you. Maybe just tell us a wee bit more about the process and the themes and other things that inspire you to write.

Eddi:
 
Yeah, well I get a bit frustrated with myself, because there's a lot of stuff I want to write about like, you know, being dumped by some guy I can't get over, and it's seven years later, and I'm still walking about going "Grrr," and I can't get it into a song, because it's too close to me.

On this album there's a song called "Barcelona Window" which is really hard for me to sing, because it's very quiet, and it's a very delicate song. But that song has been in my head since 1993, and not the song, but this picture of a bunch of geraniums which were sitting on the window ledge in this Spanish flat in an old building that we slept in over night. I woke up in the morning and saw these geraniums in the window ledge.

There was no glass in the window because they didn't need it, they didn't have rain or anything, and it was wonderful just to wake up and eat peaches and just to look at these geraniums, and I was with somebody that I adored. That broke up, and the only thing that remained were the little tiny things, and one of the tiny things is the geraniums in the window.

So, "Barcelona Window," the melody was in my head, and I saw the geraniums every time I sang the melody, but I couldn't find the words to explain the feeling so that took a bit of work. And sometimes I pull Boo in, especially when I'm really lazy about it, and I go, "Come on, can you, look, this is it, it's, you know, geraniums…" and he goes, "Uh-huh," and I go, "You know, you know, geraniums, you know," and he goes, "Yeah, okay." And then he'll say something like, "Burnt orange petals moving in my eyes," and I'll go "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! Okay."

And then it sets me off on something else. So, to find Boo has been brilliant for me. He's very generous with me and when I'm mumbling and trying to fathom what I'm trying to say, he'll sometimes be able to go, "Well, maybe it's this?" because he's objective too. He wasn't lying on that floor with that gorgeous man, and looking up at the geraniums, it was me!

Fiona:
 
There's a lot of dreaming in your songs and one of the things that I sort of have fun listening to, and you've mentioned it in a couple of different ways today, is you're in Glasgow, and you're thinking of somewhere like America, and contrasting what you know around you, with what you imagine, especially in the middle of winter when you imagine it's only warm in California or something.

And you've mentioned going out there and also you've touched on just being influenced a bit by, or enjoying, anyway, some of the music of the '70s and maybe bands like America and bands like that West Coast sound. Do you feel yourself drawn to the U.S. in that way, on a romantic level and does it come into your music? Will that, if you go there and you spend some time there, will you lose that? Is it more of a kind of a dream?

Eddi:
 
Oh, it might be, yeah, it probably is. But, yeah, I'm at that kind of ten minutes before you have the relationship bit. I'm kind of really interested in places that are called South Carolina. I go, "Yes! I wanna be in South Carolina." It just evokes everything doesn't it. And probably if you're living there right now and you're having trouble with your man and you've got your kids to feed and all that you're going "Ah, sure. Come over here, I'll swap you any day."

You know, Gram Parsons is someone that I'm really into, and some of the songs that Harry Nilson used to sing, I'm totally into -- you know, "Everybody's Talking At Me" and Fred Neil songs, like "Dolphins" -- that I love.

There's something about it that makes me wish I'd been a part of that. I wish I'd been a part of that late '60s movement but, of course, it would have been all over by now and I'd have been a toothless grey-haired, wizened old soul, sitting in front of a fire going, "Ah, those were the days." But I've kind of always had a longing for it, because I missed it by a generation. I kind of...I think that if I go there, I'd probably be thoroughly disappointed, but I don't know.

Fiona:
 
I don't think you would be, at all. I'm sure you would meet a lot of people who share your hopes and dreams and your approach to music.

Eddi:
 
Yeah, I think there's probably really a lot of people like me walking about going, "Hello. Where is it happening then. Come on."

Fiona:
 
Well, I can tell you this. We have a lot of listeners in South Carolina and they'll be thrilled to know that you sort of think of South Carolina as a mythical place of desire. But, you were recently involved in a television program which sort of feeds all this for you, because it was called "The TransAtlantic Sessions" and it brought together some of the best musicians who work in country music and acoustic music in the U.S., with musicians in Scotland and Ireland who work in folk and acoustic roots sort of music, and it put them all in a big country house up in the highlands of Scotland and just had them make music together.

I mean, this is a dream come true for a lot of folks -- "The Transatlantic Sessions" as a television program, we've been able to play some of the music of it on our radio program. Tell us about that and about what it was like to work with Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain, and some of the other people you were working with?

Eddi:
 
It was incredible. What's really brilliant about folk music, I think, is that people get together and they don't even know each other, and they're making music within minutes. And I am always amazed that that happens, because sometimes, being in London, I've spent a lot of time in the pop-music circles, and some people in there couldn't even string a guitar. They wouldn't even know what it looked like. And that's sort of frustrating because it's all about what you look like and what you're wearing.

I laugh at people like Oasis because they think they're really hard, they have a couple of pints of beer in them, snort their cocaine. You hang out with John Martyn, for example, for one night, and I'm telling you, you'll be tripping. It's like, the man doesn't stop, and Phil and Aly.

Jerry Douglas and most of the Americans were quite relaxed about that. I mean, I'm talking about my Scottish friends. They're really good at partying but Jerry Douglas and there was another guy there...

Fiona:
 
Russ Barenberg?

Eddi:
 
Yes, him! What a fantastic guitar player! I could tell they were very self disciplined and I think that I find, when I meet American musicians, the difference is that they are very disciplined about their work.

Whereas I tend to find that we throw it away a lot, the Scottish, and the folk that I know from this country. It's "Ahh, you know. Let's get a bit drunk and let's have a laugh," and it's all kind of thrown away. I don't think they take themselves as seriously as they should. I suffer from that too. I think I'm actually really good at what I do, but there's always that little voice going, "Nah, you're not. It's easy for you to sing. Forget it."

Fiona:
 
I think that when a lot of the Scottish musicians and Irish musicians who play primarily traditional music or contemporary versions of it, go over to The States, I think they're amazed, some of them, at how well received the music is and how much people see them as virtuosos, which is what they are, because, as you say, sometimes just among themselves at home, they might not take what they do that seriously and we do grow up a wee bit in a culture in Scotland that sort of says, well, if it's Scottish, it can't be that good, you know.

Eddi:
 
I know, because I do a lot of painting, and I painted this picture this other day and I've always known I could paint, but nobody else seems to know that. And my brother saw it and said, "That's really good!" and I said, "Well, yeah, I kind of do this, this is what I do," and he went, "God, I can't believe it," and his friend says, "Why, because she's Scottish? Is that what you think, that it's got to be rubbish?"

And the other thing was my mother, the other day, which was amazing, it amuses me now, it's so funny, it's if I was at number one, I'd get home and she'd be, "Away down the shops and get me a loaf of bread and two pints of milk and a Daily Record," and I'm going to her, "Yeah, but mum, I'm really tired. I've been singing in Japan" and she'd say, "You want to get yourself motivated girl!" Please, totally not living in my world! It's good for me I think.

But yeah, the American musicians, I mean that whole "TransAtlantic Session" thing, Roseanne Cash was there, and Nancy Griffith and Maura O'Connell who's a wonderful singer. Boo was there as well, Boo, my friend, and he's never really been in the folk circles.

He's always been sort of the acoustic rock side of things and he's from Cambridge, so it's all very home-counties and middle class, and he was amazed at what was going down, and dancing on the table by folk musicians, and Aly playing his fiddle at five in the morning. I had a great time and people were there with cameras, but we didn't see them really.

Fiona:
 
And you got to record a couple of versions of your songs, like Humming Bird, which had all this dobro and fiddle and a sense of a live jam on your music, which had to be a real kick for you as well.

Eddi:
 
Yeah, because you often think that, it takes you so much energy going into your own stuff and you do it and you go, "Oh we found the right chord, we found the right riff," and it feels like that would be so impossible to meet again and then you meet a bunch of people and they go, "Oh yes, that song's easy," and you say, "How do you do that? How do you know this song?" and all they did was open their minds to it, and their ears, and did it. Their body did it, which was great, and such a thrill.

Fiona:
 
Now, we know you as a singer-songwriter and a performer, but you're also a mother. Tell us how you combine the two roles?

Eddi:
 
Well, I do it with the skin of my teeth really. I'm just shoved in there and every day is a, "Right, get up, do what you have to do." And you have to get up and take them to school and do the breakfast and you have to make sure they don't watch too much rubbish TV and then you have to think about what do I want to write about?

I tried it once with my mother looking after them for a few months, and because I'm on my own, too, and I found that I couldn't. I thought I'd have to give up one or the other and both of them felt equally devastating to give up.

I saw myself as being this sad woman sitting there wringing her hands and saying, "I could have been, I could have been, if only..." And I didn't want to do that to my kids either. I love them, and I wanted them to see what I do and enjoy it as much as I did, and so, I tried having them with my mother for a while and I would go every weekend like the traditionally commuting Dad, so I tried that.

And I found that when I was out, singing on the road, because I manipulated that time for doing lots of touring and studio work, and I kind of thought that when I got there, I was coming home at night, to an empty house, and I felt that my singing was dying in me. It was like, I had this singing thing, that was my joy and my spirit, and that felt like it was my purpose in life, and then the kids came along, and I felt that they're part of it. It's like if they're away, I don't have anything to sing about. If they're gone, I don't have anything to feed off of.

So what I do is, I have them with me, and I bring them along to some of the things I'm doing. And it means I can't just pop on a plane and go somewhere and go to a party on it. It means I've got to get baby sitters and figure that out. But they're getting older and I keep thinking I'm going to miss this time if I don't make the best of it now.

So, I'm trying to make the best of it and my mum helps me out sometimes, but they're with me and I don't know how I manage it apart from time balancing and figuring it out months in advance. You're on a tour then, "Right Mum, can you come down then?" That's the way I do it.

Fiona:
 
Well, people will be hearing music from the "TransAtlantic Sessions" on our program, but I know that they'll be hoping there's a bit of trans-Atlantic travel forthcoming for yourself, because folks will be very keen to see you playing over there and to get to hear your music live, which is the best way, so we wish you all the best with what you do and hope that your travels do take you thoroughly around the United States and especially to South Carolina. Eddi Reader, thanks very much.

Eddi: Okay, thanks a lot. Bye.