Ahead of her traditional festive shindig, the South Yorkshire songstress takes us through her life in music. 

The first record I bought
I remember it well: I was 12 and it was Bon Jovi’s 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit. I bought it from a tiny record shop in Barnsley called Casa Disco. I used to get my pocket money on a Saturday after doing my jobs in the house, then I would catch the bus into town (back then for under-16s it was 2p to travel anywhere in South Yorkshire), and I would go straight to Casa Disco to put some more money down on the album. After a few weeks, I walked out of there proud as punch with my well-earned cassette!

The first song I performed
‘Our Cat’s No Hair On’, while standing on a table with my older sister Emma at The Keel in Barnsley. I must have been 3, Emma was 4/5. My folks were at a music session, and we decided to do a song, so were plonked on the table and off we went. A hat went round and we got about 50p in coppers. It felt like so much money, so we bought our own pop and crisps!

A song I wish I’d wrote
‘Love At The Five And Dime’ by Nanci Griffith. I’ve been a Nanci fan since I was young. On my trips into town on the bus, I would also call at the library, as it used to have a brilliant music section up on the third floor. I would spend ages in there and borrow cassettes of all sorts of music. I came across Nanci Griffith and adored the way she sung like her life depended on it, and all the lovely stories she told in her music, not dissimilar from the folk songs I’d grown up with. ‘Love at The Five And Dime’ is such a gorgeous song of young love, it’s like a mini-movie. Again, just like so many folk songs I know, you get invested in the characters and feel the need to follow them to the end. She sets the song up with a little guitar ‘bing’, and when you saw her live she would explain it was the ‘bing’ of the lift in the store… just so beautiful.

I first fell in love with music
When I was a baby! I can’t remember a time in my life without it. The old folk songs were our bedtime stories, and my folks were constantly teaching us songs in the car on journeys. Now older and a parent myself, I realised it was a great way of keeping us kids quiet in the back of the car!

Kate and the band perform at a previous Christmas show

A song I can’t get out of my head at the minute
My own song, ‘We Will Sing’. We are currently finishing off an album to celebrate 30 years of gigging. We did an album at 10, called 10, then one at 20, and now all of a sudden it’s 30! This one is called 30: Happy Returns. Each of them has been a look back at songs I have written/sung over the years, and we re-record them in a completely different way. A lot of them have guest singers, I can’t mention any of them just yet, but I’m so excited about this album! We’ve been working on “We Will Sing” with the guest and I can’t wait for people to hear it, that’s why it’s going around my head night and day!

A record which reminds me of a specific time and place
‘Don’t Go’ by Hothouse Flowers. I was 14 when it was released, I absolutely loved the energy in it! My bestest big cousin took me and my friend to see them play at Leeds Uni, it was the first gig of that kind that I’d been to. It was just unbelievable; I still get goosebumps now thinking of the moment they played that song. I have met them at a few festivals in the last few years – they are still amazing and such lovely chaps!

Music allows me to
Stay out of mischief, relax, cheer up, cry, be elated, be transported, put food on the table, feel heartbreak when I need to, have our own record company which employs my whole family, dance, escape, sing, exercise. I get to meet and hear so many brilliant musicians and singers, travel the world, have an unbreakable bond with my family… the list goes on. I’m really quite a lucky girl!

‘Kate Rusby at Christmas’, the singer’s annual festive celebration featuring traditional Yorkshire carols backed by a brass quintet, heads to Sheffield City Hall on Wednesday 15 th December. Tickets and more info at sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.

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