Yorkshire-born folk singer songwriter Kate Rusby is known as ‘the Barnsley Nightingale’ due to her sweet, understated performance style. And she is celebrating more than two decades in the music business with a UK tour which arrives in Kent this week. She chatted to What’s On about the secret of her success.
Since first starting out in the 1990s, Kate Rusby has seen huge changes in the music industry.
The Yorkshire-born singer, who will turn 40 later this year, said: “There are a lot more young people interested in folk music for a start.
“When I first got going there were only a handful, but gradually over the last 10 years I’d say there are more young people both playing and listening to the music which of course is amazing as it means the music is safe and it will continue to be passed along down the generations.”
Kate, who is known as the Barnsley Nightingale due to her sweet, understated performance style, has mixed feelings about the technological advances in music during the past two decades.
She said: “Sadly music shops are vanishing, which I hate as I love browsing in them.
“Soon I suppose it will all be internet-based. If someone would have told me that 20 years ago I would never have believed them in a million years.”
But there is one aspect of the new technology which Kate definitely appreciates – the use of social media as a marketing tool.
She said: “All the different ways of promoting your music has evolved, with websites, Facebook and Twitter.
“It’s great for independent labels such as ours, as you can reach so many people instantly.
“We used to sit and stuff our paper newsletters into envelopes and take them all to the post office. I don’t even think we had a label maker back then so all the addresses were handwritten. It’s mad to think it was only 20 years ago!”
Kate’s label, Pure Records, is truly a family affair, run by her dad, with her mum looking after the accounts, her sister taking care of PR and her brother working as sound engineer in the studio and on tour.
The family came up with the idea of launching their own label back in 1997 when Kate wanted to record her first solo album, Hourglass.
She said: “When I was first thinking of making a record, lots of people were saying to us to be careful and not to sign your life away. So we looked into it, filled in some forms and created Pure Records. Pure, apparently, is the Greek meaning of the name Kate, that’s why we chose it.
“It works really well, we all trust each other and, everyone is of equal importance, like cogs in a wheel, if there was one missing the wheel wouldn’t turn. And of course we are our own bosses so we can record when we want, tour when we want and even sit and eat buns if we fancy!
“I am incredibly lucky as a musician, Not many have the freedom that I do.”
Since her first album, Kate has enjoyed a hugely successful recording and performing career, racking up a wealth of accolades including four BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and also becoming one of the few folk singers to have been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.
Almost two decades on, she now has an additional role, as a mum-of-two, but her passion for performing remains as strong as ever.
Kate said: “I love playing and I love being a mum so I try and divide my time so it is fair for all. Again my family help out a great deal, and of course I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
And Daisy, nearly four, and Phoebe, 17 months, are already following in the musical footsteps of Kate and her husband, fellow folk musician Damien O’Kane.
Kate said: “Daisy is already singing constantly. She makes up songs for most of the day and dances about singing them and even Phoebe is up dancing now as soon as soon there’s any music around. She sings along in a very deep voice too, kind of like a Tibetan monk!”
Kate Rusby will be at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre on Sunday, October 13. It starts at 7.30pm. Tickets £23.50. Call 01227 787787. She will also be at Tunbridge Wells’ Assembly Hall Theatre on Friday, October 18. It starts at 7.30pm. Tickets £24 for adults, £15 for children. Call 01892 530613.