KATE RUSBY | INTERVIEW
With her regular Christmas tours now a part of the winter calendar for her fans, Sophie Williams caught up with singer/songwriter Kate Rusby to talk folk, festivities, and the future.
“I just adore Christmas…I’m not somebody that wants to start it in October but when it comes around I’m like yeah, it’s time!” exclaims Kate Rusby, the fairy godmother of Christmas carols, who has just released her fourth Christmas album, Angels & Men. The musician, mother and previous Mercury Prize nominee claims that she is ‘officially an old lady now’, as this year marks 25 years of touring. However, she comes across as the opposite – Rusby radiates youthfulness as she shares her excitement about embarking on her annual Christmas tour with her beloved band and brass quintet, aptly called The Brass Boys. The tour has become as synonymous with the festive season as Santa Claus for many of her fans. “It just fills me with so much joy and pleasure to take these carols out of Yorkshire and show them off to people up and down the country!” she says ebulliently; “I love to see people join in – as you can tell”.
Brought up on diet of tradition and routine, Rusby recalls every Christmas being spent at South Yorkshire pubs, where she first realised that she was absorbing the carols that would shape her craft in the future. “I’d be sat with the other kids, drinking pop in another room, unaware that I was soaking them up. I never really sat down and learned them – I learned them because I heard them so much”. As the vivid memory-cataloguing of Angels & Men makes clear, Rusby explains how she wants her children to grow up in a similar environment, encompassed by family festivities. As she works tirelessly with said carols, does she still want to hear them day in day out and pass them onto her own? Her enthusiasm shines through, she’s almost bewildered by the fact I even asked. “We have started taking our girls to the pubs — already they are learning these songs. We are a musical family, at Christmas specifically, whether somebody is cooking, setting the table or opening presents – there’s always music on in the background. We can’t help joining in and singing along. Music has always been such a massive part of Christmas and that’s what makes it so special.” Christmas is clearly a family affair for the Rusbys; she says it is a time when they “can be daft and be a family’, a chance to take a break from collectively organising their annual festival, Underneath The Stars, which will celebrate its fifth year of showcasing the finest for folk fanatics and foodies alike next year.
In an ever-changing world, it has become more commonplace for artists to incorporate traditional aspects into their work. Rusby stresses the importance of hearing the roots of folk in the mainstream, “I’ll have a Coldplay album on and hear a really folky, simple melody – it’s evident that they have little influences in there. It’s great to share it!” It’s part of that everlasting debate between modernists and traditionalists in folk, ever since Bob Dylan first picked up an electric guitar. “I’m on the side of let the music move on, let it change, let it evolve. Especially in this day and age, where people listen to such diverse choices of music, we need to allow influences to come in from other places – why do people want to hold onto tradition and stop it growing?” After being at the forefront of the folk scene for over two decades, she is insistent that to keep the genre alive, we must be open to innovation. “The genre will bore the next generation unless it’s allowed to change – we don’t know where it will end up next!” If the future is folk, then it is time to join the revolution.
Kate Rusby at Christmas, St.David’s Hall, Cardiff, Tues 12 Dec. Tickets : £18/£25 Info: 029 2087 8444 / www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk