Published: 21/04/2014 10:53 - Updated: 21/04/2014 11:09

Vagabond Eddi takes the road to Inverness

Eddi Reader explores her cultural roots and the perils of the music industry on her latest release.
Eddi Reader explores her cultural roots and the perils of the music industry on her latest release.

EDEN Court’s 800 seat Empire Theatre will be a major contrast to the last Highland venue Eddi Reader played in.

Just last month she made a surprise appearance at Resolis Hall on the Black Isle as part of a tribute to the late Dundee songwriter Michael Marra.

Reader revealed that as a young songwriter, she had turned to Marra, whom she met while starring in the John Byrne scripted BBC series Your Cheating Heart, for a confidence boost.

"He was a font of knowledge and wisdom," she said.

"He was someone you could rely on for advice."

How Reader’s writing has developed since those days is easily demonstrated by a quick check of the credits for her latest album Vagabond with three self-penned songs and a number of co-writes.

She still finds time for traditional song, however, including her first ever foray into Gaelic.

Ironically, Reader has not been able to find any Gaelic speakers in her family history.

However, she does trace she musical pedigree back to a great-great-grandfather who came to St Andrews from Germany and taught his sons to build and play instruments. One of them, Eddi’s great-grandfather, moved to Glasgow where he altered the spelling of his original German name to the more Anglophone friendly Reader and became involved with Celtic societies aimed at encouraging traditional music and song.

"I found that fascinating," she said.

"It did make me wonder where this drive about song came from. What’s really spooky about it is that I’ve made a Robert Burns album without knowing I had an ancestor who sang Burns’ songs in lodges everywhere."

For many who knew Reader from her number one single Perfect with the band Fairground Attraction or as the country singing star of Your Cheating Heart, such a move into the world of Burns and traditional song might have come as a surprise, but Glasgow-born Reader expresses her frustration at any attempt to confine her to just one style of music.

Often such pigeon-holing is market driven, Reader acknowledged.

"Marketing can be a creative tool in itself. Just don’t ask me to do it," she said.

The pressures of being in the music industry spotlight are addressed in one of Reader’s self-penned songs on Vagabond.

Edina — Reader’s childhood name — is inspired in part by meeting Amy Winehouse early in the late singer’s career.

"I met her just before it all went mental for her and I thought: ‘This is someone who has fallen in love with singing — she’s not just doing it for the money,’" Reader recalled.

"Sometimes a child who is creative and loves music can get pelters — as we say in the west — because they don’t pay attention at school because their mind is on other things or in the business because they don’t do what people want them to do.

"We don’t look after our musical children as well as we should. Sometimes we just treat them as fodder for salacious newspaper stories. It’s like: ‘You wanted the fame — we have the right to put you down.’ You wouldn’t do that to a surgeon or someone who provides you with a service.

"I just wanted to talk to Amy and say to her: ‘You did OK. You had the love before the money.’"

• Eddi Reader is at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court, on Thursday 24th April.

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