Award-winning folk star Kate Rusby to perform at Focus Wales festival this summer
February 13 2018
Kate Rusby is not really the dancing type.
Even when Boyzone star Ronan Keating came knocking, the enigmatic folk singer turned the opportunity down.
The Irishman later returned and the two enjoyed success with his 2006 single All Over Again, but it was a mere glimpse into the world of pop for the ‘Barnsley Nightingale’.
Folk is where Kate rests her hat. That’s her wheelhouse, and after 25 years of lilting grace and vocal elegance, she plans to showcase her talents at the award-winning Focus Wales festival this summer.
It’s a path which has brought her happiness, and that path leads to the William Aston Hall on May 11, where she will perform old favourites and fresh material for the Wrexham crowd.
Having recently completed a tour marking a quarter of a century in the industry, the mum-of-two is “mad busy” as always but looking forward to a big 2018.
“I’m feeling refreshed now after a very busy Christmas and New Year on tour,” said Kate.
“There are plans afoot for 2018 but I can’t tell you too much yet, watch this space!
“Focus Wales is something I’m very much looking forward to, though. The calendar is filling up fast but that will be one of the highlights.”
So how does the 44 year-old ‘first lady of the young folkies’ manage to balance such a hectic lifestyle and career.
“Basically, I am Superwoman!” laughs Kate.
“I am very lucky and get a lot of support from my family; we are a close-knit bunch and they are involved in all aspects of what I do.
“We are all still here in Cawthorne in Yorkshire, where we’ve always been, and that will never change because it’s where we are happiest.
“Everyone is involved in some way, though my dad retires soon. My nephew looks after the merchandise side, my sister, younger brother - we are all working together and making a living out of the music, side by side.
“We are passionate about it so it’s never been a problem, it’s never been about money or acclaim it’s about doing what you love.”
Folk music enjoyed a resurgence at the beginning of the century, as Kate and peers including Eliza Carthy began playing to bigger audiences, selling more records and achieving prestigious accolades.
Kate’s first album Hourlgass was well-received, but it was her follow-up Sleepless in 1999 that garnered rave reviews and a prestigious Mercury Music Prize nomination.
From there here career flowed; Little Lights, Underneath the Stars, Awkward Annie, While Mortals Sleep… Kate Rusby is one of the country’s most prolific writers, her popularity matched only by her penmanship.
“The Mercury Music Prize was just amazing and really opened folk music up to a wider audience at that time,” said Kate.
“It wasn’t really in fashion and we were few and far between, but that helped to build the genre up again, all of that mainstream press attention. The fact I was the underdog was a bonus, and it grew from there.”
The resulting acclaim took her a long way from the home comforts of Holmfirth, where she played live for the first time as a nervous teenager, and even further away from the dank garage where the journey began.
“I listened to a lot of stuff that was coming out of the festivals, and then I picked up a guitar and started to sing and write my own songs,” said Kate.
“I also played piano, but because it was a stinky old one I wasn’t allowed in the house on it, I had to go to the garage.
“It was from there that a neighbour heard me and invited me to play at the folk festival in Holmfirth.
“I got a taste for it and began gigging all over the place, which is when I realised music was for me.
“I never ever thought I would end up playing properly, but then I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
“Everyone around me seemed really focused and here was me in the middle. I liked biology and thought I might end up doing something with that, but never folk music.”
Citing Paul Brady, Nick Jones, Dave Burland and Dolores Keane among her influences, Kate’s career was almost pulled in an entirely different direction in the mid-2000s.
As her star continued to rise, she caught the attention of Ronan Keating, who invited her to cameo on the single, All Over Again.
However, this was Keating’s second approach. The first was not quite as successful.
“The phone rang and it was his management team asking whether I wanted to sit down and write a song with Ronan,” she said.
“I really wasn’t sure, because for me it’s a personal process. I just could not see myself in a room with someone I don’t know trying to be creative and come up with a killer track.
“I’m a bit of a control freak like that, and while it was very flattering I declined the offer.”
Kate added: “They came back again a while later and asked if I would like to sing on one of his songs, which I was again very flattered by and agreed to do, as long as it didn’t mean dancing around in a choreographed video – that’s definitely not my scene!
“I met him and he was lovely. We ended up on Top of the Pops, which was a real thrill, and the song was a big seller so we appeared together several times on the TV.
“It was a whole new world for me, but certainly an experience I won’t forget.”
It’s a certainty that the Focus Wales crowd won’t forget her. Having played at venues across North Wales in the past, Kate says she cannot wait to return in May.
“It’s such a wonderful part of the world,” she said.
“It’s really peaceful and serene, a bit like here in Yorkshire – I’m really looking forward to it.”
The show takes place on Friday May 11. Doors open 7pm. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.glyndwr.ac.uk/en/Events
FOCUS Wales 2018 takes place from 10-12 May across multiple venues in Wrexham. Full three-day wristbands for admission to all Focus Wales events are available now at www.focuswales.com/tickets from £40 each. The event is supported by Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government and Wrexham County Borough Council