Blues-rock sensation Chantel McGregor is gearing up for her latest visit to one of her favourite venues – The Apex in Bury St Edmunds. The 32 year old Bradford born musician is back in Suffolk on Good Friday (March 30th). She’s been chatting to Stephen Foster…
Chantel! Great to talk to you again, how are things in 2018?
Fantastic, its brilliant, yeah all going well.
Looking forward to another visit to Bury St Edmunds, and it’s become a favourite venue of yours. Tell us why…
It’s just such a wonderful place, it’s got this vibe about it, the whole place, and the sound is amazing there. The people are amazing and the crowd is just wonderful too, so we always love playing there.
And it is one of your favourite venues isn’t it?
It is, yeah! I look forward to it every single time we do it; I’m so excited to play it again.
You’ll be there very soon, so what have you got lined up for your fans here in Suffolk?
Well, we’re going to be doing a few new things, so something from the next album, which is coming later this year. We’re not sure quite when, but later on this year, so that’ll be good. We’ll be mixing a little bit of acoustic in there as well, so that’ll be fun, and it should just be a great night.
Tell us about your music influences; because you’re not only a fine singer, you’re a great guitarist as well. So you’ve got the best of both worlds there, who are the people that got you singing first of all?
Probably people like Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow and that sort of thing from when I was really young. I always wanted to be Stevie Nicks, so I would dance around in curtains and twirl as a 3 year old! I was really into that. Then probably as I got a bit older, I got into heavier music which influenced more on my guitar playing, bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and stuff like that.
There are quite a few female singers and guitarists on the blues scene these days. Any idea why that could be?
I think it’s a genre that people, especially people that are into music with feeling, just connect with it a little bit. So I think that’s maybe why, I don’t know, I don’t really have an answer.
And your guitar style, as compared to someone like Joanne Shaw Taylor, what would you say the difference is?
I think the guitar sounds very different. It makes me laugh that we get compared because really the only thing that’s similar is we’re blonde and you know, we play music and we play an instrument. I think that’s the only similarity really. She’s a fantastic musician, I really have a lot of respect for her and she’s great. But I think genre wise, my music is a bit heavier, a bit more rock than blues, but yeah that’s why we get compared I think.
I know it’s important for you, Chantel, to play your own material, first and foremost really.
Absolutely, yeah. The whole set is original now, so it’s really important. People keep coming up and saying ‘well why you don’t play Jimi Hendrix songs anymore’ and it’s like ‘because it’s an original band, that’s why!’
Is the Bury St Edmunds date part of quite a big tour?
It is, yeah. The tour is just continuing throughout the whole year . We’ve got some exciting things; we’re going over to Ireland for a festival, so that’ll be fun; but yes, just part of the whole years’ worth of tour.
What do you think you’d be up to, if you weren’t a full time musician?
Oooh, I think I’d maybe be something like a psychologist, worryingly, I don’t know what that says about me!
Well I tell you what, from all your trials and tribulations on the road, no doubt that would probably help if you had to do that as a profession, you’ve got plenty of experience now haven’t you, dealing with various people along the way.
Oh absolutely, yeah. Maybe I should just do that now!
So your set in Bury St Edmunds, will be as you were saying, mostly original material. Do you throw in any covers at all these days?
We sometimes throw in one, which is sung by a lady called Jonatha Brooke. Most people haven’t heard of her, because she’s famous in America mostly, but she’s just fantastic and I really love playing this one song that she wrote, so we sometimes chuck that one in.
As far as the recording of the new album is concerned, how is all that going?
It’s being written at the moment, which has been a really long process, as everybody knows, because it just gets written while you’re on the road, and all the time you sort of think ‘I’ve gotta write this album’ and that’s pressure, but you’re also thinking ‘but I don’t have time to write because I’m sat in a van!’ So it’s a long slog, but it’s getting there.
Do you have to set time aside to write then?
Definitely, yeah I really do. I have to lock myself away because if I don’t it just doesn’t get done.
How many songs have you got in the can, as it were then, for the album so far then – are you getting on pretty well with that?
I think we’re about halfway there, so sort of decent, but about halfway I’d say.
But obviously there are deadlines looming. Are you working towards a date?
I’m trying to, but the goalpost keeps getting moved. I keep trying to sort of say ‘right by this date I’m going to have X amount of songs, and then something crops up, or you end up dealing with something else and you go ‘oh I’ve missed the deadline now’.
Is the idea that you’ve got all the songs pretty much ready to go by the time you start recording?
It is yeah, what we usually do is, I write all the songs, demo them all at home, then take them to the band and we rehearse them quite a lot, so maybe two weeks of rehearsals and pre-production, and then we go into the studio and get them fully recorded.
Tell us about your band, and they’ll be with you obviously in Bury St Edmunds.
Absolutely, they will. I’ve got a fabulous Bass Player called Colin Sutton. He’s from Essex originally, but he lives up near us now, and he’s just brilliant; he’s such a good bass player. My drummer’s called Ali Goss, and he’s from Totnes in Devon. He’s just a brilliant drummer and he’s so young as well, he’s only 23, but he’s brilliant.
So that’s your great rhythm section – but it’s up to you in many ways to provide the fireworks on stage.
It is, yeah. The pressure’s on me, it’s all on me when it goes wrong!
You don’t mind that at all? You don’t fancy having the second guitarist alongside you just to ease some of the pressure?
It would be okay, but I think the problem is, is because it’s kind of that sound of having the power trio, three piece thing, and it works so well. Sometimes I think ‘oh it’d be great to bring in a keyboard player or something’, but I don’t know if it’d then detach from what I do, and it’d sort of deviate a little bit, and be a bit weird so I don’t know really.
Well, Chantel, thank you very much indeed for chatting to me, and have a wonderful time later this month (30th March) at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds. For more information or to book visit theapex.co.uk.
You can also enter our competition to win tickets to her show here, by midday on 21st March.