Stairway to Heaven

With her heavenly vocals, singer- songwriter Eddi Reader grew from a little girl who washes the stairway to a woman who creates heartrending songs. With saintly smiles on our faces, we tied fluffy glittery wings to our backs and caught up with this angel.
How did you get started in music?
When I was a little girl, I stayed in this place where my neighbors and I shared a stairway. Everyone had to take turns to wash the stairs. I would sing in the stairway and later became known among neighbors as the girl who sings while washing the stairway. They gave me pennies for washing the stairway, and extra pennies for singing songs. Gradually, people asked me to go to their homes to sing for them.

You’ve released many solo albums. Which are your favorites and why?
I like the latest album Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns. I got to play with the Scottish National Orchestra and the top folk musicians in Scotland. I was also invited to sing at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. I made friends in high places.
Do you think the style and vision of your albums has changed or evolved over the years?
All the albums have the same roots, although some more jazzy, some more acoustic. In every song, I have to communicate a story. Sometimes you don’t even have to understand the language of the lyrics, and yet the feeling behind the music will move you. That’s the most real and the most important.
Do you miss being in the highly successful group Fairground Attraction? Any plans to regroup again?
Not really. That was my first birth to success. But I won more success from my independent albums. Fairground Attraction is great, but people in the band left and I couldn’t continue with it.
You’re still perceived as an indie chanteuse after all these years—what do you have to say to that?
I am glad to be in that umbrella. I guess the opposite of going independent is being commercial and stereotypical. I don’t want to be tied to any major commercial label. I just want to do what I do. I’ve been on major labels before. I find that they usually like what you do initially. But once they’ve signed you up, they want to change you. It’s difficult for me to wear makeup or clothes I don’t like, or sing songs I don’t like. I really like where I am now.
Whose music do you respect the most?
I like people such as Frank Sinatra, Babyshambles and Nic Jones, but I really respect Tom Waits. He’s a remarkable musician and a fantastic songwriter. He’s got a great philosophy about being a successful musician as well—such as avoiding traps like thinking too much of yourself.
What can we look forward to in your concert at the Esplanade?
I am going to tell stories, and if anyone wants to hear anything … I’ll take requests. I’ll be singing songs about the heart, love and the human condition. I’ll be singing melodies that were produced when I was in Fairground Attraction as well.
Any tips for budding songwriters?
Trust your instincts and never think you are wrong when someone tells you that. You are on the right way when you really sit down and ask yourself. Don’t do anything for money.