Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
It might come as a bit of a shock to some in the male dominated world of Blues music but the ladies have always been leading the way. From Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey (‘The Mother of the Blues’) who started performing at the turn of the 20th Century, through to Bessie Smith and beyond, woman have always had the soul and fire to bring the genre to life in a way that is absolutely bone deep.
In a world dominated by the Claptons, Bonamassas, Kings and Wolfs there’s always been so many fantastic female artists who’ve been more than worthy of similar acclaim and that is never truer than the current crop of blues artists.
More than holding their own, amongst others, Samantha Fish, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Hannah Wicklund are leading the way and one of the finest in that highly esteemed pack is Bradford’s own Chantel McGregor. A diminutive fireball, she has been blowing people away from the moment she picked up a guitar and her feel and attack are second to none, her ease of switching between the lightest of touches to the monstrously heavy absolutely breath-taking.
Having cut her teeth on the clubs and pubs around her native Yorkshire, her talents were soon recognised further afield and constant touring has honed her skills and that of her two piece backing band into one of the tightest and most ferocious trio’s on the circuit.
For a great snapshot of her raw power check out last year’s ‘Bury’d Alive’ offering, recorded straight from the desk at a show during her 2019 tour, the record capturing her in full flight and tearing it up in front of a highly appreciative audience.
Her star very much in the ascendency, she’s not prepared to let the grass grow under her feet or time to be lost as she keeps her head down and continues to focus on the music that flows from her.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
I’m doing great thanks; hope you are as well!
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
It’s weird but I’ve been busier than ever, I don’t know how I ever had time to tour!!!
I’ve been doing a weekly live stream on Facebook at 5pm every Saturday called the Shed Sessions. These have been going really well and have been fantastically received, and it’s been so lovely to keep in touch with the fans and to continue playing music for them throughout lockdown.
Because the Shed Sessions have been so well received, I’m recording a Shed Sessions acoustic album of people’s favourite songs from them.
I’ve also been doing some co-writing with a musician in the USA, which has been really good fun and very interesting. We’ve been working on some things that are not my usual genre, so that’s been really different and exciting.
Just before lockdown started, Cleopatra Records in the USA got in touch and asked if I wanted to be part of a project which hasn’t been released yet, which sounds fab, and they also asked if I wanted to do a re-working cover of Lady Gaga’s Stupid Love, which was released in June.
At the end of May, I presented a 2hr radio show as a guest presenter for Hard Rock Hell Radio, and it went really well, so they asked me if I wanted a permanent slot, so I have Chantel’s Monday Brunch Club for 2 hours every Monday starting at 10am. This is great fun and It’s interesting going through my cd collection listening to things that I still love and all the things that I’d forgotten about!
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
The weekly Shed Session. I’ve done a couple of online festivals too, which were good fun.
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
With the co-writing, it’s been really interesting, because the guy I’m working with is in Denver, Colorado, so we’ve had to do everything over the internet, just bouncing things back and forth over the net to work on tracks, it’s been a great way of working.
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
I’ve spoken with them a few times, but sadly not seen them since the last show in February.
What plans have you had to change this year?
We’ve had a lot of shows postponed, which has been a massive shame, although fingers crossed, all of the venues will survive and the shows will all be rescheduled.
What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas recently – 229 people in a 1,100–seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs as has just been announced by Live Nation?
I think it will be a really difficult situation for quite a long time. The drive-in thing is a novel idea, although, if someone has to leave half way through the show, they can’t leave and I think it will be a slightly soulless gig for the musicians, to just play to a carpark full of cars.
I think it will be very difficult for some venues to stay afloat during the next few months. With the audiences limited, financially it is going to be hard for venues to pay their costs and remain viable.
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
I think a lot of musicians may struggle to continue working as musicians, as touring is a lot of people’s main source of income. However, I always look at things and try to find optimism and opportunity in it.
For me lockdown has been a way to diversify into writing in different genres and to do the radio show, and radio is something I’ve always fancied doing. Lockdown has given me time to be able to do these things and to diversify my career.
I think lockdown has been a great opportunity for musicians to really connect with their fans as well, through live streaming or releasing things, it’s been a difficult time for everyone, fans have missed live music, so connecting with them has been a great thing.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrPQnlVKWZk&w=560&h=315]
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
I’ll start the tour again, with the dates that were already booked in and the re-scheduled dates, I’ll also continue with the writing and the radio show. Once shows start again, it won’t be possible to keep up to the weekly Shed Sessions, as a lot of the shows are on Saturdays.
How can people support you during this time?
Just by spreading the word to friends, and buying CDs and T-shirts, then hopefully when normality returns, the shows will all be well attended.
A lot of people have done the Paypal.me thing, but everyone is in the same boat with losing work and money, so I didn’t want to do that. I just ask that people tell friends and hopefully buy CDs and come to the shows.
For more info, CD’s, T-shirts etc. check out www.chantelmcgregor.com and www.facebook.com/chantelmcgregor.co.uk