Friday, 22 April 2011

Chantel McGregor - Bradford Powerhouse and soon... The World


I have a guy, a persistent guy, who kept on telling me to listen to Chantel McGregor. I have a rule in life and it is a fairly basic one. Always listen to what other people are saying, especially if they have credentials. (I occasionally adhere to the rule) Unless you are happy to sit and listen to what they want you to hear, real music needs to be sought out, or, in my case, delivered by the cognoscenti. I am lucky that I have always been surrounded by people who say, "listen to this". So now I am saying to you, "listen to this".

In a week or two I shall have the privilege of doing a long interview with Chantel about her new album Like No Other, but in the meantime I just want to let you know that Chantel is on tour and fortunately for me, she is coming to Scotland.

For an oldie like me it is such a breath of fresh air to find a musically literate, young artist who is totally committed, not only to pursuing her own path, but who understands that there is a Rock Legacy. When I talk to people who were the stars of the Sixties and Seventies what you mostly find is that they reference what has gone before. It is a sort of grounding; all great artists, from whatever art form have explored this. I remember a story about Graham Nash, who, when on tour with The Hollies, would take a book on the tour bus. He read and he took an interest in other bands. Marianne Faithfull toured with The Hollies and wrote that she shagged Alan Clarke and talked with Graham Nash. The Hollies were a great singles band and well, whatever happened to Nash?

It has always amused me that when Manfred Mann had a hit with 5-4-3-2-1 the lyrics were partially lifted from a poem by Alred Lord Tennyson. It is not that this intertextuality is compulsory, but it shows me, at least, why musicians become stars. It shows me that they look around corners and want to know what is down that side road.

What Chantel McGregor has done is immersed herself in what are considered by most of us as classic units of the Sixties and before: T Bone Walker, Blind Faith, Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac etc and has now emerged with a new album of three covers and nine original songs. She has not left the past behind, she has acknowledged it and used it and synthesised it and is, at the tender age of 25, a spectacularly accomplished guitarist, singer and songwriter. She has addressed The Legacy and in so doing, done what all great stars of the last few decades have done. Listen to her play live and it is clear that she will be around for a long time to come.

Happily, Chantel has been in touch and this is what she had to say:

CMcG: I've been storing the songs up over the years and working with other people and then I went on a writing spree and wrote lots of my own. When I was at Leeds College of Music they owned the copyright of things that you wrote when you were there which was a pain, so I didn't tend to write anything while I was there, so after that I thought "I can write now - brilliant!"

WW: You are just 25 years old. Being a bit cheeky, how can you know about T Bone Walker and Jethro Tull?

CMcG: It is music I was brought up on. My mum and dad were always into prog and rock. And they were listening to Barclay James Harvest, Jethro Tull - that sort of thing. And I loved it. My favourite songs were Free: My Brother Jake and Ride on a Pony - it had to be those two everytime we got in the car. Now I am fortunate enough that people want to hear me playing that kind of music.

WW: You must have a strong personality because there must have been such pressure to conform when you were at school.

CMcG: Oh Gosh, yes. It's one of those things that the people at school didn't know what I was doing. I didn't let on that I was doing music. I was gigging when I was twelve and nobody knew, I just kept it a secret. And then I went to music college and university and I pretty much kept it a secret then, which is a bit daft really and for them not to know about the gigging is a bit weird!

WW: What was in your record collection at the time?

CMcG: Absolutely everything. I am one of these people who go into HMV and go, "Oh, I haven't heard of that" and I'll buy it, and it's probably rubbish, but I like listening to different things. I always think that if I listen to everything, take a bit of inspiration from it all and then bundle it into one, then something a bit different will come out.

WW:  Did someone say you should do an album or did you feel you were ready for an album?

CMcG: It's been one of those long processes. The last two years, the band has been taking off. Before that we were playing pubs and cutting our teeth. The last two years a lot of people have said, "You need to do an album" and I just thought I would do one when it's ready. I was not going to put something out that was not ready. I wanted to do it properly, with session musicians, because I did it down in Surrey and it was easier.  Livingstone Browne produced it, and he is incredible. And I thought, "right, it is going to cost an absolute fortune and we'll probably be living in a cardboard box and working in Morrisons" but I wanted to make a proper studio album. It's risky. We self financed it and put it through our own record label, but fingers crossed it will come out all right.

WW: If you could only take a few albums to your desert island what would you take?

CMcG: I'd probably take Richi Kotzen's Live in Sao Paulo, Rumours, by Fleetwood Mac - that's an easy one. I'll have to think about the others!

And while she does (and Chantel will be back on Rock Legacy soon) take a listen to one of the original tracks from the new album, Like No Other. This one is called, "I'm No Good For You"

Chantel McGregor is on tour now and will be in Scotland next week. For dates and details go to

UPDATE: Chantel can play live! Her gig in Edinburgh's Voodoo Rooms took me back some decades. Showcasing her debut album and responding to requests, the show was a mixture of original material and classics, such as "New Day Yesterday" "Rhiannon" and "Red House". Edinburgh does not have a great track record with live music at present. The audience seemed to be a combination of fans, oldies and a few tourists and, hip replacements willing, they grooved. The presence of Ian Rankin, probably Scotland's most successful living writer, lent some frission to the event. He tweeted, "Chantel McGregor review: Alvin Lee! Gary Moore! Rory Gallagher! You boys took a hell of a beating tonight...."

All I can add to that is that if you pay your money and see a Chantel McGregor gig, you will not be disappointed.


Smoking Hot said...

People, if you are new to this site, read what WW has to say ... you will not be disappointed. He knows what he is talking about and speaks from the heart. He has no agenda other than the music. You can ask for no more than that.

He embraces all genres of music and reminds me so much of John Peel. He knows talent, which in my eyes is a quality that is rare nowadays in this era of synthetic manufactured 'stars'.

l should spend more time commenting on this site but of late have been tied up with personal matters. l for one appreciate what he is trying to achieve here.

As for Chantel ... well, let her music speak for itself ... and yes, it is her playing the guitar.

Anonymous said...

I've been lucky to see Chantel live many times and the album doesnt dissapoint. It is a classic debut album which will sell shedloads over time whilst she continues to make headway around the country on tour. If you get a chance go see her you will love it and as for the guitar playing its freakishly brilliant. Good luck Chantel and long may you continue to feel the blues the rhythm and blues that is! Tommy Brannigan from Leeds

Marc - York said...

Couldn't agree more. Chantel McGregor can be listened to be appreciated, but see her live to believe.
An incredible talent, with absolutely no ego only an honest respect and love for the music she covers (so well)and writes...and it's all good.
First saw her in 2007 in Harrogate and couldn't believe my ears, last saw her at the Hebden festival last weekend...still amazing, still humble

Anonymous said...

Chantel McGregor is an amazing artist in my point of view. My mum went to see her live at Skegness last weekend. I was so jealous. But I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of her 'LIKE NO OTHER' album. She is an amazing Solo artist and Guitarist.