Award-winning guitarist Chantel McGregor won’t Lose Control as she heads to Hampshire

Recognised from a young age in muso circles as a prodigious talent on the guitar, Chantel McGregor’s skills are not just limited to her six-string prowess.

Sunday, 7th April 2019, 7:00 am
Chantel McGregor is at The 1865 in Southampton on April 11, 2019. Picture by Steve Howdle

She has won five prestigious British Blues Awards trophies, including Young Artist of The Year and best Female Vocalist and Guitarist of The Year twice each.

And her two solo albums, 2011’s Like No Other, and 2015’s Lose Control, have been heaped with praise for her songwriting as well as her technical ability.

Initially tagged as a blues guitarist, Chantel has found herself moving into other genres. And as she continues to work on her third ‘proper’ album, she’s got another project in the pipeline – an acoustic album.

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‘It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, but I’ve always been worried, will people buy it? How do I do this? Do I do new songs? Do I do reworked versions of old songs?

‘And that’s kind of how it’s ended up going, it’s some of the previous two albums’ songs and I’ve turned them on their heads, making them bluegrass, using weird instruments and percussion, a bit of mandolin...‘We’ve started working on that and recording it, so it will be out maybe late spring/early summer, and then I’m working on the third album at the same time.’

And how would she describe the songs she’s writing now?

‘It’s definitely not blues! My music started off as being blues-influenced, but my second album Lose Control was definitely rock, and quite heavy, I’ve also gone a bit prog in places.

‘Then the recent stuff I’ve been writing, I got really into, and maybe I shouldn’t say because of all this hoo-ha about him,’ she hesitates – allegations about this singer-songwriter’s behaviour to women had appeared in the media shortly before we spoke, ‘Ryan Adams. You know, really earthy, singer-songwriter stuff.’

One of her other enduring influences since Lose Control is the southern gothic genre in literature, film and music.

‘I’ve always been into that side of things. I love it, and I put so much research into it last time.

‘I don’t feel like the last album explored it as much as I wanted to, and maybe there’s only so much you can wring it out, but I think there’s a lot more to it, and the literature side to explore. It’s how I write as well – the dark, twisty side of things.’

Whatever she releases, it will be on her own label Tis Rock.

‘I’m still going out through that, which is fab because it gives me ultimate control, and I’m a control freak,’ she laughs. ‘I can put out what I want to put out, and I get the quality control on it. If I don’t think it’s quite there or not quite ready, I can revisit it. I think I’m really lucky because a lot of artists don’t have that freedom where they can say: “I want to work on this a bit longer”.

‘It might be a bit slower, but at least when it does come out you’re happy with it and you’re proud of it. You’re running the record label as well, so it is a lot more work. It might be right, it might be wrong, but at least it’s your decision.

She’s also been keeping busy with her new monthly podcast, Tel Tales, which launched at the start of the year.

‘I love doing radio and talking to people – and doing interviews, so I thought why don’t I do that?

‘It’s become a bigger job than I thought it would be, but I love it to bits, I really enjoy it, it gives me a creative freedom that’s not just music – I can do comedy, I can do whatever I want, I don’t have to talk about music.

‘And it’s connected with different people who hadn’t necessarily heard my music, which has worked out brilliantly. People have picked up on it because it’s been on the iTunes comedy chart, and gone: “Oh, she does music as well,” and become fans that way. I didn’t expect that, but it’s great, I’ll go with it!’

And even after all she’s achieved as an artist, Chantel comes across some decidedly sexist attitudes to the fact that she’s a woman playing guitar.

‘It’s ridiculous, I still get it. I encountered this for the first time when I was about 12. By now I thought we’d be done with this.

‘Girls playing guitar, it’s a thing, get over it.

‘It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a girl or a boy – there’s no physical reason why there would be any difference. Just be good at what you do and get on with it.’

Chantel McGregor

The 1865, Southampton

Thursday, April 11