Twice voted UK Blues Guitarist of the Year – and the first woman ever to win the honour – Chantel McGregor is well on the way to icon status. TONY DEWHURST spoke with Yorkshire singer-songwriter ahead of her appearance in Lancashire next month.
Chantel McGregor’s guitar tone is a distinctive thing – a raw, howling cry, delivered with concentrated emotion and seismic power.
Through her relatively short career making music, however, she has resisted being pigeonholed.
“I don’t like being put in a box, I’ve always avoided that but I suppose it does happens sometimes because my influences are so diverse, from Led Zeppelin to Jimi Hendrix,” said the Bradford-based songstress.
“I don’t consider myself strictly as Blues – my music is ‘Chantel music.’
“It’s a bit of pop, it’s a bit of rock, and there’s a snippet of blues.”
She has penned a new song about American singer Jeff Buckley and plans to debut the tune when she returns to Clitheroe’s Grand Theatre next month.
“Jeff Buckley was the reason I got into music and, in a way, it is a little thank-you to him,” she said.
“I was watching MTV and he sang, ‘Last Goodbye.’
“I’d never seen anything like it, and I was just entranced by this amazing guitar sound.
“I fell in love it with the tone of his voice.”
She added: “I was 12. The next day my dad took me into Bradford to buy the record, and when we got home I played and played it. I just wanted to be a guitarist.”
She has certainly achieved that ambition, being the only woman to be voted Guitarist of the Year at the British Blues Awards.
When she won the same prize last year, DJ Chris Evans played a track from her debut album every day for a week.
“Maybe people thought that changed my life but it didn’t,” she added.
“It was lovely, to have that nod in your direction from the industry, but I’ve just ploughed on, working just as hard.”
McGregor’s splendid album, Like No Other, will be followed by her second offering later this year, and early indications are that the new recording is more likely to draw comparisons with contemporary Rock artists rather than the guitar greats from yesteryear.
“My first record was a very diverse one, but this is a straight down the middle rock record.
“There’s a couple of acoustic tracks, but it is not wishy washy. There’s a lot of power and intensity there.
“I’ve been listening to Royal Blood, The Hoosiers, and Black Keys.”
If you measure an artists’ prospects by the company they keep: then McGregor is heading in the right direction.
Chantel has been invited by Joe Bonamassa to jam with him on his UK tour in March, and has also featured alongside Keith Richards and Albert Lee on a worldwide DVD celebrating the 60 years of the Fender Telecaster.
She admits that the Grand has become one of her favourite venues, though.
“It will be my fourth visit to the Grand, and I love the place.
“I’ve played all over Europe, but there’s a special vibe at the Grand.
“The first time we played there we got caught in a blizzard.
“We nearly didn’t make it. I was texting the set list through to the sound desk and we stepped on stage five minutes after we arrived.”
Chantel McGregor, with support from Burnley guitarist Lucy Zirins. Clitheroe
Chantel McGregor plays at Clitheroe Grand Theatre on March 6. Tickets £13.50, box office 01200 421599.