Bradford born blues rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Chantel McGregor picked up her first guitar at the age of three, began singing at twelve and following the release of her debut album “Like No Other” in 2011 along with four years of constant touring and festival appearances has amassed a loyal fan base, and a well-deserved reputation as a powerhouse performer. Described as blending the tone and inspiration of Jimi Hendrix, the energy of Royal Blood plus the intensity of the Black Keys, in contrast with the ethereal sounds of Eva Cassidy, and the haunting vocal of Stevie Nicks – all rolled into one!
In that time she has also picked up an incredible string of awards including Young Artist of the Year 2011, Female Vocalist of the Year 2012 and 2013 and Guitarist of the Year in both 2013 and 2014 at the prestigious British Blues awards.
2015 is proving to be yet another busy year for Chantel with the eagerly anticipated release of her second album, a UK and European tour, and this month sees her headlining the opening night of the Bradford Festival.
I met with Chantel at The Bradford Brewery, where over a pie and a pint we talked about her career in music, the creative process behind her new album, connection to her Yorkshire roots, and the importance of being nice!
Your were first introduced to the guitar before the age of three, can you explain how you got from there to where you are today?
It all started with my Dad really, because he’d played from being a young age so would play in the house so when I was about two I would toddle over to his guitar, de-tune and put dents in it and ask him to play Kenny the Kangaroo from Alphabet Zoo. Then at age three he got me a half-size guitar, then took lessons from age seven, progressed onto electric at eight, decided to go down the electric rather than classical route and carried on with lessons until I was sixteen. But, also at twelve I started jam sessions, so that’s when I realised that I needed to learn to sing. It was also around that time that I decided I wanted to do music as a career – and I’ve loved it ever since!
Probably something to do with travel, a sales rep or something else that involved a lot of travel! I don’t like to be in one place for too long, which is why I enjoy being on the road touring so much.
Although you enjoy travel you are very loyal to your Yorkshire roots, how important is it for you to perform locally?
It’s extremely important to me, which is why I’m performing at Bradford Festival. It’s a real pleasure for me to be doing that, and a huge honour for me to be asked as well, because I did it years and years ago when it was in Peel Park when I was about twelve! It’s also important to me to spread the word about the amazing things that are happening in Bradford now. The regeneration going on is phenomenal, with City Park and the development of the Independent Quarter. Bradford has suffered from a bad reputation in recent years, but I think it’s a brilliant place with amazing buildings and fantastic people – and people should come and see it!
Do you think being from Yorkshire influences what you do in any way?
Absolutely! I definitely think it does, I’m proud of being from Yorkshire, and I think it’s made me more grounded. It’s about home, and connections, which is really important for me because I spend so much time touring. To me Yorkshire towns and cities have a sense of community that bigger cities just don’t seem to have.
Who is your biggest inspiration musically?
Oh wow! I don’t know because I listen to so many people. A big inspiration for me in music is nice people, and while it may seem like a weird answer, it’s because I’ve met some people who are the most amazing, phenomenal musicians who are just not very nice people, and that makes you lose respect for them and their playing. Then I’ve met others like Stevie Nicks who is just so humble and lovely, and Bonnie Raitt, Joe Bonamassa and Lindsey Buckingham who are all such amazing, lovely people and that really inspires me. People who have gone there, become a massive success, been through everything they’ve experienced and just couldn’t be any nicer, now to me that’s inspirational. Ultimately it’s not about what their hands can do, it’s about what their minds can do, and who they are as people.
You’re launching your second album later this year, could you explain your songwriting and creative process?
It’s very erratic, and different each time, although I did take more formulaic approach with the second album. This album has a theme, which the first one didn’t have. The concept is based around “Southern Gothic”, and vampires and death, inspired by all different mediums like American Gothic literature and television programmes, poetry, imagery and Pinterest boards. Then I used sticky notes and lots of mind maps to develop the songwriting side. The music side involved more research on the Southern Gothic theme, listening to music that fits that genre, tying in the instrumentation that is used like violins and fiddles, and as I don’t play the fiddle it’s then translating all that into guitar stuff. So that’s the process I used for this album. For me it’s all about surrounding yourself with the things that influence you, absorbing everything and then morphing all those influences into something different, that’s your own.
Don’t miss Chantel’s headline performance on the opening night of Bradford Festival. Friday 12th June 2015 on the Centenary Square Stage at 8pm www.bradfordfestival.org.uk
Her second album is due for release later in the year, for further details visit www.chantelmcgregor.com