Chatting With Rebecca Downes

John Knighton caught up with Birmingham singer Rebecca Downes just before she played at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival in Skegness.

So Rebecca tell me a little bit about yourself…

I am originally from Wolverhampton but now live in Birmingham. I 've always been involved in music. I joined my first band when I was 12 and did my first gig when I was 13. I'm still in touch with all the people from that band and I think most of them are still involved with music.

Tell me about your musical influences…

I was brought up on jazz and swing. Ella Fitzgerald was Number One with my parents - and they saw her live as well. There was also Etta James and Sinatra. Nothing but the best. I learnt my style from those kind of guys. The way they delay the delivery of all the lyrics, and I used to spend hours playing around with that.

I was listening to Etta James yesterday…

Oh yes she was such a performer. It's everything. That's what drew me to blues music. There is a style about it obviously but it's more about you can say what anything you want. You get all you emotions out. It's kinda raw. Down to raw level and there's the uplifting stuff and you can add things like funk, like Etta James did.

Yes there are many different types of blues…

For me it's about the heart and soul and that's why I love it

So you started around 12, was that blues ?

Yes I can remember I had to audition with Run to You by Bryan Adams and an Eric Clapton song. I passed the audition and as soon as started singing with them I thought this is what I want to do. I got the buzz!

So tell me about the album, which I thought was fantastic…

I'm really proud of it. I'm always super critical of everything I produce. We came up with 150 song ideas. Me and Steve Birkett, who I write with. And he is really prolific which I like. There's a lot to draw down on and we can be really savage about it. I didn't want to more than 10 songs on there because I think that's enough and it gives a shape to the album.

It's kind of floored us the reaction. It's all been really positive. I am really overwhelmed.

There's lot of female singers in the British blues scene it must quite hard to break into that?

I don't feel that I'm in competition with those girls. I think it's great there are loads of girls!

We've each got different styles, different things we bring to it. The more girls the merrier.

Any gigs coming up?

Well we are playing the Cluny in Newcastle and Saltburn Blues Club fairly shortly and there are more gigs being planned. We've got some agents in Europe and Los Angeles and New York. I love New York. I've done some gigs over there by myself but it would be great to take the band there. We are hoping to go out at the end of the summer, towards Christmas.

One album in the can, when can we expect another?

It's already written. With probably the same number of ideas again. I've been looking all my life to find someone to work with because I write but I think as a songwriter you can get too in on yourself. And you need someone to say "that chorus isn't that great". You've got to be quite cruel with yourself.

So we are back in studio in February. We have three tracks that are just about there. I've been sitting with demos of the tracks. I keep playing them on a loop to see which ones really stand out.

I think it's going to be bluesier and slightly funkier. It will have some of the old school stuff that I really like.

I've been doing this for so many years but it seems that now everything is falling into place.

Success for me is getting gigs and a good response to the album. I don't want anything else. I just want to be gigging all the time because I am a live animal.

My producer says I can last about two hours in the studio because my mind goes!

Thanks very much for your time

Thank you

*Rebecca Downes' performance on the Introducing Stage won the public vote at Skegness and she will now appear of the main stage in 2016. Her debut album Back to the Start is out now.

John Knighton

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