INTERVIEW: Jacqui Abbott

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JACQUI Abbott shot to stardom when she was plucked from obscurity by Paul Heaton to front the Beautiful South. After taking a break from music for over a decade, Jacqui is back touring – with Paul – and took some time to talk touring, social media and finding new fans.

After her hiatus to take care of her young son, Jacqui explained that it was different to be back on the road:

“It has changed a bit, only for the the fact that we’re older and we’ve all got families now, things like that. It’s a lot more quieter. But it’s nice that way, you don’t exert yourself as much, it’s a lot more easy, going around on the tour bus and that, it’s a lot more relaxed. With age comes the tendency to take things a bit more easy a bit more!”

But the shock of touring was eclipsed by Jacqui’s shock at the reception they’ve received so far:

“I was certainly shocked, because I didn’t really view anything further than just working with Paul again really, I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out really, but for all of us really, it’s been a sort of massive, massive boost of confidence and a boost of happiness. I’m so happy that people have responded so well and we’ve gone out on tour again. Working together again has been so much fun and people responding to that has been a great confidence boost.”

Despite over ten years out of the music business, Abbott said that getting back to recording was like riding a bike:

“It was straight back on it again in the studio. We’d already done a project called The 8th together – which was wonderful as well and involved a lot of other people – but it was like time had never passed really! It was like the past ten or so years hadn’t really gone by, it was wonderful. I think it’s because we know one another other so well, we’ve got on so well, it was like nothing had changed – other than, as I said, we’ve gotten older and we appreciate things a lot more!”

With the new album, Wisdom, Laughter and Lines, under their belt, Jacqui explained that their live shows are a mix of old and new:

“It’s everything really! New stuff, some Beautiful South, some Housemartins stuff. Paul keeps juggling around the set lists, he’s got a lot of material to work with, so it could be everything really. But he has featured the new stuff heavily, because I think people have responded to it very well and I think he’s very, very proud of what he’s done in the last two albums, so there’s a number of songs from those two albums that he really wanted us all to go on stage and play, because there’s been such a good response to them.”

Jacqui was also delighted that the new material has earned them some new fans:

“I think there’s been a little bit of a mix really, myself – when I’ve been back – I’ve seen a lot of people who would be around the same age as me and Paul, maybe slightly older, maybe slightly younger, but there’s noticeably a load of younger fans coming through, who’ve heard it through their parents or maybe have a relative that have heard the band and it’s been passed on generationally. So they’ve an appreciation for it now, which is brilliant.”

Paul’s never been one to shy away from what he thinks (and to put it in his songs) and Jacqui agreed that the new fans might be attracted by the message that Paul’s sending – one about inequality and social issues, which seem ever more relevant today:

Yeah, well he’s very observant, is Paul. About everything he’s done. That’s the writer’s role really. He’s a writer of songs, but he’s a writer first. So he’s very observant. When he’s away – he loves travelling – he remembers everything, and he’s observed lots of different phases of his life. And that all goes into how he writes and what he writes – and who he writes for. And I think that’s what kept him in that style of writing, that sort of thing that people can relate to. That very observant, kitchen sink, that – I dunno – political view. But it’s a mixture of everything. Love, life, relationships and politics. Things that he feels very strongly about.”