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OUT OF THE QUESTION

ACCORDIONIST / SINGER HARRIET BARTLETT FACES THE TAPLAS INQUISITION (FEB / MARCH 2004)

What was the defining moment that made you think... I'd like to have a go at this?

I never really got to a certain point and decided that this was the career I was going to do, I kind of fell into it. I've been brought up with it since a baby, going to festivals, folk clubs, sessions etc and it seemed natural to me.

What was the first tune / song you learnt?

People may laugh but at the age of eight, I loved Danny Boy, and it was the first tune I played on accordion. Song wise, I remember standing up, at about ten years old, singing unaccompanied, The Queen and the Soldier, from Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts CD. I thought it was a great story.

How long have you been a professional musician?

Professional? Does that mean being paid? I would say I've been performing on stage for about two years professionally, but many performances before that, just for the fun of it. I've never had pocket money. No my parents aren't mean... but they've always encouraged me to save, so I spend their money and save my own! Only joking but it's a good idea!!!

Where was you first gig as a professional?

Do you know, I can't remember! I did lots of gigs, I suppose my first biggie was at Sidmouth Festival 2001. It was on a Saturday afternoon and I went on before Dr Faustus. I was a big audience - just fantastic.

Who is your biggest musical influence?

Pavarotti!!! Sorry... I couldn't resist that! There are so many. I remember in sessions at the age of nine, being influenced by the likes of Rees Wesson, Jonathan Hayward, Alistair Gillies etc... but then, later on, the likes of Karen Tweed, Ian Lowthian, my bestest friend Phil Cunningham, John McCusker, Andy Cutting, John Kirkpatrick, Ian Carr, Flook... oh Lord, there's so many! I could write a book!

Who, in the music world, do you most admire?

Besides the obvious ones, recently, the Pop Idol chap Will Young, because after winning Pop Idol, he went on to butt the trend and he did it his way. His new album is very different from the first one. Good on you, Will!

What was the first record (album or single) you ever brought?

The above, because before that, my parents brought them!! He he!

What is your all-time favourite recording?

Barber's Adagio. Every time I hear it, especially when I play it in the car, the part where the violins climb to and hold 'that note', makes my skin tingle and the tears flow. It takes some piece of music to do that.

Which of your own albums (solo or as a band member) gives you the most satisfaction?

Have I not told you? Well, it's my debut solo CD, namely Eyes Wide Open, recorded on the Greentrax label and produced by Phil Cunningham. I was joined, very kindly, by Ed Boyd of Flook and Mark Maguire of Deaf Shepherd. And of course, Mr Phil Cunningham MBR himself on piano. Launched on 19 January at Celtic Connections 2004.

What albums have you brought recently?

Will Young's Friday's Child, Flook's Rubai, Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham's Spring the Summer Long and Show of Hands for my Dad for Christmas, but Mum and Dad have brought loads.

What is currently on the stereo at home and in the car?

In the house, a mixture of the above on the hi-fi set on random. In the car, that Adagio - we were playing it only yesterday.

Any tips on who we should be listening to?

What you enjoy - that always helps. But a CD called Eyes Wide Open might be a good choice!!!

Where is your favourite venue?

I think the audience is what makes a venue. It certainly works for me. The bigger the audience, the better!!

What advice would you give to a learner?

If you can read the dots, then learn the tune. Once you know it well, put the book away and play, play and play it, until your own style starts to come through. If you can't read the dots, a bit at a time always helps.

How often, if at all, do you practise?

I play most days, but then I might not play for a while, but always before a gig I swot!

Do you ever suffer from stage fright?

No, except for when I sang for the first time! It was a Warwick Folk Festival. At a previous festival, Keith Donnelly was encouraging me to sing, so at Warwick I said to Graham Bradshaw (CV Audio) I might sing. Graham, having known me for a while by then, questioned 'I might?' So I did. Keith Donnelly was perched on the side of the stage (backstage). Yes I was frightened! I wondered what he was going to do!! If you know Keith, you'll know what I mean!

What / who makes you laugh?

Keith Donnelly - he's mental! Old Rope String Band - hilarious! But Philly Boy Cunningham, for his natural humour. He just can't help himself. Ask anyone who knows him! Better still, go to see him live.

How do you relax?

Staying in bed until 12.00pm, when permitted!

What book are you currently reading?

Harry Potter (again...)

What was the last film you saw?

Love Actually - brilliant film!!

With which musician, dead or alive, would you most like to collaborate?

Christy Moore. He's fantastic on the bodhran / guitar, and a brilliant singer too!

Does politics belong in your music?

Nope!

If you weren't a musician, what would you be doing?

Web site design.

Which three words best sum you up?

Let's have fun.

What's your greatest regret?

Not meeting or having the chance to have some tunes with Johnny Cunningham, who died in December.

As she has already pointed out, Shropshire teenage Harriet Bartlett's first album was released at Glasgow's Celtic Connections in January.