Kate Rusby

Raised by a folk-music loving family in South Yorkshire, Kate Rusby (born on December 4, 1973) spent much of her childhood at folk festivals, watching her parents' ceilidh dance band and singing traditional songs around the house. These were the songs she performed when she first started playing in public in a duo with Kathryn Roberts, having been at drama school and turned down a part in the TV soap opera Emmerdale. Both she and Roberts were recruited to join the young band Equation, but Rusby quit to go solo when the group was signed to a major label and she disagreed with the intended musical direction suggested by the record company. With family support she formed her own label, Pure to release her own records, initially concentrating on traditional material. Her gentle, appealing voice and quick sense of humour swiftly found favour with a wider audience beyond the folk world, particularly after her second album Sleepless in 1999 was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize. Produced by her then-husband, the Scottish fiddle player John McCusker, Rusby started writing her own material strongly influenced by traditional song and continued to take folk music into the mainstream with national airplay. She had a hit in 2006 duetting with Ronan Keating on “All Over Again,” which climbed to Number 6 on the UK Singles Chart. Having split with McCusker, she remarried Northern Irish singer and multi-instrumentalist Damien O'Kane, who became her band leader as she maintained her role as the poster girl of English folk music. In 2012, Rusby celebrated her 20th anniversary as a professional musician with the album 20, which included duets with various other artists, including longtime musical hero Nic Jones, Dave Burland and Paul Weller. She followed up with Ghost in 2014 and 2016’s Life in a Paper Boat, which found her incorporating programmed drums and synthesizers into her songs. She continued in that same prog vein with Philosophers, Poets & Kings in 2019 and inaugurated the new decade with Hand Me Down, a collection of covers that featured versions of The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” and The Bangles’ “Manic Monday.”

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