Derby’s Kezia Gill, whose father toured with showband greats, has been making a name for herself on the British country scene.
Kezia Gill grew up in a musical household – her father and grandfather were steeped in the Irish dancehall culture – so it was unsurprising that she found herself making her living from music.
He rich musical pedigree includes her tenor grandfather, Eamonn Gill, who toured and performed with late, great Josef Locke.
Her late father Eddie – and role model – toured with and opened for Big Tom in the dance halls and played the pub circuit.
She recently took us back to where it all began for her.
“I was born and brought up in Derby, one of four children born to mum, Sue, and dad, Eddie.
“I have a brother and two sisters all of whom can sing but don’t do so professionally.
“It is wonderful when we get together at Christmas or for parties, we regularly and effortlessly start to belt out three-part harmonies, it just comes so naturally to us.
“Music has surrounded me all my life, there has never been any question in my mind that I would choose it as my career.
“I first started performing as a teenager in a trad group called Emerald Roses, with my cousins. The name was a fusion of both our Irish and English roots.
“We would play sessions on a Sunday afternoon around Derby, Long Eaton and Nottingham. I remember I played my first gig when I was fourteen and I was paid the princely sum of £30. I can tell you that £30 to a 14-yearold in 1998 was a lot of money.
“Playing in the band led me into country music and as we all know the lines between both genres are blurred.
“Honestly, if someone asked me to choose between Irish and Country I would have to make the decision on the toss of a coin – I love them both equally.
“Song writing for me has always been a very honest thing.
“If you look at Country and Irish music, it is all about the art of storytelling. When I look at one of my favourite songs, Spancil Hill, it’s a guy talking about the town he grew up in. That is how I write; I write ballads if I am sad, and up-tempo songs when I am happy.
“I will never be able to write about pickup trucks or cowboy hats as I am not that kind of Country artist, but I can talk about love, loss and heartbreak because I have experienced those.
“I lost my dad in March and I wrote a song about him before he died called Local Man’s Star, it’s my true story about why I’m the person I am and that’s because of my dad.
“My dad was a pub singer who never really aspired to be a big star. He had a family, mouths to feed and a love of music and that was all he needed.
“As a youngster it was me going around these clubs with him and sitting in a corner drinking my Panda Pop, watching this man and aspiring to be him. I guess now, in a nice way, I am him. I entertain for a living and whether I am playing Wigan Miners’ Club or Wembley it doesn’t matter to me because people are enjoying what I do.
“Dad was ill for a while and I thought that I would have a barrage of emotion when we lost him, but it has been the complete opposite. I just closed completely; I haven’t been able to write one lyric; I have completely dried up.
“Initially I thought that lockdown would last probably about four weeks, so I threw myself into a flurry of productivity, updating my website and doing my Friday night live sessions.
“I thought that if I was being creative and me, it would all be ok.
“The one thing that lockdown has given me though is that time to grieve and pause which has been good.
“Just before dad passed, I wrote and recorded a song called Wings about being the best person you can be and living life to the full – that is all that dad ever wanted for me.
“I work with a producer here in Derby. We are just about to send it over to Nashville for it to be mixed and mastered, no one can do it like they can, its magical. We are hoping to release it in the autumn.
“Our Friday night lockdown session came about the first week we went into lockdown.
“I was due to do a show with Megan-Louise and Jade Helliwell in Saltburn when we found we had to go into lockdown. I have been friends with Jade for years and we said that we would get together on the Thursday night that week in one of our houses and do a live session. We then found out we had to isolate so Jade said she would do the Thursday night and I decided that I would do a show on the Friday and it has been like that since.
“My Friday night crew, as they have named themselves, are amazing, they tune in religiously each week for The Pour Me A Strong One Sessions. We usually pick a theme like love songs, ‘80s, that sort of thing.
“I open the floor and ask them what they would like to hear me sing and they send me in their requests based on that week’s theme.
“I love singing my own original music but ultimately without covering other artists’ music over the years I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“My Friday night live sessions have been very therapeutic. There have been times when I have literally broken down in tears talking about my dad.
“I literally feel like I go to therapy every Friday night.
I was due to have a really exciting year this year headlining festivals and touring Germany.
Along with everyone else we have had to do a little juggling and we have literally moved everything on and rescheduled those dates for next year. 2021 is looking great and I cannot wait.
For more information, click here.