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The South come to Towersey Festival
THINK of the Beautiful South and you think of Perfect 10, Rotterdam and Don't Marry Her. Now the newly named The South, with a slightly different line-up, are keeping these songs alive and are coming to The Towersey Festival at the end of the month. Lead female vocalist, Alison Wheeler, spoke to Rebecca Cain about how much she loves singing.
Joining The Beautiful South came at just the right time for Alison. The 40-year-old was just starting to give up on her dream of being a professional singer when she met Dave Hemingway from the band. And from that meeting in 2002 she has been doing what she loves best- performing.
I spoke to Alison when she was on holiday in Menorca with her family- husband Andrew and two children who are aged six and three.
Half way through the holiday she was flying home for a festival in Cumbria. It must be nice to have a break, I asked.
Alison said: "I don't feel a need to break. The singing is a nice intermission from being mum. "It is the best job in the world. I wouldn't want to change.
"I don't find it a chore."
Alison fell in love with singing when she was studying Japanese at university, which is where she met Andrew.
She joined a covers band, and worrying that she would miss singing while she was abroad studying in Japan, she changed her degree to study law too. The 40-year-old then moved to London, where she has stayed ever since.
She got a job in the record industry, and she said with her funky red hair only the media industry would employ her anyway. She learnt behind the scenes, and when she joined BMG they let her audition at the same time. After seven years she still hadn't managed to get anything.
She said: "I tried and tried with lots of things. I tried girl bands and I kept thinking this is the final big break.
"I was in a gospel choir, which I almost didn't join. I thought it might be a bit churchy."
But as part of the choir they got to do a session with Dave Hemingway in 2002, who later asked her if she would like to join Beautiful South, which she accepted in a "nanosecond."
Alison said: "I had a benchmark. Madonna made it when she was 26 and then I passed it. Then i thought Sheryl Crow was 32 when she started to have a successful career. That was my next benchmark. "I was about 32 when I joined the band.
"I had kind of reached a point I had just been on holiday with my husband and I felt it was time to call it a day.
"I got home and had a letter on my doorstep."
The letter invited her to join the band. She said: "I absolutely love singing. You are very fortunate if you have a vocation and know what you enjoy doing."
And she said she joined at the right time in her life. Alison said: "When I joined The Beautiful South it was quite sensible. They had done the rock and roll years and partying hard. They were quite conservative in some ways. There were no massive tours."
But then in 2007 Paul Heaton decided to go solo. Dave Hemingway decided he wanted to carry on, as did Alison, and joining the duo were keyboard player Damon Butcher and the horn section of Gaz Birtles and Tony Robinson who were in the original band. The band perform the old favourites but have wrote their own songs, with a new album coming out soon. She said the fans have stuck with the new line up, and have gathered new fans. She said: "The feeling is still there. The energy is still there. There is a really nice family feeling there."
Oxfordshire's 48th Towersey Festival runs from August 23-27. The line-up is huge but includes Bellowhead, Edward II, Roddy Woomble and Americana Afternoon. The South are playing on Thursday, August 23. Tickets prices range. Day season tickets start from £25 for children and £42 for adults. Then tickets for The South are £17 and £8. For more details about Towersey Festival go to http://www.towerseyfestival.com/.
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