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Nancy Wallace in The Rocket Launcher

Every issue, fRoots fires a dozen leading questions at a willing subject. Here's what we got when we directed them at Nancy Wallace.

Nancy Wallace
Photo: Judith Burrows
If you were given the funds to organise a concert bill, who would the artists be?
Could I have a fantasy bill please? I’d put on all the people I never had a chance to see and now never will (almost certainly). So that’s Nic Jones, Shirley and Dolly Collins, the Watersons with Lal, Anne Briggs, Sandy Denny…

Which totally obscure record do you most treasure and would like more people to know about?
There’s a record I’ve taken everywhere with me since I was ten and that’s Caution To The Wind by Paul Metsers. It’s my comfort blanket record. My parents took me to see him and I won the album in the raffle. He signed it for me – such a thrill! Me and a friend found him on MySpace recently and I wrote him a really gushy fan message – he wrote back a brief note but I think I scared him.

What was the best live gig you ever saw?
Oh God that’s a question – there have been so many! Gigs are so much a part of the journey through life, and seeing Def Leppard at the Hammersmith Odeon when I was 18 had just as massive an impact on me at the time as when I saw Norma Waterson sing for the first time years later. I reckon overall though it would be seeing Kate and Anna McGarrigle about four years ago. Their harmonies reduce me to a gibbering wreck, and I got through an entire packet of hankies. My boyfriend at the time was a little concerned…

And what was the worst?
Ooh I couldn’t possibly name names, that would be mean. I’m going to go for any Battle Of The Bands event that took place at the Ipswich Corn Exchange in the late ‘80s. Brutal times…

What was your own best ever gig?
I’ve played at a couple of friends’ weddings recently, and this year my lovely fiddler Jennymay is getting married so I’ll be playing there – I reckon those are the best ones by far.

And what was your worst?
No question, the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town. The audience consisted of a crusty, his dog on a string, and an inebriated dancing dwarf. A long time ago, thank the Lord.

What’s the professional achievement you’re most proud of?
I’m not sure I’ve got one ‘achievement’ as such – I don’t really look at it like that. I consider myself really lucky to be pottering along, doing what I do, and having some really amazing times along the way. I guess I’m proud to have met and played with some really talented and lovely people, and I’m really proud to be a part of Rif Mountain records!

What’s the most embarrassing thing you ever did in public?
When I was working at Foyles I went to a pretty naff book launch. The next day I was on the shop floor telling all my colleagues about its naffness and who should pop up from behind a shelf but the author of the book. What are the chances? He was livid, I was mortified.

Which song or piece of music would you most like to have written yourself?
Anything by Cathy Dennis or Diane Warren – I could do with the money! But if I could write a song half as good as Heart Like A Wheel I’d be forever happy.

Who was the first musician or singer you were inspired to emulate?
Probably my mum – she had us all playing music from an early age and she was a really nifty guitarist. My aunt tells me I’m still the image of her when I play. After that, probably Nancy Wilson from Heart. She could really play, and she had amazing hair. And she was called Nancy.

Who was the last-but-one musician or singer you lusted after?
Ha ha! I couldn’t possibly tell you that! When I was a whippersnapper I had a massive crush on Nigel Eaton from Blowzabella, but he was soon usurped by Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs. More recent history shall remain undocumented I’m afraid.

If you had a rocket launcher, who or what would be the target, and why?
The new citrus-coloured tower blocks opposite St Giles-in-the-Fields church. I have no idea what the planners were thinking but they are an absolute blot on the landscape. Sorry to come on like Prince Charles but really, they are awful. Can I also have Melanie Phillips please? Probably don’t need to explain that one. Thank you.

fRom fRoots 322, April 2010


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