Chantel McGregor

Chantel McGregor by Howard Rankin 3.jpg

Photo Credit: Howard Rankin

Course Studied: BA (Hons) Music (Popular)

Year of Graduation: 2009

Top Career Highlights:

  • Releasing the ‘Lose Control’ album
  • It’s probably not as much an achievement as acknowledgement - there’s a sense of satisfaction when you get other musicians who you look up to talking to you as if you are one of them, how about someone walking across and introducing themselves as “hello, I’m Eric!” (Clapton)
  • Getting a First Class Honours degree whilst at the same time running a business building a band. The band was restricted by my studies to playing relatively locally but it gave me the insight into the reality of what I was studying and gave me a platform to build on

Award-winning guitarist Chantel McGregor completed her studies in Popular Music at both Further Education and Higher Education level at Leeds College of Music. With an extremely intense touring schedule, Chantel regularly performs at gigs up and down the country, and further afield. Whilst on the road, she deals with all aspects of tour management, marketing and promotion and musical creation.

Below, Chantel shared some updates on her busy career to date and provided a couple of top tips for those aspiring to work as a singer, guitarist or songwriter.

What first got you into playing guitar and how did your love for contemporary rock, blues and prog. begin?

I started playing the guitar when I was 3 years old, my dad used to play around the house, and I showed an interest in his playing and guitars, so he bought me a 1/2 size acoustic, then when I reached 7 I started having lessons.

We always had rock music playing around the house, bands like Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, so it was a genre I was interested in from being really young.

What attracted you to studying music in Leeds?

Initially after finishing 6th form at High School, I was originally thinking of going to university to study an English degree, as I didn’t have GCSE or A-Level music (sadly the school didn’t run the module), so as far as music qualifications went, I only had Grade 8 in guitar, which wasn’t enough to get me onto the degree course at LCoM. I knew what a great conservatoire LCoM was, and the great reputation it had, and decided to pursue my passion for music rather than an English degree, so I went to LCoM to study the 2 year BTEC in Popular Music course and once I’d completed that, went on to do the Degree in Popular Music. Also living in Bradford and travelling into Leeds to study, meant that I could continue playing gigs around the north of England.

What were the most useful lessons learnt during your time at LCoM?

I think the modules that helped my career the most were music industry and journalism. I now run my own record label and do most of the industry things myself, so having a good knowledge of how the industry works has been invaluable to me. I do a lot of radio and written interviews, so the journalism module, much as though it was taught from the opposite view (studying how to review and write about music), has really helped with my knowledge of how to deal with the media.

How has LCoM aided your career so far and how has your career developed since graduation?

LCoM helped me gain a knowledge of how to analyse, research and study in depth, be that music, history, media etc. A prime example of this was in May this year when I was asked twice by BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss the business situation of Gibson Guitars, which meant a lot of research into the business structure of Gibson, the history of the company and the mistakes they had made which led to their bankruptcy situation. The following day, I was asked to chat on the Adrian Chiles show on 5 Live about the history of Chicago blues and BB King, which meant a lot of research into the topics they wanted to discuss. I think the ability to study in depth has been invaluable to my career.

As far as career development, I tour both with my band and solo throughout the year in the UK and Europe. I’ve released 2 albums and I’m working on the 3rd one at the moment.

What’s coming up next for you in terms of gigs or projects?

I’ve got a UK tour that’s running until the end of the year and I’m also working on my third album.

You’ve got an incredible work ethic, demonstrated by the amount of gigs you do each year. How do you manage to keep it up?

Lots of coffee!!!!! It is incredibly hard work, to do anything in music you have to work hard. The touring is hard, as not only do I perform the shows, I manage the tour, book the hotels, route everything, deal with the venues and promotors, send the stage specs and everything for the show, print the flyers & posters;  contact the venues and send them, send posters to the street team for them to distribute, deal with the finances, organise the PR, do the interviews and press releases, manage all of the social media platforms and website for the band, and after all that somehow try to find time to work on new material. You have to be very dedicated and run your career as a business.

What’s it like spending so much time on the roads? Are there any particular venues you really enjoy performing at?

It’s wonderful seeing different places and meeting different people, but it is very tiring and is incredibly hard work. You have to get along with everyone you’re travelling with as you’re spending such a long time with them. There’s some brilliant venues around the UK, one of my particular favourites is The Apex in Bury St Edmunds, it’s an incredible venue, always a wonderful audience and the people who work there are brilliant!!!

You’ve won multiple awards at the British Blues Award (2012 – Best Female Vocalist, 2013 – Guitarist of the Year & Best Female Vocalists, 2014 – Guitarist of the Year). How important is this recognition?

It’s always lovely to get recognition, especially when it’s from a public vote. I’m not a believer in ‘best this’ or ‘best that’ as I always work on the rule that everyone can do something better than you, plus music is so subjective and also awards can be down to how popular you are. I just think music should be about being the best musician you can be, being humble and nice to people, being professional and enjoying what you do.

It’s often quoted that when you were 14, a major label suggested that you had a ‘great voice, but girls don’t play guitar like that’. Have you seen any change in the industry since then? Do you feel you have actively helped to challenge the inherent gender imbalance within the sector?

Sadly, I haven’t seen much of a shift in opinion. I still get the situation at guitar shows and music shops where people will talk to whoever I’m with before realising that I’m the one who is interested in the product. I do think there are more female musicians now than there were when I started out, which is brilliant. I don’t think the gender imbalance will change overnight, but I do think there are more women working in the industry, be that musicians or on the business side, so there surely has to be a shift in the imbalance and opinion soon.

What key advice would you give to an aspiring singer, guitarist or songwriter?

I think the best bits of advice I’ve been given and learnt over the years are:

  • Be nice!!! Egos are not attractive or endearing and the easier and nicer you are to work with, the more work you’ll get.
  • Be professional; be on time, don’t let people down, learn material well, get along with people
  • Treat what you do as a business. Music business is 2 words - ‘music’ and ‘business’, and ‘business’ is the biggest word of the 2. Without the business, the music doesn’t happen
  • Work hard, I’m a bit of a control freak, I like to run as much of the business as I can to ensure that everything is done properly. It is a lot of work, but it is a good thing. Be prepared to have very few days off, very little social life and work crazy hours

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Visit Chantel's website to find out her latest tour dates.

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