Your chance to open Joan Armatrading’s Ipswich concert

Have you got what it takes to open for one of the UK’s leading singer-songwriters? Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE talks to Joan Armatrading about shining the spotlight on the town’s untapped talent.

TIRED of singing to pub-goers more interested in the bottom of their glasses than your latest song? Ever stood in a concert crowd, wishing it was you on stage?

Now’s your chance to step up to the mic and make your dreams come true, courtesy of three times Grammy nominated, Brit award nominee and Ivor Novella winner Joan Armatrading MBE.

She wants to give a local singer-songwriter the chance to perform a 15-minute opening set during her 52-date UK and Ireland tour which comes to the Ipswich Regent next October.

“It’s the first time I’ve done anything where I’ve actively done any kind of publicity for it. Usually I just ask the promoter or other acts or somebody might suggest themselves.”

She’s always had somebody local perform at some point on her tours, whether she’s in Syndey, Australia or Liverpool, England.

“You get to see some really interesting, very talented people and you think ‘lots of people should hear these people’,” Armatrading laughs.

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“A lot of artists play down the local pub and hope they can get on the bill with whoever; this is an opportunity to get on the bill with whoever, who happens to be me.

“So this time I thought it would be really cool for literally every single city to have a local person. I’m looking forward to seeing some talented people on the stage.”

She’s clearly excited about the idea, interrupting writing her new CD, also out next year, to promote the search for fresh artists. Aspiring acts need to submit an MP3 of them performing two songs - one original, one cover - on either guitar or piano before November 25 this year. Full details of how can be found at

Rest assured she’ll be listening to every one, “Ultimately I will be the person choosing who will be on the stage with me that night.”

The opportunity - Armatrading doesn’t like the term competition - is open to anyone, any age, any type of music.

“I’m very eclectic in my musical taste, I love all kinds. You name it I’m going to love it because there’s good stuff in everything; it doesn’t matter if it’s country, blues, rap or soul, classical rock. As long as you sound good you stand a good chance,” she says.

Entries from other towns have already been pouring in.

“I don’t like to use the term competition because it’s not,” she explains. “It’s just a way of allowing people to hear... I need to hear a few people because that’s how, in the end, you’re going to probably hear the best.”

Armatrading laughs if you like what you do and want to be on stage doing it, you’ve nothing to lose by entering.

“If you do it the chances are something could happen. I’d say do it. It’s just a solo performer coming on doing their thing with a piano or guitar and having a great night; it’s wonderful you’ll be part of a 52-member family.”

Is she looking to discover the next big thing or give somebody a regular spot on the tour? After all, a few years back she ended up taking her Liverpool support act to America with her.

“Well it would be fantastic if that [discovering somebody] happened. I’m hoping other things will come out of it but I don’t want to say ‘oh this’ll happen or that’ll happen’.

“I don’t want to say because I don’t want to give people kind of false hopes and build it up into this great big thing, you know? But I’m kind of hoping this won’t be the end of them coming on the stage.

“Initially it’s about an opportunity to support in front of a few people and start to build up a fan base, because that’s what it’s really about. It’s about people hearing your music and hearing it in a way that wants them to come and hear you somewhere else, to want to go and buy your stuff.”

Whatever happens, you’re guaranteed a new fan in the shape of Armatrading.

“When I’m on tour I always watch the support, I don’t know what it is but I need to see the local acts, I need to see the person who’s coming on before me; I like music basically. I like to watch so I’ll be watching their performance and looking forward to what they’ve got to offer.”

The 2012 tour, which arrives in Ipswich on October 11, will feature firm favourites such as Love and Affection, Drop The Pilot and Into The Blues as well as songs from the new CD.

She can’t wait to hit the road.

“I lose time, they’re generally long, a year or whatever. It’s a lot of travelling, a lot of different cities but when you get on stage, then...,” she trails off.

“I don’t know what this thing is but you can be as tired as tired as tired but when you get on stage this thing kicks in and you’re awake. You’ve got this energy, you feel vitalised and as soon as they start applauding and you can see their lovely faces then it just, I don’t know, it’s fantastic if you could bottle this thing...,” she laughs.

Armatrading’s special guest will be BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Singer of The Year 2011 Chris Wood.