‘I expanded my earning power by selling cheap jewellery at Ms MacDade’s market stall’

Scottish singer-songwriter Eddi Reader, who was born into a tenement slum in Glasgow, started her career busking.

After a stint as a backing singer with post-punk outfit Gang of Four, Reader provided backing vocals on a tour with Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics. But it was her brief time with Fairground Attraction that cast her into the limelight: Fairground Attraction’s single Perfect and its parent album First of a Million Kisses topped the British charts in 1988. The band split in 1989, and after a detour into acting, Reader went solo. She has won three Brit Awards, and was awarded an MBE in 2006 for her outstanding contribution to the arts.

The singer has strong Irish roots: her grandmother was from Tralee and her great-uncle James ‘Seamus’ Reader, a piper, was the head of the Scottish Brigade of the Irish Republican Brotherhood during the War of Independence. The singer, who is married to John Douglas of the Trashcan Sinatras, is also a vocal advocate for Scottish independence. 

 Reader’s Irish tour runs from March 16 to March 26, including a night at the Everyman Theatre in Cork on March 25.

What did you learn about money while growing up?

That when you do what you love, somehow you get rewarded in unexpected ways.

I was doing my Mum’s turn and our neighbour’s turn in cleaning the tenement close one day when I was around eight years old. As usual I was singing while grafting. A neighbour’s friend who was visiting came out and  gave me a thrupenny bit “for singing such a lovely song”.  

Kinda nice lesson, and more than I was getting for washing the stairs.

What was your first ever job?

Being brought up in a tenement community in Glasgow, us kids were used for many babysitting, shopping and cleaning jobs.

At around 11, I expanded my earning power by selling cheap jewellery at Mrs MacDade’s market stall in the Glasgow Barralands and at other markets over the weekends and during school holidays.

I had to give the small wage to my mum; she then gave me pocket money. Kinda like the deal Scotland has with England. 

What’s the most expensive place you’ve ever visited?

Buckingham Palace — costs me a FORTUNE to carpet that place!

Have you ever seen anyone spend money in a way that shocked you?

Sure – have you seen what some people pay to do to their faces?

What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

My house.

Do you still carry cash?


Do you use any of the digital banks?


Are you a spender or a saver?

Neither. But I have a long experience with lucrative times and not-so-lucrative times. I like to not give the unpredictable vagaries of economics power over my head. 

 What was your biggest career mistake?

 All unfolded as it had to unfold. I can’t say I regret anything in music. 

What was your best-paid gig?

Not sure. But a private gig will pay more for less time and there have been a few of them.

What three things would you not be able to do without if you had to tighten your belt?  

Internet, heating, and fruit.​

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