Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 09:49 UK

Talking Shop: The Zutons

The Zutons
The Zutons recorded their latest album in Los Angeles
Liverpool band The Zutons recently released their third album and have embarked on a round of festival appearances and gigs.

The Mercury and Brit-nominated five-piece, fronted by Dave McCabe, have had nine UK top 40 songs and achieved one of their biggest hits with Valerie in 2006.

But when the song was covered by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, it went on to surpass The Zutons' success.

Abi Harding, the band's saxophonist and backing singer, discusses her role in The Zutons, their biggest gig yet, and how they "lost" Valerie.


Which part of the music business do you like best - recording in the studio or playing live?

The Zutons' Abi Harding
I love being with the lads and I don't mind being the only girl
Abi Harding

I've always said playing live because it's the reward at the end. But when you're in the studio and the first time you listen back to it and it's right - that's a really exciting point.

Your full UK tour later this year culminates in an arena gig in your home city. How do you feel about that?

I think we're all crapping ourselves a bit because it's massive! We've never played as big a headlining gig. There's going to be about 11,000 people there so we'd better get a good support act. I'm really looking forward to it.

How were the series of forest gigs you played earlier in the summer?

It was great because it was coming up to festival season so it was like practice as it was all outside. It was dead civilised - people had bottles of wine and deckchairs. We'd do it again if we were offered.

How did you become a member of the band?

I just knew the lads and they'd come into the coffee bar where I was working on the way home from practice. And then Dave [McCabe] started playing at the bar I worked in. When they got together and were recording the first EP, Dave said he wanted something different on it and they thought of me and my sax. We tried it and it worked.

Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse
Dave wrote it and it's our song, but it has a life of its own now
Abi Harding on Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse's cover of Valerie

For the first couple of years I was quite intimidated by the way the band worked. I'd only ever played the sax on my own and I usually read music. But the more I played the better I felt.

I love being with the lads and I don't mind being the only girl. They're my best mates.

Do you think your presence gives The Zutons the edge over the competition?

No. Sometimes it can be seen as a bad thing. The NME wrote not long ago what's the point of her being in the band? They said I'm just there to make them look prettier. They said something like if The Zutons split up, Abi will go into glamour modelling! [The NME would like to make it clear they did not write these comments, which in fact appeared on their website as a submission from a user.]

If Q wrote that or something with a bit of credit, I would be a bit miffed.

Do you feel that your song Valerie is no longer your own?

Dave wrote it and it's our song, but it has a life of its own now. People who know Amy Winehouse's version don't know that it's ours. Valerie's just a little band of its own now. But I still see it as our tune and it helped to keep us up there.

Is there someone else's song you would like to cover and have even more success than the original artist?

There are too many great tunes. I'd love to cover I Can't Stand The Rain by Ann Peebles but we'd need a hot producer as it's an old song. Somebody's Watching You by Sly and the Family Stone would be good as I see us a bit like them. We did it for Radio 2 and I thought it worked dead well.

Have you met Amy Winehouse and what are your impressions of her?

I met her on one occasion very briefly and she was dead shy, said hello and just wanted to get where she was going. Dave met her and said "nice one" for the way she performed Valerie and she replied "thanks for letting me do it." We don't really know her.

Are you working on any new material at the moment?

We're just jamming at the minute and trying to get a few ideas. We'd really like to get into the studio around September and do just a few bits. We'd don't want to wait another two years to bring a record out. It can get stale and a bit boring.

The Zutons' new single What's Your Problem is released on 8 September. The band embark on their UK tour in November.

Abi Harding talked to BBC News entertainment reporter Michael Osborn.


SEE ALSO
Zutons get Mercury bookies' vote
03 Sep 04 |  Entertainment
Talking Shop: Mark Ronson
15 Jan 08 |  Entertainment
Profile: Amy Winehouse
29 Jul 08 |  Entertainment

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