KATE Rusby has been singing since she could talk, she comes from a family of musicians and wherever she went her parents’ instruments were always dotted around the house.

But the folk icon never assumed that becoming a songwriter was her destiny.

She told Weekend: “It was never something I thought about to be honest. When I look back, I had no idea what I wanted to do as an adult.

“Everyone around me at school were choosing their GCSEs and I had no idea, I remember thinking, how do they all know what they want to be.

“I always think the music career chose me, not the other way around.”

In fact Kate, one of only a handful of folk musicians nominated for the Mercury Prize, was very nervous about performing formally in her youth.

She felt comfortable singing with her family in the pubs of Barnsley and when she was just four she found herself with her sister Emma singing a song called Our Cat’s Got No Hair On It on a pub table.

But stepping on a stage filled her with dread and it was only a family friend’s encouragement that changed that.

Kate, who used to be in the folk group Equation with the Lakeman brothers and Kathryn Roberts, said: “She was involved with a festival near here and heard me singing and playing. She asked me to do a little spot at the festival 26 years ago.

“I said yes but then thought: ‘What on Earth did I agree to that for?’ I did the gig but vowed I would never do it again because I was so terrified I was nearly sick and was shaking like mad.

“Someone from another festival came up at the end and asked if I would play at their festival, I said yes, and again I was thinking: ‘Shut up Kate, stop agreeing to these things!’

“It just went on like that and I looked back after a couple of years and thought: ‘Oh look at that, I’m a musician and singer!’”

Confidence was really the only issue that Kate had to overcome because her family’s love of music meant she already had a great many songs lodged in your head.

Kate added: “Our dad used to be a sound engineer so we were taken to a lot of festivals every summer when we were young.

Knutsford Guardian:

“There was a lot of singing in the car. They discovered if they got us singing we couldn’t argue so we learned a lot of songs back then and made up harmonies, before we really knew what they were. I have a lot of fond memories of that.

“My first instrument was the fiddle, I started when I was about six with lessons at school, but I quickly got bored of playing the same pieces week in and week out to make my bow go the right direction.

“I preferred to sit at home and learn tunes by ear from my parents, I’m still rubbish at reading music. My dad taught me three chords on the guitar when I was 13 or 14 and I would sit for hours putting those chords to the songs I knew.

“Then I started to make my own chords up. I taught myself chords on the piano then to accompany the songs.

“The songs from childhood were mostly stored fully formed in my mind.

“Whenever I couldn’t remember the full song I just asked my parents to sing it for me and it would come flooding back. They’ve been an amazing influence and have passed on so many songs to us, I’m passing on as many as I can already to my own girls.”

As well as her hopes to pass on her songs to her daughters Phoebe and Daisy, Kate’s music firmly remains a family affair with Emma running the record company, her brother Joe looking after Kate’s sound engineering and dad Steve often working behind the scenes at gigs despite ‘threatening to retire’.

Kate said: “My kids have been around my gigs and been in the studio since they were born so it’s just a normal life for them.

“They come on stage too sometimes to sing with me, in fact they were up singing with me at a gig we did the other day. They’re both musical but I have no idea if they’ll choose it as a career, at the moment Daisy wants to be a farmer, and Phoebe is pleased about that as she wants to be a unicorn rider so she can keep her unicorn at Daisy’s farm. They have it all planned!”

Kate has been credited with helping contemporary folk reach new audiences – and she is all for the new wave of artists she had helped open the door for.

She added: “Anything that broadens the reach of folk music is surely a good thing. Traditional music in this country had all but died out at one point so I think it’s a fantastic thing to be opened up and shared by people.

“The scene has never been so vibrant and healthy, it’s not meant to be preserved in a museum, it’s alive and buzzing.”

Kate is also known for her high profile collaborations. Most notable was her duet with Ronan Keating, All Over Again, which reached number six in the charts, while Dolly Parton is on the top of her wish list.

She said: “I am a huge fan of her bluegrass stuff, she’s such an amazing singer and businesswoman too, she owns all her own music.

“It was important to me to own my own work too, so I really respect that.”

Kate Rusby performs at Warrington’s Parr Hall on Friday, December 7. Visit pyramidparrhall.com