VISITORS to the Knutsford Music Festival can expect lyric fireworks and acoustic vibes thanks to this year's classy and cerebral headliner. 

English singer-songwriter, Thea Gilmore, tops the bill at this year’s festival with her songbook of original works at St John’s Church at 7.30pm on Friday, June 14.

The Oxford-born artist nurtured youthful dreams of being a poet, but probably made the right decision going into music.

She has now released 20 original albums since 1998, three of which have reached the top 40 in the UK album charts, along with a number of hit singles. 

She has even supported US folk legend, Joan Baez, who personally invited her to take part in her 2004 tour in the run-up to the US presidential election.

Now well settled in Nantwich with her two children, Thea is a big fan of Knutsford as a place to visit, but is new to the music festival, both as a performer and a punter.

Speaking ahead of the event, she described her set as 'combines strong acoustic vibes and piano, with electronic music and dance beats'.

“But for me, it always starts with the words,” she said.

“I was a horribly precocious kid at school, always writing poetry and stories.

“I really loved it, but my dad told me it was hard to be a poet these days, and suggested I start setting my stuff to music.

“This was in the early 90s, and what he didn’t know was it was about to get really hard for musicians too. But I did it, and I’ve never looked back.

“I try very hard not to characterise my music if I can avoid it. A lot of people would call me folk as I’ve got quite an English voice.

“I love the art of writing a song, no matter what style it’s in. I write songs which take listeners on a journey. That’s what I do best.

“If a song doesn’t stand up when stripped down to a guitar, a piano, and a voice, I’m kind of not interested.

“I do the ‘standard’ writing songs about relationships, but I’m also quite a political person, constantly watching what’s going on in the world.

"Sadly, there’s a lot more food for song right now than there used to be.

“I write about issues affecting people. Song should always revolve around people, either in a political sense, or as individuals. It all comes down to how people are feeling.

“I never stop listening to music. I love the classic songwriters I was brought up on, like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits. In terms of pure lyrical prowess, they’re the ones I always look to for inspiration.

“I’m also loving WREN at the moment, and Arlo Parks. So much new music is mind-blowingly good. 

“One of the last gigs I went to was a German marching band who were playing techno.”

Now a well-seasoned pro, Thea said playing for a live audience has never stopped being an emotional experience for her, and what's more, she hopes it never will.

She added: “I’ve never lost the terror of performing, but I think it’s a good thing. If you’re not scared, it probably means you don’t care.

"It means the audience can see you really want to deliver something special to them, and that helps you connect and feel like a team.

“Live performance is about creating that moment where you and the audience are one thing. You’re creating a special hour-and-a-half which can never quite be recreated."

Knutsford Music Festival kicks off on Thursday, June 13, with Frankie Archer and Virginia Kettle’s Rolling Folk at Knutsford Little Theatre.

Saturday sees the festival’s outdoor session, Folk on the Moor, between noon and 4pm, with pop-up bar and barbeque.

Tickets for Thea's gig cost £18, and can be bought through the Knutsford Music Festival website.