From Fairground Attraction to the Levellers to Boo Hewerdine, Eddi Reader has a knack for picking good partners. But that's not to say that she's not great on her own...

Recently, while on tour with The Levellers, Eddi Reader's past came back to haunt her - but in the nicest possible way. "In Copenhagen, I was playing in front of people who didn't know me," she begins. "Afterwards I was having a drink and a talk to this woman who said, `You remind me of someone - the singer from Fairground Attraction'. I said that was me and she said, `No, you're much too young and a far better singer!' Maybe I'll change my name, I dunno!"

Eddi has enjoyed kicking around Britain and Europe with The Levellers in the last few months. The unlikely coupling of the pearl-voiced Scot with the crusty Brighton stompers started when the band asked her to sing on one song of their album. "They are extremely loving people who encourage each other - great to be with," she enthuses. "I ended up singing on five or six songs which were subtle and gorgeous, with steel pedal noises that I love."

Accompanying Eddi on that tour was Boo Hewerdine, her singer-songwriting partner, who made his presence felt on Eddi's 1996 album Candyfloss and Medicine with tracks like "Lazy Heart" and "Semi-Precious". It is a relationship Eddi clearly cherishes. "Boo is an extremely fantastic lyricist and I really get off on lyrics, and also we are mates - I will tell him about my day, and he will come back with a song that explains it better. If I did it myself, he will say it's great because there's no massive ego battle."

For new songs, Eddi says she is heading in a more rootsy, country direction, using Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris as models. She wants songs to "live for a long, long time" but be without muso overtones. Already 14 songs have been written, but catching Eddi live is the only way to hear them until she feels they are complete enough to commit to plastic. And as for gigs, it is quite appropriate that she is taking part in the Mean Fiddler 15th anniversary celebrations, seeing as she started off at the Mean Fiddler after arriving in London and playing showcases there before Fairground Attraction hit the big time. "I was really scared 10 to 15 years ago, presenting my body and face," she remembers. "I'm a lot less scared now. It's the same voice, hopefully better. I feel more a success now, with the work I do, and I'm having fun, because I'm less fraught with being unsure."

Eddi Reader, with Boo Hewerdine, The Mean Fiddler, NW10 (0181-961 5490) 16 Dec.

Listings for Mean Fiddler celebrations, p40 & 45