Kate Rusby

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Kate Rusby
Rusby performing at the 2014
Cambridge Folk Festival
Kate Anna Rusby

(1973-12-04) 4 December 1973 (age 50)
Years active1992–present
  • (m. 2001; div. 2006)
  • (m. 2010)
Musical career
GenresEnglish folk music
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals, piano, fiddle
LabelsPure Records
Formerly ofEquation, The Poozies

Kate Anna Rusby (born 4 December 1973)[1] is an English folk singer-songwriter from Penistone, West Riding of Yorkshire, England. Sometimes called the "Barnsley Nightingale", she has headlined various British folk festivals, and is one of the best known contemporary English folk singers. In 2001 The Guardian described her as "a superstar of the British acoustic scene." In 2007 the BBC website described her as "The first lady of young folkies". She is one of the few folk singers to have been nominated for the Mercury Prize.


Rusby was born into a family of musicians in 1973 in Penistone and grew up in Cawthorne, Barnsley.[2] After learning to play the guitar, the fiddle and the piano, as well as to sing, she played in many local folk festivals as a child and adolescent, before joining (and becoming the lead vocalist of) the all-female Celtic folk band the Poozies. 1995 saw the release of her breakthrough album, Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts, a collaboration with her friend and fellow Barnsley folk singer Kathryn Roberts. In 1997, with the help of her family, Rusby recorded and released her first solo album, Hourglass. Since then she has gone on to receive acclaim in her home country and abroad and her family continues to help her with all aspects of her professional career.

Rusby was also a member of the folk group Equation, later to be replaced by Cara Dillon. The early line-up also featured Rusby's erstwhile performing partner Kathryn Roberts and Mercury-nominated artist Seth Lakeman, and his brother, Sean Lakeman. Their first EP, In Session, had a small commercial release and led to them signing a major record deal with WEA.

The previously unreleased song "Wandering Soul" was Rusby's contribution to Billy Connolly's Musical Tour of New Zealand, the soundtrack to Billy Connolly's eight-part BBC One television documentary series World Tour of New Zealand, originally broadcast in November 2004.

Rusby at the Larmer Tree Festival 2008

A collaboration with Ronan Keating saw Rusby riding high in the UK Singles Chart; their duet "All Over Again" peaked at No. 6 in June 2006. She also made a vocal contribution to My Secret Is My Silence, the successful debut solo album of Roddy Woomble, the lead singer of Idlewild. In the same year her cover of The Kinks' "The Village Green Preservation Society" was used as the theme tune to the BBC One television sitcom Jam & Jerusalem. Rusby wrote several new songs for the series, and was credited as being responsible for the show's music.

Launched at the 2007 Cambridge Folk Festival, the album Awkward Annie was released on 3 September 2007 and reached No. 2 on the UK indie charts. "The Village Green Preservation Society" is included as a bonus track.

2008 saw the release of Sweet Bells, an album of traditional Christmas songs interpreted by Rusby. She has since released six[3] more Christmas albums: While Mortals Sleep (2011), The Frost Is All Over (2015), Angels & Men (2017), Holly Head (2019) and Light Years (2023). Each December, Rusby embarks on a Christmas tour across the United Kingdom.

Rusby with her daughter at her 2010 wedding to fellow musician Damien O'Kane

In 2010, Rusby released the album Make the Light, a collection of self-penned songs. In 2014, she released the album Ghost, which featured traditional songs and three Rusby originals. Rusby's fourteenth solo album, Life in a Paper Boat, was released in 2016 with a fourth Christmas album Angels and Men, the following year. In May 2019, Rusby released another album entitled Philosophers, Poets & Kings, her fifth Christmas album followed six months later.

Heading into the new decade, Rusby released a cover album of popular songs including "Shake It Off" (Taylor Swift), "Everglow" (Coldplay) and "Friday I'm in Love" (The Cure) plus many more. The album was produced in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Rusby saying "It was always the plan to make this album this year, lock-down just made it more intimate".[citation needed] Her most recent work is called 30: Happy Returns and marks 30 years of being a professional musician. The songs are newly recorded versions of favourites from across her career. It was released in May 2022.

In 2001 The Guardian described her as "a superstar of the British acoustic scene."[4] In 2007 the BBC website described her as "The first lady of young folkies". She is one of the few folk singers to have been nominated for the Mercury Prize.[5][6]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2001, Rusby married Scottish fiddler and fellow band member John McCusker (formerly of the Battlefield Band), who produced most of her recordings up to The Girl Who Couldn't Fly. They divorced in 2006.[7][8] In June 2010, she married Irish musician Damien O'Kane, with whom she has two children.[9][10]


Solo albums[edit]

Christmas albums[edit]


Mercury Music Prize[edit]

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards[edit]

  • 2000: Folk Singer of the Year – winner[13]
  • 2000: Best Album: Sleeplesswinner[13]
  • 2002: Best Original Song: "Who Will Sing Me Lullabies" – winner[13]
  • 2006: Best Original Song: "No Names" (with Roddy Woomble) – nominated
  • 2006: Best Album: The Girl Who Couldn't Fly – nominated
  • 2006: Best Live Act – winner[14]



  1. ^ "Kate Rusby Biography - Kate Rusby". Kate-rusby.weebly.com. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  2. ^ "About Kate". KateRusby.com. Retrieved 24 December 2023.
  3. ^ "Light Years". Katerusby.com.
  4. ^ Denselow, Robin; "Kate Rusby – Queen Elizabeth Hall, London" Guardian.co.uk, 28 June 2001 (Retrieved: 19 July 2009)
  5. ^ [1] [dead link]
  6. ^ a b "No sure bets for Mercury" News.bbc.co.uk, 7 September 1999 (Retrieved: 19 July 2009)
  7. ^ "Kate Rusby – Wyvern Theatre, Swindon". Morethanthemusic.co.uk. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Kate Rusby". IMDb. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  9. ^ "Damien O'Kane: 'I knew Kate's music way before I knew her ... I love the passion in her vocals'". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  10. ^ Chilton, Martin (19 November 201). "Kate Rusby: Make The Light, review". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Safe as Folk". BBC. 15 September 2005. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  12. ^ "Kate Rusby New Album '20' featuring Paul Weller and a host of Folk Giants". Folk Radio UK. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  13. ^ a b c "Radio 2 Folk Awards 2006: Previous Winners" BBC.co.uk (Retrieved: 19 July 2009)
  14. ^ "Radio 2 Folk Awards 2006: Winners" BBC.co.uk (Retrieved: 19 July 2009)
  15. ^ "Sir Bob Geldof to be honoured by Gold Badge Awards – M Magazine". M-magazine.co.uk. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2019.

External links[edit]