Show of Hands' Miranda Sykes plays Southbourne on back of new album

Miranda and Rex           Photo by Elly Lucas
Miranda and Rex Photo by Elly Lucas

Miranda Sykes remains probably best known for her work with Show of Hands.

But the audience at Tuppenny Barn, Main Road, Southbourne will get to see a different side to her talents when she tours as part of a folk/roots duo with Rex Preston, promoting their latest album The Watchmaker’s Wife.

They play the venue on Saturday, January 28 at 7.30pm (tickets on 01243 377780 or www.tuppennybarn.co.uk).

“I have worked with Rex since 2010, I think, as my musical partner,” Miranda says.

“I was in a bluegrass band and we met through the band. We just started jamming at a party, and we realised that the combination worked well. You have got the mandolin which is very melodic and high-pitched, and you have got (Miranda’s) double bass which provides a low bed for the mandolin to play on.

“In the duo, I think we both have a lot of space to express as well.

“We work together really on a tour by tour basis, but we have now done three albums together. The third one was The Watchmaker’s Wife which we released last year, and we are now touring it for the second year.

“It’s just a collection of songs that came together really, and there are a couple of self-penned ones which Rex has written, which is quite a new thing for him. It was his experiment with putting his own songs on an album.

“He suddenly started writing last year, and having a couple of songs under his belt, he took the plunge and thought we should record them, which is quite a brave thing to do.

“We share vocals equally. We provide backing vocals for each other.

“When I sing, Rex will back me. I think our voices work well together because we have worked together so long. People have different ways of phrasing, and you get to know that. It’s the same with Steve and Phil in Show of Hands. It just works. You get to know people and how they work.”

As for writing, Miranda admits she doesn’t: “I have tried… but I don’t know. I have just had a birthday, and I have now got a year to go until I am 40, and my mum started writing at 40. So who knows! I would like to write, but I think there are so many great songs in the world that don’t get sung enough. It is not like I am scrabbling around trying to find things that I want to sing.”

Miranda’s work with Rex fits very nicely alongside her work with Show of Hands.

“It all works well together. We are very privileged to have the same manager/agents that manage the diary.

“When I first started, it was like first come, first served on the diary. You would pencil in a block for a tour and then it was fingers crossed, but it is all done for me now. It is wonderful!”

Miranda has been a key part of Show of Hands for the past 13 years.

“It was through Phil Beer. The late, wonderful Nick Quarmby, who recently passed away, knew that Phil was after a guitarist for the Phil Beer Band.

“He suggested I join. I did that, and then Show of Hands did Show of Hands and Friends.

“They did a tour one summer. Pete Zorn was on a retainer with Barbara Dickson, and when they said ‘We need you’, he had to go. He was one of the members of the Show of Hands line-up. Phil suggested that I dep for two or three gigs, and at the end of one of the gigs Steve (Knightley) said ‘You have caused us a bit of a problem! We want you to stay!’ They invited me to do the autumn tour for 2004, and the rest is history!”

She has been a constant pretty much ever since - a huge and hugely-enjoyable part of her career.

“I never take anything for granted, but they are fantastic. Steve must be exhausted at the end of every show. I am really lucky. The audiences just love it.”

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