You cannot forget Chris Rea’s voice.
Gravelly, soothing and bluesy – its signature sound has defined some of the biggest records of the 1970s and 1980s, including Road to Hell, Let’s Dance and Fool of you Think It’s Over.
And now, the singer-songwriter is touring again, playing his back catalogue, including material released on his own label, Jazee Blue Label.
The Auberge singer says: “I’d been ill and was susceptible to stress and the life I was leading prior to being it was high in stress.
“My wife said ‘we’ve been lucky with money, so do what you want to do now’ and that’s when I decided to release my own music.”
His first independent release, 2002’s Dancing Down the Stony Road, went gold.
Chris, aged 63, says: “I hadn’t had a gold record for years.”
However, the industry has changed significantly since Rea released his first single, So Much Love, in 1974.
He says: “The business is dead now. With the digital age the people on the periphery continued to make money, but everything else collapsed – the distribution, the warehouses used to store music, the delivery network, everything.
“Without the advent of digital music I don’t think there’d be The X Factor.
“People no longer go out to buy an album or invest in fabulous sound systems – all that has gone.
“Yet the executives at the top continued to make money, only without the costs of distribution and storage.”
Rea was relatively late coming into music, taking up the guitar at the age of 21., but his career soon took off.
However, in 2001 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and while recovering made the decision to return to playing the music he had always wanted to play, which was more blues-orientated.
But he not just about music. The multi-hit artist is also a keen motorsport fan and has just released a book called La Passione, based on a film he made about about racing Ferraris.
Indeed racing, he says, is relaxing and shares the same ‘free form’ as, for example, a guitar solo.
He says: “It’s similar to playing live and you play a solo. You do something daft and crazy and have to bring it back or get back on your feet. In that sense, racing and performing are similar.”
Chris Rea plays Sheffield City Hall on Thursday, December 11. For tickets, priced from £35, visit www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk