Rebecca Bains was a South Yorkshire criminal lawyer who gave up her high pressure job to follow a childhood dream and become a rock and country singer. Chris Bond went to meet her.
GIVEN her family background, Rebecca Bains was perhaps always destined to become a singer.
Her mother was an opera singer and so, too, was her grandmother. In fact, the whole family used to sing together in local clubs, with Rebecca making her stage debut when she was less than two years old.
“We’re a bit like the Von Trapp family,” she says, laughing. “My dad’s an accordionist and my mum was a singer and plays lots of instruments and they used to have a band and do gigs. My grandmother would go along and sing and play as well. My grandad was the drummer, my other grandfather did all the lights and my other grandmother would look after the tickets on the door.
“There was no one to look after me so they took me with them and there I was with this awful headdress trying to stumble my way through Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
You might have thought that a stage career beckoned. But Rebecca spent 15 years working as a legal aid lawyer and it was only recently that the 38 year-old said goodbye to her nine to five job to become a full time singer. Now she’s landed a record deal and her first single Hard Road reached number 33 in the iTunes chart a few months back.
Rebecca has lived and travelled in various parts of the world but it’s Barnsley, where she was born and raised, that she regards as home. “This is where I grew up so I always gravitate back here.”
By her own admission it’s been an unusual journey. As a youngster growing up in a working class theatre family, music was part of her life. “We always had music in our house. Dad would be playing some heavy or progressive rock in one room and mum would be practising operatic scales in another.”
She went to stage school and having appeared in TV roles and several musicals, including The Phantom of the Opera, a career in the theatre seemed to beckon. “I was trained in opera but this seemed to coincide with a decline in popularity and I was faced with the question ‘what do I do?’ Do you keep pushing at a door that might not open, or do you do something else?”
She opted for something else – which turned out to be rock music. She taught herself how to play the guitar and through her early 20s played in various rock bands, doing gigs not only in this country but also abroad.
Although she enjoyed the experience it was around this time that she started training to become a lawyer. “I couldn’t go to university because I needed to work to pay my mortgage and also I was looking after my grandparents who were just starting with Alzheimer’s.”
Her father, in his full time role, runs a legal firm in Rotherham where she learnt the ropes. Initially the idea was that she would work freelance so she could fit her gigs in around the day job.
“I’ve always been the kind of person who would do 18 hour days, it’s never troubled me. Luckily I managed to get a job with my dad’s firm because they had a lot of work on and they needed a runner,” she says.
“So there I was working more or less full time in a law firm and travelling around the country doing gigs.”
As she became more experienced she took on a greater workload. It was hard work and quite often she was dealing with people on the margins of society. “There are some people who need help and don’t have anywhere to turn and if they don’t have any money in their pocket then it’s very difficult for them. So we tried to give advice and help, we did a lot of legal aid work and pro bono work.”
By day she was working as a lawyer but by night she would be up on stage singing. “It was like leading a double life. My clients and even some of my colleagues had no idea about the other ‘Rebecca’,” she says.
She has worked on all manner of tough criminal cases, including some harrowing ones. She has also helped uncover miscarriages of justice and offered advice to youngsters who had gone off the rails.
Her experiences have fed into her songwriting. “A lot of the songs I write are inspired by my experiences in the criminal law world, because you meet people from one end of the spectrum to the other. You meet people in the depths of despair because it’s probably one of the worst things a person will go through.”
However, it reached the stage where she was struggling to find time for her music. She’d met a record producer who said her day job was preventing her from becoming a full-time singer.
The turning point came one evening when she was called out to a police station after someone had been arrested. “You’re dealing with the worst part of the person and invariably that person has difficulties and that night I was punched, kicked and vomited on.
“I got home just before five in the morning and had to be back in court at nine the following day. So I emailed the producer and said ‘when can we start?’”
This was two years ago and she now has a record deal with Onwards Records and an EP coming out before the end of the year, followed by an album. Her music is influenced by everyone from Dolly Parton to Bruce Springsteen and is a blend of rock, folk and country, and although she has enjoyed working as a lawyer she hopes her singing career will now take off.
“I made a promise to my grandparents that I would never get to 80 and say, ‘I wish I’d done that’ and although it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster I’ve also been very lucky and I’m ready for the next chapter.”
n To find out more visit Rebecca’s website at www.rebeccabains.com.