RISING star Lauren Housley can't wait to get back to playing in front of alive audience.

"It's been a crazy time for everybody- artists, venues and audience members," said Lauren of the past 18 months. "It's also reminded me how important it is to have that connection in the room with people."

Lauren is embarking on a UK tour to promote her third album, Girl from the North, and will be appearing at Manchester's Deaf Institute on Monday.

The album has received critical acclaim and a high profile supporter in Bob Harris. Its mix of country, soul, blues and timeless songwriting make it difficult to pigeonhole Rotherham-born Lauren into any one category.

"Sometimes people see it as bad thing when they can't fit you in a box but I really don't," said Lauren. "The diversity on the album is just a natural thing, it's not like we were trying to experiment with as many different styles as possible."

Unlike many artists who used lockdown to record new material, Lauren and husband Tom Dibb who produced the album and co-wrote some of the songs had everything virtually completed when the pandemic struck.

"It felt like me and Tom had been self-isolating for a year before lockdown," she laughed. "We used to go to studio every day to work on the album and we virtually finished it a couple of days before lockdown.

"At the time we were in a one-bedroomed apartment and I was expecting a baby and we'd moved our studio into the flat. We didn't have space to do anything but that's where everything was mixed.

The arrival of son Noah and Tom setting up Northern Cowboy Films to help musicians kept Lauren fully occupied through lockdown.

"We had initially thought about releasing the album right away but it soon became obvious that any live shows to accompany it would be a long way off so we held back for a while," she said. "But earlier this year it was clear people wanted new music so Girl From the North came out."

Lauren will be touring with the musicians she worked with on the record including UK Americana award winner Robbie Cavanagh on guitar.

"Because I played with band quite lot in studio and we've done a few live streams, it feels as though we have played a fair bit together," she said. "I have been to see some live shows recently when the venue has said that was the band's first time playing together in two years which is just wild. At least at least we have played together a bit before the tour starts and the band sounds amazing."

Lauren was quick to adapt to streaming live performances during lockdown.

"I did lot of live streaming, particularly at the beginning of lockdown which I loved and I feel it had such an important purpose. Even now I feel like it is great way of connecting with people all over the world but the live experience is a different thing entirely.

"It is a bit strange to stream a show as you're not totally convinced that anyone can see or hear you. Thankfully there are ways they can interact and let you know they are enjoying the songs."

Next week's Manchester show will be Lauren's first in the city for some time.

"I lived in Manchester for ages," she said, "and I used to play very regularly. We ran a monthly Chorlton Country Club night t the Carlton Club in Whalley Range where we'd get different band members coming along depending who was on tour.

"We'd also have featured artists and everyone would just jam playing country songs, we'd often have this country supergroup up there with some amazing players which was great fun."

Now Lauren's got the chance to take her songs out in front of an audience.

"It's such a powerful experience and I think both artists and audiences have really missed that.

"The first live show I went to as an audience member, I felt my brain expanding. It was like all these pathways which had been closed off suddenly reopened. I came out full of ideas and my senses were heightened – it was just amazing."

That return to the live scene has inspired Lauren creatively.

"We've got some exciting things planned for the new year," she said. "Now we have got a proper studio space which is exciting and potentially there could be a new album at some point."

Lauren Housley, Deaf Institute, Manchester, Monday, November 25. Details from www.thedeafinstitute.co.uk