KATE Rusby is off on her Christmas travels once more with her South Yorkshire carols, regular band, festive brass boys and a new toy reindeer.

As the Barnsley folk nightingale prepares for her sleigh ride to York and Harrogate, she tells Charles Hutchinson about her latest winter set-list; plans for not one, but two albums next year; the next Underneath The Stars festival and the perfect Rusby Christmas Day.

How will the set list vary from last year’s Christmas shows when you had the new Angels & Men album to promote? Any new additions for 2018's festive show, Kate?

"There are songs in the set that we've recorded but never played live; there’s a new finale, but my lips are sealed until that point!; there are songs that we haven’t done in a while – and a new Rusby reindeer as we had to retire the old one after a few accidents on tour last year. She’s very special as people will see if they come to the gigs!"

The Kate Rusby Christmas stage has become a thing of beauty and joy, with star decorations, Ruby Reindeer et al. Is there a new design for 2018? Another sparkly dress, perhaps?!

"We've gone for the same theme for the stage set as last year as we're still on the Angels and Men album (with a new Christmas album planned for next year). But, yes, there's a new sparkly dress of course! In fact I have three on tour this year so I can alternate them and wear whichever I fancy! Whoop!"

What has been the highlight of your musical year? Your Underneath The Stars festival, maybe?

"Oh yes, Underneath The Stars festival is my annual highlight. We just adore hosting all the amazing musicians and singers from all around the world who come and play. We had a new site this year [at Cannon Hall Open Farm, Bark House Lane, Cawthorne, Barnsley] and it was so much better.

"The backdrop is now a pine forest, there’s a beautiful stream running alongside, the camping fields are gorgeous and the festival sits so well there.

"It also has room to grow there too, so there are exciting plans afoot for the future. Talking about future festivals, year six, 2019, from August 2 to 4, is well under way. We have The Proclaimers and Billy Bragg confirmed already; I am soooo excited!"

York Press:

Kate Rusby's Christmas Day: "Much music and merriment along the way. Can’t wait!"

You’re in the studio at present. How is the next album progressing and when will it be released?

"We’ve just about finished all the recording, so just a couple of bits and bobs left, then mix, master and it’ll be done. It's always a really exciting time getting to the end of an album and getting nearer to release date to send it out into the world.

"It will be released either at the end of April or in early May, we’ve not quite decided yet. That’s the luxury of having your own record label [Pure Records]; you can take you time to decide these things. Ha!

"Then, come March, we're starting a new Christmas album, so my plan is to release the normal album in spring and the Christmas album at the other end of the year. I am Superwoman, so it is doable!! 2019 is going to be full and exciting!"

Any new folk albums in 2018 you would recommend acquiring and why?

"Yes! Definitely Damien O’Kane and Ron Block's Banjophony. It's such a beautiful sunny album, everyone should have a copy in their house to counteract the winter blues. It’s my favourite album at the moment; it’s so different to anything out there; I love it.

"Also, there’s an album we're releasing on Pure next year called Changeable Heart by Ruth Notman and Sam Kelly. Now I’ve been a fan of both of them for a long time, so the two of them together is so so lovely; some of the most beautiful music I have heard in a long, long time. Sublime!"

Christmas chez Rusby this year: what’s in store?

"Oh yes! Same as usual: starters at our house, main dinner at another Rusby home in the village, pudding at another, and pub in between each, and of course much music and merriment along the way. Can’t wait!!"

Kate Rusby At Christmas, York Barbican, December 18, 7.30pm; Harrogate Royal Hall, December 20, 7.30pm. Box office: York, 0844 854 2757, at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office; Harrogate, 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk

Did you know?

For more than 200 years, from late November to New Year's Day, on Sunday lunchtimes the good folk of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire have flocked to their local public house to sing their own variations of familiar carols. "They were kicked out of churches during the Victorian era for being too happy," says Kate Rusby, who has known these versions since childhood days.