“THERE will definitely be tears,” says Gretchen Peters as she looks ahead to what will be her last ever tour of the UK which opens with a date in Lytham next month. “Psychologically it was a hard thing to say publicly that I’m stopping but I felt that for me, it was the right thing to do.”

As a songwriter and performer, UK audiences have taken Gretchen Peters to their hearts from the first time she came over from Nashville over 25 years ago.

Having penned songs for the like of Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Patty Loveless and Shania Twain, it was those early trips to the UK in support of her debut solo album which proved to Gretchen that there was an audience out there for her.

Lancashire Telegraph: Gretchen Peters (Picture: Andrew Newiss)

“For me touring UK feels more like home than home does,” she said. “Without being too dramatic I believe that I may not have a touring career had it not been for the UK. I came over when my first record failed miserably on every count over here in the States but to my complete surprise it found an audience in the UK.

“Somehow and I’m not even sure to this day how it happened but the audiences I found in UK were completely accepting about things in my music that didn’t really fit into the box of country music. They were just happy and willing to go wherever I was going to go creatively.”

Gretchen has been a regular visitor to these shores ever since, growing her audience each time. Albums such as Hello Cruel World in 2012 and Blackbirds from 2015 established her as one of the finest singer songwriters in the broad church covered by the term Americana. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014 and Blackbirds was voted album of the year by the UK Americana Association.

“It wasn’t just that I found an audience in the UK,” she said, “but that audience validated what I was doing and made me realise ‘there is a place for this’.”

As a songwriter Gretchen had a series of hits for other artists. Her song Independence Day recorded by Martina McBride won a CMA Song of the Year award in 1995 and she has twice been nominated for a Grammy, but home audiences were reluctant to accept Gretchen as an artist in her own right.

“Eventually I found an audience in States but it took years.” she said. “In a way the UK has been my home base in funny kind of way.”

And now she’s preparing to perform for that ‘home’ crowd for one last time.

Gretchen, now 65, announced in August last year that her May tour would be her last, citing the rigours of overseas tours and the constant demands of being a touring musician.

“If you work as a freelance, which in effect is what I do, you are never quite sure where your next job is going to come from, so it kind of gets baked into our personalities to just say yes and do everything that comes up,” she said. “The problem with that eventually is that it can wear you down and burn you out.

“Somebody asked how it felt to be looking at the next phase of my life and I think the best thing about it is that I have options everywhere. Creatively all the doors are open and there’s not just this one that I have to go through. That’s so far felt really great.

“I think it’s going to allow me to experience things without having a fixed agenda. It means I can write a song without automatically going ‘that’s for the next album or whatever’.”

Gretchen will be accompanied on tour - as always - by her husband and piano player Barry Walsh.

“I don’t know which one of us is going to be the bigger puddle on stage,” she laughed. “This has been part of our shared experience for the best part of 25 years.

“My goal for the whole tour is to savour every moment of it. We’re currently working on the setlist and it’s long. I want to touch on some of the old songs and there are some which I want to reinvent in the arrangements and do a little differently. I’m also mindful that there are some songs which I just want to sing a few more times.

“I hope that the shows will be a celebration; they’ll certainly be emotional.”

When the tour is over Gretchen and Barry will turn to their next project.

“Against the advice of everyone we are going to build our own house,” she said. “When that gets stressful I’ll need to get away and work on a song to help me decompress.”

Gretchen Peters, Lowther Pavilion, Lytham, Thursday, May 4. Details from www.gretchenpeters.com