ROSS Whittaker or Shoestring as he's known on stage is endearingly modest about his considerable talent.

The pianist and guitarist says: "I would describe my music as mediocre acoustic. Others may be even less complimentary.

"My business card from seven years ago says a rich blend of musical styles for all occasions' but I think that makes me sound like a coffee or something.

"I need some new ones. Most artists have a repertoire . . . I have an abbatoir.

"Seriously though, I would describe it as a diverse array of musical genres performed live."

The 26-year-old Hapton architecture student caught the music bug early.

"I started playing classical piano aged eight," he said.

"At age 12 I saw the biopic of Jerry Lee Lewis' life, Great Balls of Fire, and fell in love with rock 'n' roll.

"From there a runaway musical snowball developed.

"I became fascinated by Jerry Lee's influences such as Ray Charles and Hank Williams and by the people on which he had influence.

"A musical lineage quickly emerged: Lefty Frizell to The Carter Family to Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan to Woody Guthrie to Alan Lomax to Leadbelly to Lonnie Donegan to The Beatles and on and on and on."

By the age of 14, Ross had already turned his love of music into a money-making enterprise, running an afternoon karaoke in Hapton.

By 18 he had learned to play the guitar and began busking in Burnley town centre and this is where he got the idea for his stage name.

A lack of money and gigging equipment meant he performed on a shoestring.

"I'd do Burnley town centre on Saturday mornings with a fantastic musician called Stevie Poole, doing jigs and reels and singing songs," said Ross.

"I think its a great way for a performer to learn in front of strangers.

"Because it's not a captive audience you can make mistakes or try out new songs and it doesn't matter.

"It also provides an impetus to learn a couple of new songs each week."

As well as raising his confidence as a performer, busking was responsible for Ross getting his first gig when a pub landlord approached him and asked him to play.

"It was a good feeling knowing that somebody thought I was good enough to play in their pub," remembered Ross.

Since then he has played across the region and beyond.

Nowadays Ross says he draws inspiration from anything and everything.

"In short, everything I hear inspires me to play music," he said.

Ross finds it hard to pinpoint his all-time musical hero.

"Its difficult to put often troubled musicians on a pedestal, particularly when there are so many people doing truly heroic things as part of their everyday lives," he said.

"I feel music can make a difference beyond what one might expect.

"A great many folk musicians quite often use their talents to try to effect real change in people's attitudes.

"Pete Seeger for the civil rights movement, Woody Guthrie, through to Bruce Springsteen and Dick Gaughan... and a great many unknown singers playing in pubs everywhere."

He is similarly stumped to name his all-time favourite song.

"It changes weekly," he said. "It can be the current number one or something from 75 years ago.

"I do however find myself gravitating towards singer/songwriter's material in the folk tradition.

"Gordon Lightfoot's Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald is unbelievably powerful.

"Don Maclean's entire American Pie album is perfect.

"Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter's Everytime We Say Goodbye is incomparable.

"It's hard to pin down. I'd say different mood, different favourite song.

"As much as it is played on the radio and in pubs and clubs, I will never get tired of listening to Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl.

"It's timeless and has a feeling of total escapism, which is what any good song should be able to do take you to another place for three minutes or so. It's not my favourite song though."