BARBARA Dickson didn't set out to be famous. By the time she had her first hit, she'd spent years travelling to gigs on public transport, with just a guitar and a suitcase.

"I didn't start singing to become a star," says Barbara. "I'm very lucky to have done the work I've done, but I'd still have sung even if no-one listened to me."

After a creative odyssey of 40 years, making music, playing guitar and piano, acting and songwriting, the multi-million selling singer will be the first act to appear at St George's Hall when it re-opens next month following its £9.5m refurbishment. The show draws from her folk roots and hits such as Caravan Song and January February.

"It's me and my 'big band' - all four of them," says Barbara. "We go out on the road every second year, it's lovely to be with them again. I sing a mix of new and traditional songs. There are some of course that people expect, so I can't just not be bothered to do them. Caravan is one that often means a lot to people; if I didn't sing it they'd be bereft.

"We've stripped Another Suitcase in Another Hall down, because it's a quiet, intimate song. I think it improves the original."

Emerging from the 1960s Scottish folk revival, Barbara, from Dumferline, was singing in a room above a pub when she met Willy Russell, who offered her a role in his 1974 musical John, Paul, George, Ringo...and Bert, at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre. When it transferred to London she was spotted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who invited her to sing on a studio recording of Evita. Her version of Another Suitcase in Another Hall was a hit in 1974.

But, she says, it was debut single Answer Me, the year before, that started her pop career. "I was a pop star for 10 years, the girl on the Two Ronnies every week. But I'm essentially a folk musician, my world view is different to people in pop music. I want to tell stories and be educated, I'm not interested in pink Limos and Prosecco.

"So I left pop and did an album of Dylan and Beatles songs. I've never tired of looking for songs to try. Storytelling is the basis of what I do, I like to sing as a character."

Barbara became the biggest selling Scottish female album artist of all time, with six platinum, 11 gold and seven silver albums. She's also an Olivier award-winning actress with an OBE for services to music and drama. In the theatre she has starred in shows as Spend Spend Spend and Blood Brothers, playing the original Mrs Johnstone, but her acting career almost didn't happen.

"I knew nothing about theatre, there was no theatre in my town. Actors were an exotic species," she smiles. "I did John, Paul, George, Ringo...and Bert as a musician, not an actor. When Willy Russell offered me Blood Brothers in 1983 I was so terrified I kept dropping the script. But it was a marvellous opportunity, and nice to have been in the original. My mother was from Liverpool so I had a connection with the city.

"Spend Spend Spend (about pools winner Viv Nicholson) was a fantastic character part. There's a marvellous morality to that story. For me, theatre was a chance to bring these stories to life."

Her best-known TV role was Anita in Band of Gold, Kay Mellor's 1990s series about prostitutes working 'The Lane' in Bradford. "I have a lot of respect for Kay, and her take on the lives of those women," says Barbara. "I've never since been offered anything the quality of Band of Gold. I'm very proud to have done it."

* Barbara Dickson is at St George's Hall on Friday, February 15. Call (01274) 432000.