INITIALLY she kept news of her comeback so quiet that the first friends and some family knew about it was when they picked up a copy of the St Helens Star.

But ahead of Jacqui Abbott and Paul Heaton’s new album being released the publicity machine went in to overdrive, with appearances on the One Show and BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans show among the highlights.

It has been so well received that they have added extra dates, including one at Liverpool’s O2 Academy on Sunday, June 1, to their nationwide tour this month and been booked on some of the summer’s biggest music festivals.

As part of a multi-million selling band the Beautiful South, Jacqui quit music 15 years ago to look after her autistic son.

Now she is back after reuniting with her old singing pal Paul, who discovered her voice at a house party following the St Helens Show in the mid 90s.

After leaving the Beautiful South in 2000 Jacqui went back to college to train as a teaching assistant and volunteered for a number of charities in St Helens including Age Concern, Home Start and the Shaw Trust.

The 40-year-old said: “I loved singing very much but I had my son with autism and he took up a lot of my time making sure he was ok. I was just being a mum but looking back that time has flown by.”

Jacqui admits that through her time away she didn’t receive any other offers to come back singing.

“I was just getting on with my life,” she added.

“Being in the Beautiful South was the best time of my life. It was such a fantastic job to have with a cracking bunch of lads.

“The second time in music makes you more appreciative and you revel in it more. When I first was in the band I was 19, now I’m 40. At the time I didn’t give it that much thought or realise how big a deal it was.

“But you have to think about how many times you get a chance like this, it’s so seldom.”

However the singing bug never left her and after getting in touch with Paul via Facebook he suggested that they meet up.

“I hadn’t seen in him for around ten years but the moment he suggested working together again my stomach did a flip. I spoke to my mum and told her that Paul’s asked me to sing and she said ‘do it, you love it’. And I’m so glad I did.

“In the end there wasn’t much arm twisting.”

Jacqui, who still lives in St Helens, said she is grateful that early responses to the album have been extremely positive: “Paul was running around saying we’ve made it onto the playlist on radio. You could tell in his voice that he was really pleased.

“It’s lovely to hear what people have been saying. Even when we met with people from Virgin Records and they heard songs from the album they were buzzing about it.”