These days female musicians are expected to be promiscuously provocative but when Jill Saward began her career in the late ‘60s this was a rebellious act within the music industry.

“Then it was a total man’s world” she tells me. “Any singer that was in a rock band at the time had to look like a guy. It was a hard game to be in and be feminine.”

Her first step in the industry was with rock band Fusion Orchestra, who were notoriously banned from several places due to their sexually rebellious drive. It was the likes of Barbra Streisand, Laura Nyro and Carol King, who inspired Jill and made her determined to go at it her own way.

“I realised that women could actually write songs and sing them. That was my first awakening. I realised that you could actually do everything and that’s what I wanted to do.

“I was with a bunch of hard rockers and I used to come on stage in b-movie gowns and sequins and sheer negligees and just milk it. Nobody had ever done it before. It was quite unusual to see a girl in sheer clothing and be very feminine.

“It’s completely gone the other way, now it’s just mind-numbingly painful to watch so much sexual exploitation. I think it just kills it. I’m all for being sexy, that’s girl power: being womanly and feminine, but it’s too much. I can’t stand it.”

Jill’s approach with Fusion Orchestra was hugely successful and they signed with EMI music to produce their first album, Skeleton in Armour. After five years the band split and Jill went from group to group, and genre to genre, until joining Shakatak.

“After that I went into a band playing covers and lots of session work. Then it was easy to get, there’s not much around anymore. I tried it all, all sorts of bands: girl bands, punk bands, rock bands, everything until I joined a huge dance band and that’s where I met Nigel and Roger.”

In their 36 years together the band has released 36 albums. A particular highlight for Jill, however, was the creation of her own hit single.

“The song I made myself, Day by Day, was with Al Jarreau which was a pivotal moment in our career. To go over to the States, go to a studio and it’s Al Jarreau and then do a video with him, that was one of the highlights.”

Jill still writes for the band, but tells me most of their new music they create together, in fact she tells me they’re writing all the time.

“At the moment you can get inspiration from anywhere. I moved out to Italy eight years ago and I stare out onto mountains and find that very inspiring. Every day I go out and just sit and write and I can’t stop now.

“Of course, when we’re on the road together with the band sometimes we hear tracks and we all go ‘yeah, it’s really happening’ and we’ll be inspired to go off and write. We all get off on the same music, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, that sort of thing.”

The band’s current tour will be bringing them to Henley Festival in July, and they’re pretty thrilled about it.

“It’s a big thing for us, we’ve wanted to do it for ages, and we’re so pleased. It’s just our kind of place, sophisticated – that type of environment, that music, the jazz. We’ve been wondering why we haven’t done it before now so for us this is a real biggie, we’re really excited.”

They will be performing alongside Elton John, Elvis Costello, Reginald D Hunter, Will Young and former Rolling Stones members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor.

Henley Festival, on the riverbanks, Henley on Thames, Wednesday, July 6 until Sunday, July 10. Details: 01491 843 400