The East Pointers may appear like newcomers to the traditional music scene in Canada but each individual member has amassed performance experience in a wide variety of genres from country to folk. Comprised of Koady Chaisson (KC) on Banjo and the resident step dancer, Jake Charron (JC) on Guitar, and Tim Chaisson (TC) on Fiddle; the trio are a musically proficient generation of Traditional musicians based out of Charlottetown, PEI. Their debut album, Secret Victory, is primarily instrumental music compositions with some singer-songwriter tunes in the mix as well.
Their down-to-earth likeability and passion for music is evident as they begin their interview with handshakes and hugs all around. Their enthusiasm to be at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival is evident with Tim noting that EFMF is one of his favorite festivals, “They treat us so well out here, it’s so organized, it’s amazing!” They also had the time to check out some of the other musical acts with Jake noting his excitement to see Dervish, “They’re staples in the Trad music scene. It’s great to see what they’re doing out here” and Koady’s love of Dreamer’s Circus.
How do you make Traditional music accessible to modern audiences?
KC: Drop the bass!
JC: We’ve got a couple little tricks to fatten up the sound a bit. We’ve got a bass pedal, stomp box, and traditional tambourine. We’re trying to make as big a sound as possible in order to be able to play these big stages and be comparable to these big bands. We’ve been writing new tunes and hope people will like them.
Why did you decide to incorporate aspects of singer-songwriter tunes as well into your instrumental approach as well?
KC: I feel with this style of music, there are the diehards that like strictly the tunes. For a broader audience, it’s always nice to sprinkle in a bit of song to change it up a little bit. Plus, we love it! It’s been fun writing songs. I’ve always written tunes, but songs are a new thing.
TC: With songwriting, we grew up listening to Traditional Celtic music. But obviously, you’re exposed to many types of contemporary music like the radio. You grow up playing fiddle tunes but then you hear top 40 and think, “that’s cool too,” and go back to playing fiddle tunes. You subconsciously hear all those melodies in your head. It’s cool to incorporate a bit of contemporary song-writing style into playing tunes.
Is there any fear of missing out on an audience because you’re playing Traditional instrumental music?
TC: There was no pressure in the band. It was very organic. We would get together to play tunes and have a few beers and play tunes all night. And thought, “we should start a Trad band!” and we’d laugh about it but none of us had time to do it at that time. But organically it kinda grew so there was no pressure from the get-go.
What is it about Trad music that connects to people?
TC: It’s in everyone’s blood. Maybe, not everyone, but it’s such an old style of music. It’s been around from the beginning of time.
KC: There’s always been dance music. We seem to have forgot that fact about Trad music. It’s actually dance music. There’s EDM dance music but there’s actual dance music that goes back hundreds of years. All of you have to do is expose people to it and they can see that rhythm that is very danceable. The music, as Tim said, with the Irish, Scottish, and French in Canada, the music resonates with so many people.
TC: Our parents were advocates to keeping the tradition alive. As teenagers, Koady and I were shy to step dance or play the fiddle in front of others because none of our friends are doing it. But now, it’s such a good thing to do!
When did Trad music become a cool thing to do again for you?
KC: When I got old enough to realize it doesn’t matter what certain people think. If it feels right for us, if it’s fun for us, then hopefully that is expressed through our tunes and on-stage shenanigans.
TC: It’s interesting to see people shy away from it at a certain point because you’re influenced by friends and popular culture. But you tend to go back to it, because it’s in you, and it’s part of your make-up.
JC: There seems to be a bit of resurgence of acoustic music in popular music. There are successful bands out there playing acoustic instruments that comes in waves over the years.
Why was it important to incorporate step dancing, Koady, into your live shows?
KC: I think it might loosen the crowd up a bit if one of us gets up and step dances. In our family, from the time you could walk, you danced to this music. It was your initiation to the music besides always being exposed to it. My mom taught me how to step dance when I was a little kid. It’s so funny, when I talk to mom she says, “I’m so happy you’re still doing those steps I taught ya!”
TC: Are some of those Donna Chaisson specials?
KC: I’m literally stealing my mom’s moves. How cool is that?!?
Do I sense a dancing throw-down?
KC: She would dance me under the table. She’s an amazing dancer.
You all have different genres of music experience coming to Trad music. How do those experiences influence your work in The East Pointers?
JC: We all grew up listening to a lot of different music. We draw from that when we’ve been writing music today, it’s not just Traditional. It’s everything we like that we try to put into our music.
TC: We don’t purposely go out to a certain style; it comes in somehow.
KC: I love danceable music and I feel like we just want people to dance.
Do you think we’ve lost some of the dancing magic?
KC: Everybody is so self-conscious about what their neighbor thinks. If you all just danced, then it just gets crazy.
You have all had diverse occupations from lobster fishing to personal training, when did you all switch to professional musicians?
KC: I didn’t really enjoy lobster fishing. I always wanted to be a musician. I feel like I was biding my time until I could navigate that path to get out of lobster fishing. It was a good job, don’t get me wrong. I always dreamed about being able to play music and whenever this band started that was my number one goal: We have to make it successful enough so I don’t have to go lobster fishing again! I haven’t lobster fished in the past two years so things are going alright.
TC: I did work on a potato farm, and I worked in a fish plant, and substitute taught. I did rough it out for a bit. I’ve been playing music for a long time doing solo stuff. I always loved playing music and I’d play with different artists over the years. Nothing beats doing what you love.
JC: Same sort of thing, I guess. I didn’t necessarily think I’d be doing it for a living but it was always what I loved to do the most and eventually realized what I should be doing. I’m really happy to be doing it.
Is it difficult to multi-task when you have other musical commitments in terms of solo work or accompanying other groups?
TC: The East Pointers has been so busy especially the last year. It’s been so amazing and we’ve been working with great people in different countries and get to travel to places we’d otherwise never go to. As far as I go, I’ve done a few solo shows in between and always writing different kinds of stuff.
JC: It’s been a priority for us to get this band up and going.
What is your group songwriting process like?
JC: You come up with little ideas on your own. We’ve been together for the past 8 months on the road and been writing stuff on the go.
KC: That’s something I’m grateful for. There are lots of bands for one reason or another, they find it hard to write on the road. When you’re traveling to such beautiful places, it’s pretty easy to get inspired to write. Festivals like Edmonton and Winnipeg, when you’re there and you hear the music, something happens inside and you think: “I wanna write and I wanna grow as a writer and musician.” We all feel the same way in that way. It’s inspiring to be places like this. The people are amazing. The music is amazing. It’s just happiness.
What were the first instruments that you all began to play?
TC: Fiddle came first for me.
KC: Step dancing and then fiddle was my first instrument.
JC: Piano but we also had fiddles around the house all the time so I was playing that pretty young too.
TC: There was just a bunch of instruments kicking around the house. I had a bunch of older brothers that played drum and bass and guitar. So fiddle then drums and guitar.
KC: That’s something else I was happy about: [being surrounded by instruments]. “I’m going to play a mandolin because there’s a mandolin in the house!”
TC: My brother hated when I played his drums. He got so mad when I was done playing them.
KC: I remember that! He would check the drums sticks!
TC: I would play drums for four hours while he was gone and put everything perfectly back. My dad was a piano player so he didn’t mind me playing his piano.
How is it being programmed in the more Traditional music sessions when you attend folk festivals now?
KC: It’s different in the different countries that we tour in. In Australia, they put us in dance spots and people just dance their faces off. It’s awesome. I mean, I like both. It’s an honor to share the stage with some of the bands we’ve done workshops with. The fact that you’re up stage with them is humbling. I love when people dance. I don’t know if I mentioned that 🙂
What are some of the future goals for the group?
TC: I think more of what we’ve been doing. We’ve been fortunate over the last little while to travel and play different festivals and meet great musicians. We’re working on a new record and working on a lot of tune writing. What’s the ultimate goal? It’s great to make people happy and keep people smiling.
JC: It’s exciting to grow as a band and really excited to get going on the new record. Get touring and playing for different people. Hopefully, we’ll be back here again someday too.
KC: I never thought that playing this style of music could take me the places it has taken me. The places you’ll go! We’re going to Spain in a couple of months. That is something that blows my mind. I think the goal is just to see where it goes. It’s been a great run so far and it’s only been a couple of years.
Do you ever have any checkpoints throughout this process?
TC: I definitely take moments to realize how fortunate to just play music and tour. I try to take moments to stop and sometimes on stage like today look up and see people dancing. Trying to be in the moment and realize it’s a beautiful thing.
KC: I try to live in the moment. I don’t necessarily do it all the time.
JC: We definitely don’t take it for granted to play at festivals like this.
TC: As a musician, there are so many years to work towards something. I remember thinking: “Oh, it would be so cool to play festivals every weekend and tour full-time.” I don’t forget pushing through to make that happen. Now that we’re actually doing it, I don’t take it for granted.
Do you find it’s a challenge to acknowledge your achievements as well as move forward?
JC: To be successful, you need a bit of both of that: You have to recognize where you’re at but see where you need to get to – keep moving forward and not be satisfied with where you’re at.
It is clear that The East Pointers are only just beginning their work to revitalize Traditional music for a modern generation of listeners.