Tag Archives: Singer/Songwriter

Interview Preview with Catherine MacLellan

Photo cred: Jule Malet-Veale
Photo cred: Jule Malet-Veale

Catherine MacLellan takes some time to chat with Folk on the Road prior to her upcoming concert at the New Moon Folk Club.

Coming from PEI, an island that has a small town feel, how does the warmth of this community emerge in your music?

Prince Edward Island is an amazing place to grow up, no matter what your interests are, but as a writer or an artist, it is so engaging and encouraging you can’t help but create. There is music everywhere, in every home, every bar and nook and cranny.
As a musician here, there isn’t the sense of competition there might be in larger urban centres, we are a very close knit community.
But what also makes this a perfect place to create is the quiet, the solitude. I live in the country and am inspired by the life around me, whether it is the animals in my yard, the wild ocean churning or the leaves or snow falling to the ground. There is a lot of time for me to contemplate and to turn the world around me into song.

Your Father, Gene MacLellan, was a songwriter while you were growing up before he passed away when you were 14. Are there any memories of his songwriting process or lifestyle that stood out to you as a child?

I will never forget the image of my father sitting in the living room with book and pen and guitar, always at work, always editing and creating. He would never take the easy way out with his music, he worked every line until it rolled off the tongue perfectly.
Sometimes, I would wake in the middle of the night and go downstairs to find my dad in the kitchen, at the table, working on music. I think those quiet moments were his most productive times. When the whole world is asleep, there is a sort of quiet magic or inspiration.

You manage multiple roles, such as being a singer songwriter as well as a mother, do you find multiple roles informs your perspective while performing in either domain?
My writing certainly changed after becoming a mother. There is a certain shift in perspective that happens when you give birth, a very abrupt awakening to the realization that the world and all the people in it are multifaceted, many layered, and all someone’s child.
Perhaps it’s just a growing up, maturing thing as well – you realize that not everything is about you. It has allowed me to look into other people’s stories and wonder about what’s going on in their heads, which became a whole new source of inspiration.

You have mentioned in previous interviews that songs may be subconsciously percolating in your mind while you are creating quiet moments for yourself, such as through gardening. How do you create a meditative atmosphere for yourself in order to channel the creative flow of your thoughts?

I’m not sure it’s something that can be planned, but it is a common phenomenon. If you think too hard about something, you’ll never find the answer. But if you take a break and do something mundane or meditative the answer or the idea may come to you out of the blue. I meditate every day, which helps keep my mind clear and present. Other than that, I try to give myself over to my hobbies like gardening or this time of year it may be knitting or sewing. I’m a maker, it turns out. I like to plant a seed and see how it grows.

Is there anything else you would like to mention that I’ve missed?

I feel very grateful that I get to play music for a living… I think everyone needs some sort of creative outlet and I feel fortunate that mine is also my job.

Catherine MacLellan performs at New Moon Folk Club on Friday, February 3, 2017.

Mariposa…sounds familiar.

So after hatching this crazy plan nearly a year ago, I find myself amid piles of clothing and camping supplies wondering what to expect from Mariposa, destination number one. The furthest distance to travel from Edmonton on this adventure, Mariposa has taken on a bit of a mystical quality for me, even though I can count the things I know about it on one hand (without using my thumb):

  1. Orillia, ON.
  2. Mariposa is the name of the town in Stephen Leacock‘s Sunshine Sketches of a Little TownReading material & bug spray.
  3. Gordon Lightfoot‘s hometown is Orillia (does that mean that Early Morning Rain is about Orillia? anybody?)
  4. Stringband never played Mariposa.

All and all, not a particularly illustrious base of knowledge, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere.

Digging further than my personal cache of information, I found out the Grande Dame of Canada’s Folk Fest’s line-up will be anchored by women of influence in both culture and music. But more than just the great music that will be infusing the air at Mariposa, what makes this festival so enticing for performers and audience members alike?

Mariposa’s image has a bit of an underlying edge of education. We all like to understand what’s going on in general, and in music it’s no different. The Hand’s On Experiences area promises interactive workshops of drum circles, singing, crafting, dance and more. In addition to the Hand’s On Experiences is the Ukulele-Building Workshops on Saturday and Sunday morning. Mariposa U, run in conjunction with the festival and Lakehead University but taking place in downtown Orillia before the gates open on Friday, offers interactive workshops with festival performers and other professional musicians. Attendees are warned that “All workshops are interactive, instructional and, most of all, participatory: come to work and learn, not to be entertained!”

Then there are archives to visit, yoga or tai chi in the morning. And of course the music. Mariposa is known to boast an eclectic array of talent, and this year is no different. Some favourites of mine from past folk fests are going to be at Mariposa so I will have to fit my visits to the Hand’s On Experiences area and Ukulele-Building Workshops around them, but a little careful planning and I should be able to get to everything.

Mariposa promises to be an unforgettable experience, and I hope that it will never lose that mystical quality that invades my anticipation for it…if you need me I’ll be building a ukulele.

Looking forward to hearing, among others, these three acts:

The JD Edwards Band


The Barr Brothers




Tim Chaisson – The Drive to Communicate Through Music

Tim Chaisson leans forward on his elbows at the picnic table settling in with ease for our chat. We’re in a park around the corner from Communitea, the Canmore venue for his evening concert. He sits down with me just after unloading his gear and braving the Highway 1 traffic from Calgary. The frenzy of his packed schedule does not seem to perturb him as he sits down to discuss his music.

If there were any imagined constructs of the lazy musician, Chaisson abolishes them when he outlines a typical tour day for him. That may include a 7 AM TV morning show appearance, a 6-8 hour solo commute to the next venue, media events in each location, and late nights after playing, selling merch, and stage tear-down. Prince Edward Island singer/songwriter, Chaisson released his album, The Other Side (2012), which has already won Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards and Entertainer of the Year from the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities. His “Beat This Heart” collaboration with Serena Ryder was also nominated for “Song of the Year” at the East Coast Music Awards. He has toured across Canada this past year, which included appearances at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Stan Rogers Folk Festival, and The Canadian Country Music Association’s Awards. He also toured Australia in June and has another follow-up tour in Australia next month.

However, Chaisson’s career didn’t materialize over this past year; it has been building gradually. He has been playing fiddle since childhood and played in instrumental Celtic band, Kindle, before focusing more on singer/songwriter pursuits in his teens. Even while he was completing his undergraduate degree in Psychology and History, he would play at the University of PEI bar or tour when opportunities presented themselves. His multitasking ensured that he didn’t compromise his musical interests for academia but it did make his professors question his priorities: “I’d go away for two weeks, and my professors would be like, “Why are you even here?”” He says with a light-hearted ease reflecting back on his memories.

Photography by Twila

Patrons sip coffee and wine at the long communal tables, rows of chairs orient themselves to the corner for the evening’s live music offerings; the intimacy of the Communitea venue is a perfect compliment to his solo set. Chaisson begins his evening set with his album’s title track, “The Other Side.” Curving his shoulders, he begins with easy strums on his guitar before straightening out to add percussive drum stomps at the chorus. He follows his title track with “Beat this Heart,” “The Healing,” and “Come Clean,” singing them with an authentic torment and pliability in his vocals. Deciding to break into a jig on the fiddle, Chaisson first establishes a percussive foundation, which begins looping with a pedal. He embellishes upon this scaffold with his soaring and sinuous fiddle lines. “Long Hot Summer Days” finishes his opening set, where he pairs the fiddle with the tune’s soulful lyrics. The neighborhood coffee shop transforms into an Eastern Canadian pub with his bow strokes that have a sense of sureness about them.

Even though Chaisson’s solo work is primarily with voice and guitar, fiddle appears in every one of his sets. His fiddle heritage is not to be overlooked; Chaisson is part of the seventh generation of fiddle players in his family. In many ways, Chaisson inherited the fiddle. He grew up playing at local ceilidhs and touring as a fiddle player with Kindle. However, Chaisson deviated from the musical norm of his family by pursuing singing and songwriting. “Playing fiddle is awesome and it really connects with people. But words and melodies and songs… they grip more people. There is a broader audience. When you’re so genre-specific you’re missing out on all these people that could be listening,” he cites as a reason for his singer/songwriter focus now. He continues, “I write songs for other people so they will enjoy them and listen. But you also have to like your own songs as well. I’ve never gotten to the point where I had to write a song that I didn’t like that would appeal to more people. You can really communicate a lot through song and tell your experiences and storytell a bit… it’s a really neat thing when people can connect with a song and enjoy it.”

After taking a break from fiddle in his teens to focus on singing/songwriting, the distance brought a new perspective. “[The fiddle] is such a part of what I do and who I am,” he reveals with honesty. “I couldn’t imagine going to a show without taking my fiddle now. It’s definitely something I’ve inherited and will continue to do.” Chaisson smiles when he admits that his father would love for him to produce a fiddle record; however, he has introduced audiences to traditional music and fiddle music through his work as a singer/songwriter.

It is clear that the aspect of career and life balance is on Chaisson’s mind. There are many talented musicians in PEI, but many of them are not heard beyond the island’s shores. “You have to sacrifice a lot to make a touring life work,” he states. “Time is going past so fast, it’s ridiculous. It’s almost been a year since I put out my record and this year flew by… you have to be conscious of what you do and how you take your lifestyle on the road. If you spend so much time on the road, it can really wear on you. Have fun and live life because it’s short,” he says thoughtfully.

No matter where Chaisson’s career takes him in the coming years, regardless of his location or primary instrument, his genuine drive to communicate through music ensures his musical sustainability. And, who knows, maybe one day, he will release a fiddle EP that his father can play on his record player.

Lightning Round of Questions!

Listen to the full interview to learn more, such as how he approaches songwriting, if he’s been tempted to move from PEI, and the differences between performing tour shows vs. home shows.