ANNIE SILVESTER/Bullet News
Ashley MacIssac, Canadian fiddler extraordinaire and recipient of three Junos, was in town at Ridgeway’s Sanctuary for the Arts where he performed in a sold-out auditorium.
Known for his eccentric performances that take a traditional instrument to new rock ‘n’ roll levels, MacIssac in person is easygoing, humorous.
“I still do as many traditional shows as I did as a kid and that’s where the basis of my music intelligence is I guess. I’ve been learning for the last 15 years how to play with rock bands and symphonies and that’s what gave me the opportunity to get national exposure. But definitely as a musician the jigs and the reels for square dances is where I got my training.”
The 38 year old left-handed phenomenon has come a long way since his roots in Cape Breton Island but says that growing up there it is almost a given that you will leave eventually to find success.
“As most Cape Bretoners, we had to figure out how to make a living. From the time we’re in grade two we’re taught that we’re going to have to leave the island.”
After establishing that a musical career was in the works for himself, MacIssac says there were some defining moments that also propelled his career and stick out in his mind as true highlights. One of which was a local show.
“I remember doing Niagara Falls in maybe ’96 or ’97 … a New Year’s Eve event here. That one that stands out as a great moment because the excitement was elevated and it was on TV and I got a lot of gigs after that.”
May other inspirations have carved MacIssac’s artisitic path to fame. That includes the work of performers like Madonna and RuPaul, the business side of the industry “you gotta do it right and if you do it right and you’re lucky you’ll make money,” and finally just the ordinary folks around him.
“I’m inspired by people’s problems, people’s issues, the way that they find happiness in life even though they will never have the adulation or the great luck that I’ve had to be able to play fiddle music, make millions of bucks and shout my mouth off.”
And speaking of letting it all out, MacIssac is passionate about doing just so and being seen as more than a musician.
“The idea that music is simply music I get. But the idea of shut up and play I don’t get. You have a platform; you have an opportunity to speak to whoevers listening. As long as you do your music good then say what you feel.”
Please watch for video highlights on Bullet TV of the interview.