Five Questions With Cassie and Maggie

Nova Scotian sisters, Cassie and Maggie MacDonald have recently announced the release of their album, The Willow Collection, as well as maritime tour dates. We are happy to have had the chance to chat with them for a segment of Five Questions With!

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Maggie and I are sisters from Nova Scotia, we were so lucky to have been brought up in a very musical household surrounded by the traditional fiddle culture that is still very much alive on the East Coast. We started playing at a very young age, with myself on fiddle and Maggie playing piano and more recently guitar, we sing in both English and Scottish Gaelic, the language spoken by our ancestors.

Tell us a bit about your music and writing style.

Our musical upbringing has really rooted us in the traditional Celtic music culture of Nova Scotia, it’s a part of our own heritage and we feel so lucky to be able to travel the world bringing this music to new audiences. The backbone of our music and writing style is inspired by the driving rhythms and danceability of Celtic instrumental music. More recently we have embraced singing and have delved into the world of traditional song in a way we’ve not done before. Our new album“The Willow Collection” was really a way for us to connect with this immense catalogue of music in the same way that we connect with traditional instrumental music. Maggie spent a lot of time researching and finding songs from the different folk traditions that have been inspired by the Scottish settlers who came to North America in the 18 century, Appalachian and Bluegrass  for example. We took these songs (often from rough field recordings found in folk collections such as the Helen Creighton folk collection) and added our own instrumental touch, often with a fiddle tunes as the bridge or break to really highlight the strong melodies of these songs.

Do you have any upcoming shows? For someone who has yet to see you live, how would you explain your live performance?

We are very excited to be coming home to the East Coast this March to release our new album! We’ll be kicking things off March 3rd in Halifax at the Old triangle, thenMarch 4 it’s onto Judique, CB at the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, March 5th in Antiginish, NS, March 10th in Charlottetown, March 11th in Moncton, and March 12in LaHave, NS! Info and tickets are available on our website: www.cassieandmaggie.com

Our live show is a dynamic and lively blend of traditional and contemporary instrumentals, vocals and dancing… Irish music magazine said it best: “Be it their foot percussion accompanying driving Nova Scotian sets, their perfect blend of sibling harmonies, added to a stunning interplay on various instruments, a musical evening spent with Cassie and Maggie is a great night, altogether”

If you were asked to suggest only one of your songs for someone to hear, which would it be?

Oh gosh! That’s a hard one, our songs are all very diverse, especially on the new album, each song contributes something unique and special to the project as a whole… I would suggest maybe the first track from our new album “Hangman” it features a really upbeat traditional song that Maggie discovered in a collection of songs from Ozark mountains and is accompanied by an original tune that I wrote. It gives a good taste of our vocal harmonies, as well as out instrumental music and features just the two of us playing live off the floor, what we love best!

Canadian Beats is all about Canadian music, so who are your current favourite Canadian bands/ artists? 

Another hard question! We are so lucky to live in a country with such a diverse and unique musical landscape, there is so much incredible music happening right now. We’re particularly inspired by all the new young bands coming out of the Maritimes and Quebec, there seems to be a real trend of taking traditional folk music and adding a new contemporary touch, something we are huge fans of! Cóig, a great band from Cap Breton is a perfect example of this, Les Poules à Colin from Montreal,Lisa LeBlanc and Vishten, to name a few!

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