All the while Natalie MacMaster keeps up the high-energy, toe-tapping Cape Breton fiddling that shell bring Sunday to The Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia.
Just how does she do it?
On the phone from Billings, Mont., while on tour, with 2-month-old baby Alec in the background, the Canadian MacMaster talks about her music, her family and how she keeps it all together.
Q: Youre back in Olympia, where The Washington Centers website says you hold the record for most-loved performances. Why are we such fans?
A: Thats so sweet! I dont know why, but I like it.
Q: Tell me about what youre playing for the concert.
A: Its all new music, about three-quarters of it just gotten together in the last two weeks. So its very fresh, very exciting. New materials always the best way to reinvigorate your music. The show will be sort of the same in that the music is very joyful and high-energy, with a couple of beautiful slow pieces to bring it down a bit. And there are a couple of tunes from the last CD, Cape Breton Girl. But I also have two new musicians, both Canadian, on guitar and percussion.
Q: After several decades of playing, touring and recording, how else do you bring new things to your music?
A: Ive changed my musical sensibilities over time. The difference is that I think Im going more traditional generally, in tunes and structures, but the arrangements are getting more progressive.
Q: With your 2010 book Cape Breton Aire and last years CD, you seem to be getting back to your roots. Just what is it that makes up the quintessential part of Cape Breton music, compared to other Celtic styles?
A: Its very rooted in the fiddle style of Scotland about 200 years ago, which is very different from the style in Scotland today. Theres a very strong rhythm its partially the bowing technique, which has a lot more single bows rather than slurs (notes joined together in one bow). That creates a certain lilt. Its very unrefined. Some call it bad fiddling; I call it character.
But Ive never left my roots. Ive always played traditional music in my recordings, but other stuff is there too. Ive toyed with different musicians (in my band) they each bring a different bag of tricks and influences. And Im always open to bringing those influences to my Cape Breton fiddling. Youll hear that in the concert: a funk groove, or a bit of jazz, or a classical element from the cellist.
Q: If you werent a Cape Breton fiddler, what other genre of music would you want to be playing?
A: Id have been born in Quebec and play French accordion music! Thats my next favorite style.
Q: Youve said that you try to strike a balance between family and work. How do you do that?
A: I dont know how I do it. Its often not easy. I try to be where I dont plan too much, and stay open to what life throws at you. Its always worked out for us. But Im always adjusting. Every new child, every new stage of childhood brings new changes. Its kids first, obviously, and then just try and make sure youre not too torn. Q: With five kids and a national touring schedule, you probably dont have much free time but when you do, how do you like to spend it?
A: I love to read spiritual books, especially small booklets that I can read when I only have a few minutes. Something inspiring.
Q: Whats the most important thing to you, musically?
A: To make the outcome good, to be musically satisfied. To feel I really nailed that tune, that the arrangements smokin to have something that pleases my musical palate.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568