Thanks for allowing us to do an interview with you for The Canadian
Celtic Music Website Spotlight.
What is the "Glenn Graham" history? Where were you born? What
got you started in music? How old were you when you started playing the
I was born into a musical family. My father Danny is a Gaelic singer and
speaker and plays the fiddle a little bit. The Grahams were known as
being good stepdancers and there were a couple of fiddlers through the
Graham family history. Alex Francis MacKay, a well respected old Gaelic
style fiddler is my grand uncle. Other musical relatives on that side of
my family tree include renowned fiddler Buddy MacMaster and
fiddler/composer Dan R. MacDonald. There are even more fiddlers on my
mother's side (Mom, Mary, plays the piano and is a stepdancer). This
side of the family is the musical Beatons of Mabou, Cape Breton. I
believe we can trace as many as fifty musicians through this lineage
back to players in Scotland. Some of these relatives include my
grandparents Donald Angus (fiddle) and Elizabeth Beaton (piano), my
uncles Kinnon (fiddle), Angus Beaton (piano) and Joey Beaton (piano),
aunt Joan Beaton (fiddle and piano) and cousins Andrea Beaton (fiddle
and stepdance) and Rodney MacDonald (fiddle and stepdance).
into this musical family and culture, it was hard to avoid not picking
up an instrument. At the age of seven I was given a half-sized fiddle by
my Grandfather Donald Angus. I was probably picking at a few little
things at that point but it wasn't until I was ten that I
"officially" started giving the fiddle a try. Uncle
Kinnon taught a few of my cousins and I for almost a year. At that point
I was more interested in hockey and baseball and didn't begin seriously
practicing until I was 15. I remember that listening to old home
recordings of Donald Angus at around that time really got me hooked.
I've been playing ever since...fiddler Neil Beaton helped me out a bit
too. I can't say enough how helpful and encouraging my parents and
family were - most especially Mom and Dad and Kinnon and his wife Betty,
who plays the piano. They (and the tapes of their dances and parties)
were always helpful in terms of me learning tunes.
After university and my first recording, Let 'er Rip, in 1996, I
decided to team up with cousin Rodney MacDonald as an "act",
so to speak. We released "Traditionally Rockin'" the next year
and played quite a bit for dances, festivals, etc. That CD earned us
nominations for Roots Traditional Artist and Instrumental Artist of the
year at the 1998 ECMA's. Rodney later went on to politics and I decided
to keep with the music and planned for another solo CD. STEPOUTSIDE took
longer to record and was a more diverse project. I had been writing
songs for a couple of years and decided to add them to the mix. I sang
on the CD, as did my sister, Amy. The CD has a more electric or
contemporary feel to it but still has lots of traditional stuff. It
allowed me to work in a full band setting, performance-wise and got some
added local radio play with the expansion into other genres besides
Celtic. It was well received by the industry and helped me get
nominations for Male Artist and Roots Traditional Solo Artist at the
2002 East Coast music awards.
Right now I am still playing various gigs. I play different
configurations - duo, trio, full band, all instrumental or instrumental
with vocals, dancing, etc. I also teach fiddle lessons here in Halifax
four nights a week and instruct at workshops and music camps such as the
Gaelic College in Cape Breton and Musicamp Alberta in Red Deer.
I am also hoping to soon complete my Masters Thesis on the evolution
of Cape Breton fiddling...So that's my story up until now!
For someone who is new to your music, how would you describe it?
First and foremost, I would describe my music as Traditional Gaelic
Style Cape Breton fiddle music. That traditional music has been passed
on through and guided by families and communities since the arrival of
the first settlers and is arguably the oldest and relatively unaltered
folk fiddle style on the continent. So with regard to my playing, I
would say that it is pure Cape Breton Celtic. The music is centred
around stepdancing so there is a high level of regard for playing in a
danceable tempo and style...I think I would describe my playing as
"rhythmic and bouncy".
I also write songs and they seem to have a more
"Adult-Contemporary" feel to them than Celtic.
Do you have any other musicians in your family? Are your parents
My Dad sings Gaelic and Folk songs; my mother plays piano and
stepdances; my sister Amy sings, stepdances, and plays the bass and
"picks a little" at the piano and guitar; my sister Eileen
stepdances and plays a few tunes on the fiddle; my brother Dustin, though
I know he's musical, doesn't play any instruments.
Everyone knows that you are a fiddler. Do you play any other
Yes, I also play the guitar and sing a little bit- My first public
performance was actually not as a fiddler. I sang a Gaelic song at a
concert with my father when I was seven years old.
You released a new CD a few years ago called "Step
Outside" which featured the debut of your sister Amy singing as well
as yourself. What made you decide to put vocals on this CD instead of just
instrumental like your previous albums?
I put vocals on the album for a couple of reasons. First, I had written
a number of songs and I didn't want to see them go to waste. I also wanted
to expand as an artist and do something a bit different - there are quite
a few Cape Breton fiddlers, but not many write and sing songs so I thought
it would be cool to try something different and expand performance
Have you composed any tunes of your own that are on your CD's?
Yes, some of my own instrumental compositions are on my recordings. I
think around 9 of my compositions are on Let 'er Rip, 2 are on
Traditionally Rockin' and 8 of my tunes are on STEPOUTSIDE.
What is your ideal composing situation? (by yourself, in a certain
My ideal composing situation is being alone and being inspired by an
event or feeling. I think I may be more creative in the evening as well.
You're going to be touring British Columbia later this month and
next for the first time with Kimberley Fraser and Buddy MacDonald, fellow
Cape Bretoners. What can people expect to hear at these shows?
People can expect to get a good mixture at these shows. Playing as a
trio, the shows will have a "no-nonsense" intimate and acoustic
feel to them. Rootsy versions of stuff on STEPOUTSIDE and all of my
recordings will probably be done. Audiences can also expect to see vocal
numbers by both Buddy MacDonald and myself as well as piano and
stepdancing solos by Kimberley Fraser. There will also be guests at some
of the shows...I'm hoping to keep everything as comfortable and informal
as we can as I feel that that's the way our music and culture has always
been. People can expect the usual Cape Breton mixture of slow airs,
marches, strathspeys and reels with the occasional clog or hornpipe too.
What's on the agenda for the coming months for you? Will you be doing
any touring this summer?
It's going to be hectic over the next few months. After this tour there
will be a lot of playing and teaching in Cape Breton, including three
weeks at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's. I'll also be in Red Deer
(Alberta) for a week with Amy where I'll be heading the Strings (fiddle)
program at Musicamp Alberta. I really enjoyed that last year.
Do you play a certain type of fiddle? Do you have a preference as to
the make of fiddle you like to play?
I play a Gio Paolo Maggini copy (I believe). Maggini was one of Italy's
famous master instrument makers. It's a pretty old fiddle with a mellow,
warm tone when played acoustically. It was given to me by my uncle and was
one of my grandfather's violins so it has lots of sentimental value
too...I think that with instruments everything is really self preference;
I can just tell if I like a fiddle after the first few notes; the name or
make of the fiddle doesn't always tell the tale. I also now own and play a
Yamaha EV 204-PR Silent violin (electric). This is a really cool
instrument-great for practicing and performing with and really easy to
play. I'm now doing some clinician endorsement stuff for Yamaha Canada and
am looking forward to working with them in the future. My guitar is a
Canadian-made Norman B20 acoustic guitar.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I've got many musical influences and don't like naming names sometimes
because I'm scared I'll forget somebody. But anyway, my family is first
on the list. My parents have always been good supporters; my mother has
always been good for helping me with learning old tunes by ear. Kinnon
and Betty Lou Beaton have always been there with encouragement and
inspiration. Kinnon taught me the basics, but I have also learned so
much by listening to his "dance tapes". His dance playing is
unbeatable and I love the tunes that he composes! My grandfather Donald
Angus Beaton's playing has been a HUGE influence. He used a lot of
ornamentations and cool bowings that you can hear on old home
recordings. I really enjoy listening to that old "Gaelic"
sound in his playing. John Morris Rankin's style was similar and tapes
of his playing have influenced my playing too. Hearing other older
fiddlers like Alex Francis MacKay and Buddy MacMaster would of course be
influential as well. I also really enjoy Howie MacDonald's smooth,
"sassy" playing too.
I also like listening to rock and pop rock. I like anything from Def
Leppard and Honeymoon Suite to Gordie Sampson, Aerosmith, Jimmy Rankin
and The Rankins and John Meyer. I'm always amazed by Dave MacIsaac's
guitar playing too. He's got an incredible musical mind.
What do you enjoy to do when you're off the road?
When I'm not teaching or performing, I like to simply spend time with
my family and friends. When I'm home in Cape Breton I like going to dances
and pubs like the Red Shoe when there is good music happening. I also
spend time playing around with songs I've written or just writing music.
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
The four ECMA award nominations are definite highlights, especially the
Male Artist; that blew me away! Travelling to places like Scotland,
Ireland, Iceland, and California has always been fun. Recently, my song
Whispers From Heaven was featured on the Dawson's Creek TV show. That was
an honour. Hearing my music on the radio is always a highlight.
STEPOUTSIDE was also twice on the top ten most played albums on the
Galaxie Music Network- Folk Roots. That was encouraging. Any time someone
tells me that they enjoy one of my compositions or actually play it or
want to get the music for it- that's always an honour.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
That's a tough question as anything can happen so quickly or
unexpectedly in life. I really couldn't tell you, but music will always be
there for me to hopefully play and enjoy. I always want to be playing for
people, at least on some level. Not too much makes me happier than playing
music and making people happy with it. I definitely want to be doing that
in 5, 10, and maybe fifty years! I want to continue recording albums for
as long as I can too.
Is there a place that you have yet to tour that you would like to
I've yet to tour in the South Eastern US. I'd like to tour Florida and
Texas and I'd like to go to California again. A big coast to coast tour of
Canada would also be fun too...Hawaii, Australia, and Japan would be interesting.
Now for some more entertaining questions!
What's your favourite movie / tv show?
My favourite movie of all time is Braveheart. Top Gun, Backdraft,
Ghost, and Titanic are up there. I like Jim Carrey comedies and Wayne's
World was once an old favourite too. I don't really have a favourite TV
show- that goes in cycles; I like Hockey Night in Canada at play-off time.
I watch MuchMore Music a lot as well.
If you could perform with anyone in the world, who would it be and
Donald Angus Beaton- His music has been very influential to me.
1) Def Leppard- They're just Rock Stars- My sentimental favourite band
of all time - I also like John Mutt Lange's work, who produced them.
2) Lenny Kravitz- He's Mr. Cool and he can really play.
3) Kylie Monogue- She's so darn good looking!
Best of luck with your career in the months and years to come!
May 4, 2003
7-18 - St. Ann's, NS - Gaelic College (Instructor)
12 - Louisbourg, NS - Louisbourg Playhouse - 8pm
17 - Inverness, NS - Fire Hall - 8pm
19 - Cheticamp, NS - Doryman Beverage Room - 2pm
20 - Big Pond, NS - Big Pond Scottish Festival - 2pm
23 - Mabou, NS - Mabou Holy Name Hall - 10pm - Dance with Andrea, Kinnon
& Betty Lou Beaton, Rodney MacDonald and more
24 - Inverness, NS - Fire Hall - 8pm
28-31 - Red Deer, AB - Musicamp Alberta (Fiddle Instructor)
1-2 - Red Deer, AB -
Musicamp Alberta (Fiddle Instructor)
4-8 - St. Ann's, NS - Gaelic College (Instructor)
6 - Mabou, NS - Mabou Holy Name Hall - 10pm - Dance with Andrea, Kinnon
& Betty Lou Beaton
7 - Inverness, NS - Fire Hall - 8pm
8 - Mabou, NS - Red Shoe Pub - with Andrea Beaton and Joel Chiasson
9 - Cheticamp, NS - Doryman Beverage Room - 2pm - with Joel Chiasson
14 - Inverness, NS - Fire Hall - 8pm
20 - Judique, NS - Community Centre - 8pm - Ceilidh with Karen &
21 - Inverness, NS - Fire Hall - 8pm
23 - Christmas Island, NS - Christmas Island Feis - 9pm - Dance with
28 - Inverness, NS - Fire Hall - 8pm
30 - West Mabou, NS - West Mabou Hall - 10pm - with Joel Chiasson
31 - Glencoe, NS - Glencoe Mills Hall - 10pm - with Joel Chiasson
15 - St. Peter's, NS - Lions
Hall - Celtic Colours Festival
Nov. 2002 - Recorded
for the prestigious Smithsonian Institute - Beaton Family Recording
Nov. 2002 - Glenn's song "Whispers From Heaven" heard
on Dawson's Creek
Nov. 2002 - Villa Montalvo, San Jose, CA - "The Canadian
Oct. 2002/2001/2000/1998/1997 - Celtic Colours International
Festival, Cape Breton, NS, Canada
Jul. 2002 - Red Deer College - Musicamp AB Strings Program
Jul. 2002 - Featured on 5 CD compilations, TV specials, Indie
Jul. 2002 - Hfx. Coast Readers Poll: Best fiddler: Natalie,
Feb. 2002 - East Coast Music Awards Post Gala
Feb. 2002 - East Coast Music Awards Nominee - Male Artist and
Sep. 2001 - Contact East Showcase, Saint John, NB
Sep.2001 - Two-time top ten Most Played:Galaxie Music
Aug. 2001 - College of The Atlantic, Maine
Jul. 2001 - Wayne Gretzky Invitational
Jul. 2001 - Granville Green Concert Series, Port Hawkesbury
Feb. 2001 - Music World Up Close and Personal Showcase, ECMAs
Feb. 2001 - East Coast Music Awards Mainstage Showcase,
Jan. 2001 - Canada AM Broadcast
Jan. 2001 - Cape Breton Trade Mission, Iceland
Dec. 2000 - Home For The Holidays, Centre 200, Sydney, N.S.
Oct. 2000 - Alexander Keiths Birthday
Celebration, Halifax, N.S.
Aug. 2000 - Television Series "BlackFly" Wrap Party,
Feb. 1998 - East Coast Music Awards two-time nominee
Nov. 1997 - Cork University/Triscoll Arts Centre, Cork, Ireland
For more info on Glenn Graham and/or to purchase his
CD's, check out his website at http://www.glenngraham.ca
Fan Mail: email@example.com
Booking Information: Bowbeat Music, P.O.
Box 104, Judique, NS, B0E 1P0, Canada
If you're interested in more Canadian Celtic Music, visit
Celtic Music Website.