Bio & Publicity Photos courtesy of Glenn Graham's Website
Performance Photos courtesy of Island View Creations
Interview by Kimberley - Canadian Celtic Music Website


His music has been used on the International TV hit series Dawson’s Creek, multiple CD compilations, TV specials and independent films. Add that to his 2002 East Coast Music Award nominations for Male Artist and Roots-Traditional Artist of the year, and it’s no surprise to find Glenn Graham creating a stir on the music scene with his new release, "STEPOUTSIDE’. What is a surprise is the scope of the project and the range of Glenn’s talents that have previously gone unnoticed.

Glenn GrahamGlenn has been a force to be reckoned with since he was a teenager. Influenced by the ancient sounds of the "Mabou Coal Mines" fiddle style that is found in the Celtic Cradle of North America, Glenn’s roots go deep in the traditional Gaelic music of Cape Breton. Well over four generations of his family have produced more than fifty musicians including fiddlers, piano players, Gaelic singers, pipers, poets/songwriters, composers and dancers. He released his first solo album "LET ‘ER RIP" in 1996. A year later, teamed up with his cousin, Rodney MacDonald, they released "Traditionally Rockin’" which was a double nominee for Instrumental and Roots Traditional Artist of the year at the 1998 East Coast Music Awards. The band "Rodney and Glenn" quickly became in high demand at special events, festivals and dances.

In 1999, Glenn began actively pursuing a solo career when Rodney moved on to a career in politics. Glenn took advantage of the change by beginning work on his next solo album. That album, "STEPOUTSIDE", (released in July 2000) is aptly named in that it brings many sides of Glenn’s talents to the public eye for the first time. Although he has been known as a fiddler, Glenn has always had an interest in songwriting and singing. Teamed up this time with his sister Amy, Glenn’s songwriting and singing play a major role in the recording. The songs appeal to a broader audience—young and old, traditional and mainstream. In addition to this, a mix of gutsy Celtic instrumentals balances Amy’s powerful vocals and Glenn’s stirring songwriting. The force behind his interpretation of traditional and original compositions continues to support the central purpose of Cape Breton music…to make one dance.

Glenn Graham, along with his sister Amy and a band including some of Cape Breton’s most innovative musicians, has appeared at California’s Villa Montalvo, the Celtic Colours International Festival, Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Lunenburg Folk Festival, Saint John Festival By the Sea, Granville Green Concert Series, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor Maine, and numerous other venues. Glenn continues to perform and teach fiddle throughout the Maritimes, Canada, the North-Eastern US and the United Kingdom. A Saint Francis Xavier University graduate - B.A. with Honours in Political Science - Glenn is now completing a thesis on the evolution of Cape Breton fiddling for his Masters in Atlantic Canada Studies at Saint Mary’s University. All this and he’s still in his twenties!

Read a review of "Step Outside"


Hi Glenn,

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 fiddle?

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).

Rodney MacDonald & Glenn GrahamBeing born 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 musical? Siblings?

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 instruments?

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 opportunities.

Glenn Graham & Andrea Beaton - Feb 2003Have 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 location, etc.?)

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.

Gerry Deveau, Glenn Graham, Andrea Beaton - Feb 2003Who 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.

Rodney MacDonald & Glenn GrahamWhere 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 visit?

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 why?

 Past:
Donald Angus Beaton- His music has been very influential to me.
Present:
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!

Glenn Graham
May 4, 2003


July

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)

August

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 & Joey Beaton
21 - Inverness, NS - Fire Hall - 8pm
23 - Christmas Island, NS - Christmas Island Feis - 9pm - Dance with Joel Chiasson
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

September

TBA

October

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 Storm"
Oct. 2002/2001/2000/1998/1997 -
Celtic Colours International Festival, Cape Breton, NS, Canada
Jul. 2002 -
Red Deer College - Musicamp AB Strings Program Dir./Inst.
Jul. 2002 -
Featured on 5 CD compilations, TV specials, Indie films
Jul. 2002
- Hfx. Coast Readers Poll: Best fiddler: Natalie, Ashley, Glenn
Feb.
2002 - East Coast Music Awards Post Gala Awards Show
Feb. 2002 -
East Coast Music Awards Nominee - Male Artist and Roots-Traditional
Sep. 2001 -
Contact East Showcase, Saint John, NB
Sep.2001 -
Two-time top ten Most Played:Galaxie Music Network/folk
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, Charlottetown, PEI
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, Halifax, N.S.
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: glenngraham@route19.com

Booking Information: Bowbeat Music, P.O. Box 104, Judique, NS, B0E 1P0, Canada

If you're interested in more Canadian Celtic Music, visit Kimberley's Canadian Celtic Music Website.


Thanks to Glenn Graham, we gave away an autographed copy of his CD "Step Outside" to give away to 1 lucky winner.

Congratulations to June C. who won the CD!

Thanks to all that entered!