Interview: Madison Violet (part II)

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This is the second of a two-part interview with Brenley MacEachern of Madison Violet (she’s at left in this photo). Madison Violet are currently on tour in Australia and I can’t recommend them highly enough, as a live act and also as recording artists.


Part I of this interview can be read here.





Now the name change from Madviolet to Madison Violet, that happened after you left Australia the last time, so I’m just curious as to why it happened?
One of the reasons is because I remember we were playing a festival in Australia – this is one of them, there’s a lot of contributing reasons and I’ll tell you a few, but I remember playing a festival, I think it was the National Folk Festival, and I had at least three different people come up to me after one of the shows, saying that when they read our name in the program, they really weren’t interested in coming and one of them, I remember, said they just kind of walked by the stage and went, ‘Oh, that sounds great’, and went over and watched it. But the band name really threw them off, they were expecting us to be like this – sort of like – either like a crazy comedy duo or just kind of heavier, like a rock band or something because of the name Madviolet. And it was kind of like, well, that’s really disappointing and then we started doing iTunes search on Madviolet and we kept bringing up the Mad Violets and it’s a psychedelic kind of garage band from the ’80s and so … it became kind of a – certainly it’s frustrating for us and then when we were phoning – like people would call in at retail – I mean, people don’t really call record stores any more, but at that time they were still calling record stores to order records in, and they would just say they didn’t have it because of the name Madviolet being all one word, they couldn’t find it in the system. It was just crazy. We didn’t want to depart too far away from the entire name, so we just decided to extend it to Madison and – I don’t know, I mean, it’s a little bit softer and our music has gotten a little more rootsier, so we decided that it suited us better.


And it works well. On the latest album, which is The Good in Goodbye, the last three songs – am I right in thinking they’re kind of more traditional east coast songs, or – some of them – a couple of them – are traditional, I think?
Well, ‘Christy Ellen Francis’ is a track about my 100-year-old grandmother, she’s just turned 100, and ‘Cindy Cindy’ is like a traditional bluegrass tune and I think the third last one – I think it’s ‘Emily’, which is just a little more bluegrass style.


So, is that just you kind of acknowledging your roots in those traditional songs or you just like the songs?
I think it acknowledges kind of where we came from, definitely where our roots are. But also, we just really – I wouldn’t call ourselves bluegrass musicians because we’re certainly not good enough to call ourselves bluegrass – because bluegrass musicians are bluegrass, they’re amazing – so we like to sing and play bluegrass style, so we just started playing a couple of bluegrass songs and people were asking, ‘When are you going to put it on a record? I want to hear it on the records.’ So we recorded it.


In Australia you usually only hear a fiddle on a country music song, but in Canada I believe the fiddle is a more dominant instrument, so is that true to say, that the fiddle is more popular in Canada?
I think on the east coast of Canada, it certainly is. You hear it everywhere. But not so much in the centre or the – I mean, Toronto is considered east but we don’t consider it east because we’re so much further west than the Maritimes. So you would hear more country fiddle but you don’t hear a lot of Celtic fiddle, like the kind Lisa plays, in Ontario or in the western provinces.


You’re very popular in Europe and this is your second time out here that you’re playing a lot of shows. Do you get to play a lot in Canada or are you mostly overseas these days?
Yeah, we do spend a heck of a lot more time overseas. We keep saying, ‘We’re going to tour Canada, we’re going to tour Canada’, but there’s only a handful of Canadian dates of this year, we’re going down to the [United] States for probably a month and a half, we’re going back to Europe three times, starting in April and again in July and again in August, again in October. So, yeah, it’s – I think it’s just [that] we’re really augmenting our market over in Europe so if it’s rolling well for us, we might as well keep on – keep at it.


Are you personally nomadic, as in – does it not bother you to travel this much?
I think I was more nomadic before, I think in the last year it’s really started to sort of take its toll. Having said that, I took a couple of weeks off at Christmas, which felt amazing because we had just done fifty performances in sixty days, it was just – I thought I was going to throw in the towel, I was just so exhausted.


That’s a lot of performances.
Yeah, that’s a lot of shows. I mean, there were maybe – I don’t know, forty-five shows and then we had some radio things and we went into the recording studio and recorded a new song, so it was just full on and way too much. So I took a couple of weeks off and then, yeah, sure enough, I was actually really ready to get back out there. But I’m glad that it was only like a couple of weeks’ tour, because I wasn’t ready to go out and do another fifty shows. I never want to do that again.


It’s a lot – I would think on a physical level, that’s a lot for a voice to withstand, but also, that thing in performance which is on the energetic level, where basically you’re giving out a lot and you’ve got to be able to get it back, and the thing about performance is, you’re never sure what you’re getting back until you’re actually there. So, I would think that would be hugely draining so you would need long sleeps after that kind of thing!
Yeah, you definitely do. I mean, I can say that I’m thankful that I was – in some regard, I’m really thankful that it was in Europe because the German audiences and the Swiss audiences, they will really give it back to you, like, big time, and that really helped, because if it had been on one of those tours where you have an apathetic audience, I just don’t know what I would have done. I don’t think I could have gotten through it, so I have to thank those European fans because they’re good fans to have.


And has your European audience grown out of your touring or have you – because with social media, there are all sorts of ways to reach an audience but, obviously, the best way is to be there in person, and that’s a lot of work at the start of a career, in particular, to get out there and play to audiences. So is that how you did it in Europe?
Yeah, because our audience is somewhat older – considerably older, actually – we can’t really rely on the social media as much as some other bands with a younger demographic, so it’s just from touring and word of mouth at those shows. If someone comes to a show and then they’re, like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to bring all my friends the next time’, so it can make it for a slow growth, but they’re certainly loyal, they’re incredibly loyal, and if we can just get a little more social media happening, and as these – I think that people even older fans or people in their fifties and sixties are starting to get on Facebook and get on Twitter, so that’ll be helpful for us, for sure.

Madison Violet are touring Sydney, Melbourne and other places in NSW and Victoria. For information go to www.madisonviolet.com


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