Meet Our Judges! Q&A with Natalie MacMaster

Here at CSC, we feel it’s important to represent the best of Canada’s diverse musical community. We could not be more thrilled to have Canadian Celtic music superstars (and power couple!) Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy on our judging panel! These two are world-renowned for bringing Atlantic Canada’s celebrated musical traditions to the masses. They also may be two of the busiest and hardest-working people in Canadian music.

Natalie MacMaster
Natalie MacMaster

Thankfully, Natalie was able to spare some time for a chat with us! She shared her thoughts about “life on the road,” how she selects her music, and what she cherishes most about Eastern Canada’s musical traditions. Enjoy!

What do you love about the Canadian music community?

The Canadian music community has the feeling of being tightly knit and supportive. I think of it as a circle, you see people, you become involved with them in some way and as life goes on you come back around to them.

What do you cherish most about Eastern Canada’s musical traditions?

The depth and honesty of it all.  Where the music comes from and how it still played in certain circles, it feels like home no matter where home is. It is tangible, real, full of feeling, it is always a comfort and translates to any audience.

You spend much of the year on the road. What advice would you give about “life on the road” to an artist who aspires to have an active touring life?

The advice I would give today is not the advice I would have given 20 years ago.  Then I would have said, “go with the flow, take everything that comes, enjoy the popularity”.  The music is deep within and has to come out.  After all these years I never tire of playing, if I have to travel to do that, I will, but it is just as satisfying in my own living room.

In general I would say appreciate the talent you have been given and honed, and the beauty of that will far surpass any of the trials of the road.

In this digital age, how important do you think it is for artists to hit the road and connect face-to-face with a live audience?

There is no replacement for the live audience, performance and experience.  Technology has give us a very good alternative but it doesn’t connect to the soul the same way.  Long live live music!

What do you listen for when selecting pieces of traditional music to perform and record?

I have no rules for choosing music.  I hear pieces that draw out the creative in me, they start with an energy and they excite me and I can build on that.

 What is it about Cape Breton music and traditions that you most enjoy sharing with audiences across Canada?

What I get out of Cape Breton music is what I would want to share with audiences.  I don’t know how much of it comes across but I feel that music so deeply as if I am not even on this earth and that is what I hope to share.