• By: Keith Whittier

Natalie MacMaster is Still at Home on Stage + TICKET GIVEAWAY

Ottawa Life’s Festival City Series is back! We'll provide a unique look at some of your favourite events.
We’ll go beyond the music with artist interviews, volunteer profiles, concert reviews and spotlights on
the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. 

Your city! Your festivals and events!
Like a good sunscreen, Ottawa Life has you covered.

Ottawa Life has 2 pairs of tickets to give away to see Natalie MacMaster / A Canadian Fiddle Celebration
at the National Arts Centre's Canada Scene in July 8th. Comment on this post for your chance to win!
Full contest rules

Natalie MacMaster has been making great music for decades. She is a highly accomplished Fiddle player who has won Juno Awards, Canadian Country Music Association Awards, is a member of the Order of Canada and has an honorary doctorate from Niagara University. All of these awards and accolades haven’t taken away from her ‘down home’ personality and her commitment to great Canadian music.

On July 8th she will be appearing at the National Arts Centre as part of their Canada Scene program. Ottawa Life caught up with her recently to speak to her. When we spoke with her was she recording new songs, doing something overly elegant befitting a star of her caliber?

Nope, she was gardening!

Do you still get excited touring?

Absolutely! In fact, more so now. When I was touring 250 shows a year back in my twenties I was very worn out and now because I do about 100 shows a year and I have family and I have such variety to all the different performances that it’s very much something that I look forward too perhaps more than ever. I cherish the ability to be able to play music and after 34 years of performing to still be able to perform and to have that longevity. I don’t tire of it one little bit.
I did an interview the other day and they asked ‘if you had the weekend to do anything in the world, just for yourself what would it be?’ and I said I would fly to Cape Breton and learn tunes.

What can people expect to see at your upcoming show at the NAC? (A Canadian Fiddle Celebration)

There are a lot of different fiddlers involved and I know I am doing the last half of the show. I suspect there will be several other featured fiddlers and then I will do my own feature spot and there we will all collaborate together.

In touring across Canada over the last couple of  decades I have always been in awe with how the country is united by fiddle music.  There are so many deeply routed traditions that have been here for centuries. It is so popular and widespread from coast to coast and I always say our country is united by fiddle music

As we are approaching the 150th birthday of Canada, what are some of your favourite Canada Day traditions?

I love the show on Parliament Hill. I think that’s always something to see. It’s really quite sweet how every community has its own little parade or gathering to commemorate the day.  We always went out to something local on Canada Day and we still continue that tradition as an adult with my children. Mind you, Canada Day is a very popular performing day for us but even if we are performing there are always some Canada Day celebrations around the performance that we are lucky enough to go to.

How, if at all, has your marriage to Donnell (Leahy) changed your approach to music?

Every musical meeting gives you a new awareness and inspiration of some sort . I would say for me Donnell has always been someone who I had admired, incredibly so even before we were dating. He is an incredible fiddler. There is no one can deny his ability. He is so good.

It’s a ridiculously talented family. I have had the opportunity of seeing Leahy perform on several occasions. Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?

Keith Urban. That’s someone I’d like to collaborate with. I think it’s an easy fit.

Now are you just saying that because my name is Keith?

(Laughs) Well, it might be a bit of both!

I want to play ‘Rapid Fire’ with you. My first, question, may seem odd, but I usually talk movies but I am curious, what is your favourite movie of all time?

Anne of Green Gables.

Who are some of the artists of today or yesterday that inspire you?

All of the deceased Cape Breton Fiddlers like Jerry Holland, Buddy MacMaster, Willie Kennedy. They were all a big inspiration. I consider myself inspired by Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston even AC/DC and Def Leppard. I just think it’s great music.

How often do people think your part of The Rankin Family?


How does it feel to be a sex symbol? The reason I say that is if you look at all of these fiddle players like Martie from the Dixie Chicks, Sharon Corr from the Corrs and Boyd Tinsley from The Dave Matthews Band. You have picked up an instrument, like the saxophone, that does have a certain mystique to it. It used to be the drummer but now it’s the fiddle player. Any pressure?

(Laughs) That’s the first time I’ve been called that buddy! And probably the last. I’m here with my mother outfit on. It’s not too hot right now
You are going on stage with the purpose of providing someone with a musical experience and entertaining them. I think whatever instrument they play, especially women there is an attraction of what they do and how they do it and for some an attraction to the instrument as well.

I think people are attracted to people who are passionate about things.


Ottawa Life: Will you be taking part in Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa or just the show at the NAC?

Just the show. We will be in Prince Edward Island for Canada Day.

Thank you, not only for your time today but for everything you have done to preserve great Canadian music.