Madison Violet – songs of (very) real life
Going to a Madison Violet gig is sort of like going on the road with, well, a Canadian roots duo. You come away filled with motel rooms and financial struggles, big families, small-town Canada and a life of music. Every song comes with a story, and the audience gets to hear them all.
“We write from our own experiences in life, for sure,” says Brenley MacEachern, one half of the duo along with multi-instrumentalist Lisa MacIsaac. “The odd time we’ll go to a fictional character, but maybe two percent of our writing is fiction and the rest is pretty true, but without getting uncomfortably so.”
Even the most painful of experiences is expressed in the pair’s music. The most heart-rending song on their latest album, No Fool for Trying, is “The Woodshop” – written by MacEachern about her brother Stevie, who was murdered in Toronto in September 2006, and about the reactions of her family.
“It’s a very cathartic process for me,” MacEachern says. I don’t think I would have been able to achieve this level of acceptance of his death without writing.”
There were many other songs on the same subject before “The Woodshop”, she adds.
“I had to get the real pain and suffering out before I could actually write this. It’s still pretty candid and it’s sad, but the stuff that was coming out before is something that I really wouldn’t want anyone to hear. I just had to go through that process to get to a song that I wanted somebody to hear.”
MacEachern and MacIsaac met in a musicians’ hangout in Toronto in 1999, where they discovered that they both had roots on Cape Breton island in eastern Nova Scotia, where MacIsaac grew up.
“Eventually we realised that our fathers went to school together, they sat next to each other in high school, 2,500 kilometers away from where we were. It was quite fateful that we met,” says MacIsaac.
She joined MacEachern’s band, Zoebliss, as a fiddle player, but when the material MacEachern was writing seemed unsuitable for a pop band, the two decided to work as a duo.
They originally named themselves Madviolet, after a woman they nicknamed Mad Violet who checked them in to a campground at a hot springs in New Mexico. Later, however, they decided to extend the name to Madison Violet, making the change a condition of their signing a record deal in Germany.
“We always had a bit of a weird thing around the word mad,” MacIsaac says. Over here it’s okay, you think we’re just a couple of crazy violets, but in a lot of the world it has more of an angry, negative connotation. Anybody who has listened to our music knows that hopefully it’s a bit more positive than negative sound. And there’s also a band from the 80s called The Mad Violets.”
The pair’s first two albums were recorded in London, but for No Fool for Trying they chose to return to their Canadian roots and to Canadian musicians. Their links to Europe in general and Britain in particular are strong, however. MacEachern’s mother comes from the Sussex town of Crawley, and she is hoping to obtain her British passport this year.
While travelling regularly around the world, Madison Violet have until now spent very little time in the United States. Almost as soon as they finish in Britain, however, they will be embarking on a U.S. tour.
Once that’s over, they’ll be thinking about a new album.
“We’ve got loads of songs in the works, but we haven’t been completing any,” says MacIsaac. “We’ll have to address that.”