I caught up with Canadian singer-songwriters Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, a.k.a Madison Violet, before their Americana Music Series gig at the PrinceAlbert, the Brighton of their recent UK tour, to talk to them about their upcoming record, beautiful venues and floral preferences.
Firstly, I wanted to ask you about the Canada folk scene. There seems to be a lot of Canadian songwriters crossing over to the UK at the moment (notably Lindi Ortega and Basia Bulat in the last few months). Is this a new thing?
I think there’s always been a pretty much non-stop export of local artists from Canada coming over to the UK. In places like Toronto there are a lot of international touring artists coming to play, so the music scene there really thrives. Plus there are people like Bob Harris (BBC Radio 2) whose show really gives the folk/Americana/roots music a platform to be heard from. If there’s a market for it then people will come over and play the international shows.
What is the main difference between the audiences in Canada and America?
Well we don’t really play in America much, so the audiences in Canada are a lot bigger! (They both laugh!) We had some trouble a few years back trying to get into the US, which seems really silly because you can drive it in a day. The Border Patrol between Canada and the US is really strict and it can be hard to get work permits to cross, even to play a tour. It’s much easier to come to Europe so we’ve just avoided the hassle. Of course, with the new record when it comes out, there’s no reason that we’d avoid America. It would be kind of hard to miss out because it’s such a big place!
What have you been up to since your last studio album ‘The Good in Goodbye’ back in 2011?
We recorded a live CD/DVD called ‘Come as You Are’ which we released in 2013. It was a filmed during a show from our European Tour back in 2011, featuring 20 tracks played live in concert. We recorded it in a beautiful church called Kulturkirche in Cologne. After that we spent about 6 months on the new record, which we’ve taken 4 tracks from for this exclusive ‘Madison Violet EP’ for the UK tour.
Speaking of the new album, do you have any details for us about it yet? Title? Release date?
The title is tbc but it should be out in the fall in Canada and the US and sometime just after in the UK and Europe. The record has 10 tracks and has a lot more of an electronic influence. It’s got a kind of vintage-modern sound, with a lot of layered vocals, even more tenor guitar and more keyboards. Where we recorded there were piles of keyboards, like old JUNO’s that we used on the record. The previous albums we only had a short time in the studio, but this one we spent about 11 weeks getting it right, with a new producer Tino Zolfo, who used to be in the band soulDecision which were pretty big in America. We kind of felt like we were at our crossroads with our music and we were looking for something new to do and Tino really helped us to change what we were doing and the energy behind the record.
It seems that in the UK at the moment, there are a lot more solo and acoustic acts getting noticed. Have you picked up on a change in musical climate?
To be honest, we’ve never been any good at following trends and if that’s the way things are going then we’re going in the other direction. The new record is a lot more of a band record rather than a stripped back folk sounding one like the previous albums. In North America people seem to love bands like The Shins and Mumford & Sons. There are still people like Jake Bugg who are coming through, but the general scene is a lot more band-dominated, particularly in North America. It’s all the swinging of a pendulum though. I’m sure it will change again soon.
What is the most beautiful venue that you’ve played at?
Probably Massey Hallin Toronto, or some of the old theatres in Quebec. Well they’re not old like things are over here, more like built in the 1960’s! Those and the Kulturkirche in Cologne where we recorded the live album.
And finally, as you are named Madison Violet, what are your favourite types of flowers?
Tulips really brighten up the room and we love sunflowers and daisies.