NL Folk Fest artists talk to Lindsay Ferguson about the artist’s life
Greetings from St. John‘s, NL. The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival has wrapped up after three days and nights of fabulous folkiness, flavours of all kinds, and songs of all colours, and I had the great pleasure to take it all in, rain, wind, sound, sun and stars!
As a touring songwriting singer myself, it was important for me to conjure up some good questions for the music makers at this, the 43rd year of the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. Here are the questions I asked, and following those, you will find the answers from each artist in their own words.
- What are your three favourite things about being a musician?
- What song would you like to cover?
- What cover song would you never touch?
Peter Youngtree of Youngtree and the Blooms @pwyoungtree
- Playing with my band, who are fantastic. We treat each other so well and take care of one another at home and on the road. I love writing, sitting in my room alone with my guitar and song book. I love the process. I love performance, the feeling of being on stage, reacting to the crowd’s energy. It’s a feedback process of giving it out to the crowd, feeling it come back, that feeling of being on the edge of something!
- “Sweet Revenge” by John Prine
- “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera
Béatrix Méthé of Rosier (formerly Les Poules à Colin) @rosierband
- When we get to travel. It is definitely something I look forward to every time we go on tour – the food we eat, the people we meet. I feel truly lucky to play music with my bandmates, who are also my best friends. Being a musician gives me the ability to fulfill a purpose, and to do what I love, freely.
- “Pilot Jones” by Frank Ocean
- I like Steely Dan, but I would never try to cover one of their songs.
Joel Plaskett @joelplaskett
- Sometimes I would say the thing I don’t like about being a musician is traveling, but then that is also part of what is great about it because it gets me to cool places, so meeting people and connecting through music. Connecting with people is a big one. Expressing myself [and] getting shit off my chest. Listening to music and being taken somewhere else by it is pretty great.
- “I Loved and I Lost” by Curtis Mayfield
- I don‘t cover Led Zeppelin, and they are my favourite band. They are just so good!
Sally Goddard of Atlantic Union
- I have been singing folk music since I was about 15, so I just love hearing new songs, falling in love with them and being able to interpret them. I love getting together with other people, work on a song you have been singing for years and recreating it into something different with a whole new kind of life to it. It is really lovely to see young children in the audience and maybe they can be encouraged to try it themselves.
- “Donal Og” is a beautiful song
- Any song where women get trampled on, I like strong women songs.
Matthew Byrne @mattbyrneNL
- I always complain about the travel because of the trains, planes and automobiles, but what I do love most is the travel because I get to go to a whole lot of places all over the world that I would never be able to afford to go to if it was on my own dime! The other thing is the friends you make. Every time you go out on tour you are bound to meet people you will keep in touch with for the rest of your life. A third thing is just the playing music, spreading songs and stories from Newfoundland to places that have never heard them before. That excites me most – introducing people abroad to Newfoundland through the music.
- “Waltz Around the Cape” by Jim Payne
- I’se the B’y
Jenina MacGillivray @jeninamacg
- Playing music helps me process a range of emotion – happiness, sadness. I put a lot of myself into my songs, so it’s a process for me. Whether I am celebrating something or processing something difficult, it is a great and therapeutic outlet. Number two would be the connection to people through music. I love performing live and seeing people affected by the music. It has a unique ability to really connect the people, the spontaneity of it all, being together in it. Number three would have to be playing music with my friends, collaborating with them and creating. Just playing music is great!
- “Radio” by Joni Mitchell
- Anything by Nickelback. Sorry Nickelback.
- Writing songs, because it makes me feel really good. Playing for people who enjoy what I am playing makes me feel equally as good. Just being in a creative world. Being a musician who is creating, you know? That is the main thing. I get depressed if I can’t pick up the guitar.
- Anything at all by Big Bill Broonzy
- “Obladee” by The Beatles
- The diversity of the work, the challenge of it all and the fact that in doing what I do, hopefully, I am passing it on to the next generation. I have spent 50 years playing music and learning from the people, the stories – teaching me that the music I play isn’t mine to keep but to pass it on to the folk, and in teaching some of the younger generation that the music needs to be played and passed on again. Inspiring people to follow their dreams is what it’s all about. The music that we have here in Newfoundland is such a unique entity. It can hold it’s own and has a place for eveyone: the players and the listeners.
- “I Watched Them Go” by Jim Payne
- Something by Jay–Z. Although it is equally as important to the people who write rap and sing rap, I don‘t think I have the quality to touch that!
Nancy Mike – The Jerry Cans @thejerrycans
- I think that the first one would have to be the ability to connect with people, especially Inuit, to a level where we empower each other. I think that is so important at this time in our life, because where we live (Iqaluit, Nunavut), Inuit in the Arctic have gone through so much change in such a short time that we are trying to figure out how to adapt in a healthy way, and I think music in its art form is a good way to do that. Secondly, definitely meeting new people and seeing new places is always awesome. A third is that music gives me the opportunity to talk, to have a voice. Whether it is in sharing stories about my life, or something political, being able to celebrate our culture on stage is beautiful.
- Recently I did a workshop, The Arctic Song Workshop, where we were learning these old traditional ways of singing, much like classical music in that it is so specific in the sounds that you have to make. and the pronunciation of the words just have to be exact.
- I don’t have a specific song, but defintely if a band is all men I will not have the inclination to cover one of their songs. I love seeing a variety of genders in a band, and it is always amazing to see a band of women!
Tamara Lindeman – The Weather Station @theweatherstn
- I really love being a musician. The creative process is really magical, and when you experience those special moments, when it all coalesces, you can’t believe that you made that! The people are a big part if it for me. The community of musicians (in Toronto) is really magical, and the community you find when you go out on the road, getting to know people so deeply when you play music with them – I feel like if I was an accountant I might not know how to connect to people as deeply as when you play music together every night. And traveling together, sharing hotel rooms – that deep sense of really getting to know one another. It is kind of tough but I really love travelling and moving. I like being on the road, seeing how other people live their lives. That is really beautiful.
- “Only You Know” by Dion
Kaia Kater @kaiakater
- Traveling, which is also a love/hate relationship for me! Freedom. Artistic freedom and freedom of expression and community.
- “Wikipedia” by John Doe
- Most things by Aretha Franklin. You have to respect her versions of things. Leave them there. She did it!
Sherry Ryan @sssherryryan
- I always feel pretty good after I play music – just that feeling you get from the art of playing, playing with people, whether it is just jamming or performing, not so much on my own but that comnection you get from playing with people, your friends, your family. I find the writing process very magical and spiritual, the creating of a song and how it is linked to my story line, without even knowing it. [It] could be a song I write and then years later it’s different. I feel like I can relate to it even more. The people and the performance is really important as well. In telling a story I reveal something about myself, and people will come up and extend on the story, and they become a part of it as well. That connection through the storytelling is pretty great.
- “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers
- Any Adele song since I probably wouldn’t be able to do it justice.
Sharon Shannon @sharonshannon99
- Music gives me a certain freedom, I Love playing. It is great to be able to make a living doing something that you Love doing! You don‘t have to spend your life working really hard to make a living, doing stuff you don‘t like to do. There is a great camaraderie to it, I have met some great people through the music, and have made some great friends. The music itself is just an amazing thing, it would be hard to live without it, life would be very dull without music, it helps people through so many different times, especially sad times, it is a great healer, music is a very good healer. Just listening to music is just as good, it feels just as good as playing music.
- I play traditional music, so I don‘t really know how to answer that.