Your Country's Right Here: Madison Violet Begin to Blossom in U.S.

posted in: CountryFeatures

For all the heavy-duty bluegrass star power at the most recent DelFest in Cumberland, Md., it was the Canadian folk duo Madison Violet that arguably was the most exciting “find” of the event.

Known individually as Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, the duo has won an array of awards and has ardent fans throughout their native Canada, in Europe, and beyond. Yet the two are just now making a name for themselves in the U.S. An unexpected illness forced the duo to cancel the last two dates of the U.S. tour behind their latest album The Good in Goodbye, but the pair hope to be back in American clubs soon.

“We haven’t toured in the U.S. very often in the 13 years we have been playing together,” said MacEachern citing work permits and other red tape that has kept them away. “Now we have more of a focus on the States and that’s great. Our music shouldn’t be a struggle in the States; it’s kind of got an Americana feel.”

Although that’s true, the music clearly also has international appeal as underscored by the many fans” especially from Germany”that fly to Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, to catch Madison Violet shows. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider the judges, including Elton John, Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige, that chose Madison Violet as the 2009 Grand Prize Winners of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The duo are the first Canadians to win the award.

While the prize certainly bolstered the group’s confidence in their own abilities, they still see a long road ahead as they work to establish their names in the States. The joy for them is that fans are fans and seem to have similar responses to their music, wherever they play. If they can just get before a crowd, as they did on Memorial Day weekend at DelFest, chances are they’ll win converts.

“I think in Europe there is the international kind of thing,” said MacEachern. “They think ‘This international band has come to our city or small town to play’ and they treat you with amazing respect. And some people will come to 10 of your shows or 15 of your shows. It’s pretty cool. You feel like you’re in Phish or something.”

Of course the plethora of venues and music in the United States means groups such as Madison Violet have to compete with plenty of others just to be heard. MacEachern said that the duo has a philosophy that gets them through the craziness.

“We take it just one day of a time,” she said. “During our last tour in the States, at least 15 different German fans flew to the States to catch Madison Violet. But you can tell that they’re a bit uncomfortable. In Germany, we play to packed houses. In that States, we may only play to 10-15 people. It does feel a bit like starting over and it’s a little hard on the heart.”

But the much-honored duo won’t change their sound to “cater [to] what is hip,” said MacEachern. Instead, they will continue to change up their music to further satisfy their current fans and keep finding new ones.

“We did a show in this great, big room and there weren’t that many people there,” she said. “It was hard to see our fans that had traveled a great distance to come see us, who had waited such a long time to see us play, look disappointed [that the room wasn’t fuller]. So we got off the stage and walked down by the tables and played a totally acoustic show. Then the discomfort went away and we had a great show and we won them over the really enjoyed ourselves, too.”

Find out more about Madison Violet on the duo’s website.

Watch Madison Violet perform “If I Could Love You:”