Mary Jane Lamond
September 2000 Artist of the Month
Bio, Interview and Photos by Kimberley @ The Celtic Cafe - Canada


Singer Mary Jane Lamond is a sharer of songs, stories and spirit. This sharing has garnered Mary Jane ECMA 2000 nominations for Female Artist, Album and Entertainer for her latest CD, Lan Duil as well as a Juno 2000 nomination for Best Roots / Traditional Solo Album. Lan Duil, follow up to 1997's critically acclaimed Suas e!, brings the ancient sounds of the east coast to life in a style which is unique to Lamond. A featured performer in The Needfire, from December until February, Mary Jane appeared on the nationally televised East Coast Music Awards show before heading off across North America to support the Canadian and US releases of Lan Duil. Mary Jane Lamond
Cathy Porter, Mary Jane Lamond, Wendy MacIsaac @ The Vancouver Folk Festival - July 2000 Mary Jane Lamond is one of the performers coming from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in the Celtic Music Scene. However, what makes her stand out is the language she sings in. Lamond sings exclusively in Scottish Gaelic. But even though the majority of her audiences don't understand a word she's singing, they go away loving the music and the performance. There's just something about the sound of Gaelic music that interests people.
Mary Jane grew up in Ontario, but spent summers in Cape Breton as her grandparents lived there. That's where she first heard the Gaelic language. However she didn't become fluent in it until she enrolled in the Celtic Studies program at Saint Francis Xavier (STFX) University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. She wanted to learn the meaning behind the Gaelic songs she was singing.

While at University, Lamond recorded her first album, Bho Thir Nan Craobh (Land of the Trees), independently. This album was a collection of traditional material that introduced her unique singing voice and a then unknown fiddler named Ashley MacIsaac. The two talented Maritimers then collaborated on the award-winning radio smash "Sleepy Maggie."

Land of the Trees

Suas e!

 

Mary Jane Lamond took time-honoured Gaelic songs to the next level on Suas e!, which combined classic texts with contemporary pop sounds. The Globe & Mail praised it for its "refreshing balance between modern and ancient."

The success of Suas e! contributed to an explosion of interest in Celtic culture and Lamond took the songs on the road with a live band. Her experiences on the stage directly influenced the sound of Lan Duil, her third CD.

On Lan Duil, Lamond's spell-binding renditions of treasured Gaelic songs are fused with original arrangements using a variety of instruments, from the familiar fiddle and bagpipes to Indian tabla. Ultimately, it's a new style of world music that is unique to Mary Jane Lamond.

The sound of Lan Duil switches gracefully from the quiet acoustic guitar lullaby "Cha Tig Mor Mo Bhean Dhachaidh (The Widower's Lament)" to the lush grooves of "Mo Mhaili Bheag Og (My Little Young Molly)" and Mo Ghille Mor Foghain'each (Charles Street Reel)." Lamond's expressive vocals beautifully convey the album's range of emotions from sorrow to joy.

Lan Duil

Mary Jane Lamond @ The Vancouver Folk Festival - July 2000

Despite the important role her music plays in preserving Scottish Gaelic songs what would otherwise rarely be heard outside Cape Breton, Mary Jane Lamond says Lan Duil's primary purpose is to entertain.

"This is a huge oral literary tradition that is being lost at an alarming rate," Lamond says, "and I am involved with community things that help conserve it for younger people.  But I'm also an interpreter, a singer and musician and in my music the challenge is to create something new and exciting that doesn't destroy the heart of it."

With Lan Duil, Mary Jane Lamond does just that by making timeless music for a modern age that makes a unique contribution to both world and pop music.


Interview

Mary Jane, thanks for allowing us to do an interview with you for The Celtic Cafe.

For someone who is new to your music, how would you describe it?

A blending of the old and the new, taking traditional Nova Scotia Gaelic songs and creating accompanying soundscapes using modern and world instruments.

What's the difference between the Gaelic you sing and other forms of it?

There are six Celtic languages, three of which are called Gaelic.  They are Irish, Scottish and Manx ( from the Isle of Mann).  Manx and Scottish Gaelic are both off shoots of Irish from many centuries ago so they share many grammatical similarities.

What made you decide to record in Gaelic, instead of say English?

I didn't really make a clear cut decision like that.  However, basically it is the language and melodies which inspire me to sing.  Also having had Gaelic speaking Grandparents I have always been attracted to the culture.

In the Celtic Studies program at STFX, what do they teach you?

The courses at St.F.X. consist of three years of Scottish Gaelic, a year of Irish Gaelic, a survey course of Celtic literature, a course in Scottish and Irish folklore as well as courses in history and Irish and Scottish Bardic poetry.  I would recommend the program there to anyone interested in this subject. St. F.X. also has an excellent special collection of Gaelic books and Manuscripts and Celtic Studies Journals.

Does living in Cape Breton influence the music you record and your performance on stage?

Definitely yes, in many ways.  One of my objectives in making the last two recordings has been to take the music in other directions and at the same time to always try --at some point in the recording-- to bring the listener to Cape Breton so they can hear the music in its natural environment.  In terms of performance I have to say that working with material that has such a long history and has shown such tenacity in its survival is a very humbling experience. You can't get "bigger" than that, tradition doesn't allow you to become a "star".

On "Land of the Trees", you have a very traditional sound.  On Suas e! and Lan Duil, the sound is more modern-pop.  How come the change?  Would you record another completely traditional album?

Land of the Trees was a project that was meant to be a traditional album and the other two were my opportunity to combine my love of tradition and experimentation in the same project.  I am in fact right now working on a new traditional album, something that I hope the older singers at home will enjoy.

"Sleepy Maggie" brought your voice to radios across Canada.  How did that song come about?

Gordie Sampson called me one day and said that he and Ashley had an idea for an arrangement and would I help out by supplying some vocals.  I went down to see Gordie in Sydney and he had a tape with the fiddle and instrument tracks with some spaces for vocals.  He played in for me a few times and we spent a few hours together working out  how to fill in the blanks!  A few different versions were recorded before we arrived at the one that was released on Ashley’s.

Who is in your band?

Chris Corrigan on guitar, Joe Butcher on bass, Wendy MacIsaac on fiddle, Cathy Porter on keys, accordian and percussion, Geoff Arsenault on drums is the usual line up for the band.  Brian Bourne from Rawlins Cross and Lisa MacIsaac recently substituted for Joe and Wendy for a few shows.

Who are some of the musical influences you had while growing up?  Nowadays?

My parents sang alot and listened to a lot of folk music.  As a teenager I listened to people like David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Bob Marley, Talking Heads.   Nowadays I listen to a lot of traditional and world music.

What do you enjoy to do when you're off the road?

Reading, gardening, visiting friends.

Do you still perform around Cape Breton at dances?

Gaelic songs are not sung at dances but I do perform at local parish concerts and ceilidhs when I'm at home.

What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

That's a tough question. I've had the opportunity to travel to a lot of interesting places and perform with some great musicians. I can't pick one occasion over another.

Do you find it more difficult or easier to perform over in Scotland, where they know the music, compared to Canada/the US where the majority of audiences don't know the music?

It definitely feels like more of a challenge in some ways to perform for an audience that understands the language (I really have to watch my "P's" and "Q's")  On the other hand, it also makes it easier to perform in an environment in which singing all in Gaelic is not at all a foreign concept.

Why do you think the music is appealing to people who don't understand the language?

I think that people enjoy the melodies and sounds in the same way that I did before I could speak the language. I have also had people tell me that in concert they find that my voice becomes an instrument like any other.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  10 years?

I never have been much of a planner,  I'm more of a project to project person. I do have some hopes and dreams but being a superstitious person I'm reluctant to tell them for fear of jinxing myself!

Are you performing at the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton this fall?

No I originally had a scheduling conflict and now that I am free I may take this opportunity to enjoy the autumn leaves and work on some other musical projects.

Is there a place that you have yet to tour that you would like to visit?

I would like to go to Australia and New Zealand some time and I would also like to go to Spain.

Now for some more entertaining questions!

What's your favourite movie / tv show?

I don't really have a set favourite of anything -- it changes all the time. I like a lot of Wim Wenders' films like Paris, Texas and The American Friend.  Recently I enjoyed Being John Malkovitch and American Beauty. As for TV I don't watch it except in hotel rooms. I love British mysteries and can get pretty excited if Law and Order happens to be on.

Who are your favourite singers?

Again I can't say favourite because there are so many I enjoy, both singers from home and abroad.  I really love Peter Gabriel’s voice.

If you could perform with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

So many people I can't list them all but I would really like to have the opportunity to work with more musicians of different cultures.

Best of luck with your career in the months and years to come!  Slainte!


Awards and Nominations

1996:

  • ECMA nominations
    • Female Artist (Bho Thir Nan Craobh)
    • Roots/Traditional Artist (Bho Thir Nan Craobh)

1997:

  • Much Music Award - Global Groove - Bog a'Lochain (Suas e!)
  • ECMA Award - Single for Sleepy Maggie (Hi How Are You Today?, Ashley MacIsaac)

1998:

  • Juno Nomination
    • Roots and Traditional Album: Solo (Suas e!)
  • ECMA Nominations
    • Female Artist
    • Album (Suas e!)
    • Video for Bog a'Lochain (Suas e!)

2000:

  • Juno Nomination
    • Roots and Traditional Album: Solo (Lan Duil)
  • ECMA Nominations
    • Album (Lan Duil)
    • Roots / Traditional Solo Artist (Lan Duil)
    • Female Artist (Lan Duil)
    • Entertainer of the Year

Tour Dates

September 2000

  • 15 - Eugene, OR - Centennial Bank Eugene Celebration
    17 - Saratoga, CA - Villa Montalvo - opening for Jim Brickman
    20 - Cupertino, CA - King's Head
    21 - Monterey, CA - Morgan's Coffee & Tea
    23 - Sebastopol, CA - Celtic Festival
    24 - Chico, CA - Chico World Music Festival
    27 - Ann Arbor, MI - The Ark
    28-29 - Chicago, IL - Celtic Festival
    30 - Cedar Rapids, IA - Legion Arts

October 2000

  • 1 - Cleveland, OH - East Side Irish-American Club

November 2000

  • 3 - Halifax, NS - Rebecca Cohn - with Symphony Nova Scotia and Slainte Mhath
    4 - Halifax, NS - Rebecca Cohn - Mir Supershow (solo)
    17-19 - Winnipeg, MB - Centennial Hall - with Winipeg Symphony Orchestra


Contact Info

For more info on Mary Jane Lamond, check out her website at www.maryjanelamond.com

Mary Jane Lamond's management company, Jones & Co., may be reached at 902-429-9005 and her booking company, S.L. Feldman & Associates, may be reached at 416-598-0067.

If you're interested in Canadian Celtic Music, visit Kimberley's Celtic Cafe Canada page at www.celticcafe.com/canada

Join the Mary Jane Lamond Fan Mailing List by going to http://www.maryjanelamond.com/list.html

To chat with other fans, check out the Mary Jane Lamond Club at http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/mjlamond

Click here to view past Featured Artists of the Month