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Natalie MacMaster, Donnell Leahy push boundaries of Celtic music with new album


Cape Breton musician Natalie MacMaster and her husband Donnell Leahy have released a new album that pushes the boundaries of Celtic music.

The two fiddlers first played together on their first date, back in 1991.

“It was love at first fiddle even before I met Natalie. I’d heard Natalie’s music on a cassette tape my sister had,” Leahy told CTV Atlantic’s Katie Kelly.

“So I drove to Nova Scotia to meet the girl who played the music.”

“Pretty sweet,” says MacMaster. “Who does that?”

They’ve now been married for 20 years and are raising their seven -- also very musical -- children together.

“(The) babies aren’t very babyish anymore … our oldest is 17,” says MacMaster.

It's a busy life for the couple, who lives on a working farm in Ontario, along with homeschooling their kids and extracurricular activities.

But the couple found time to create a new album together during the pandemic.

They say their record -- “Canvas” -- started from scratch.

“We don’t have any preconceived ideas, any direction, we just have an open canvas … the music will decide what this is going to be,” says Leahy.

“We didn’t want to feel any restrictions,” says MacMaster.

The pair stretched the boundaries of Celtic-folk music on “Canvas” and experimented with global sounds.

“There's a Latin feel on this. Our oldest daughter is our keyboard player now and she’s right into Latin and so that has crept into our music,” Leahy says.

“I should mention Elmer Ferrer too, our co-producer, who’s from Cuba, he had an incredible influence on this sound as well,” adds MacMaster.

“And then there’s mom and dad’s favourite two tracks, and of course they’re traditional Cape Breton tunes played by their daughter,” the couple joked.

But does the married couple bump heads while working together?

“We tend to trust each other’s opinion and we come from different angles, but we kind of agree most of the time on things,” says Leahy.

They also agree on how much they love working together.

“Natalie brings a passion, like an unrelenting passion to everything she does,” Leahy says. “And to have that commitment to a project or to a task is so important and so needed.”

“I have my support right here and I need that now. It’s knowing that’s someone else you can bounce something off and you know how they think and they’re going to give you the real answer and that is my confidence,” MacMaster says.

“Canvas” is available now. Top Stories

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