Reprinted with permission from the Spring 1994 issue of Fiddler magazine. Copyright Fiddler magazine, 1994.

Martin Hayes

A Lilt All His Own

By Mary Larsen.

A contest winner since his early teens, Martin Hayes captured the prestigious title of All-Ireland Champion a total of six times. For seven years he was a member of the Tulla Ceili Band. He has appeared on every major TV program on traditional music in Ireland, and he is heard regularly on Irish radio in both recordings and live appearances. The product of a musical family (his father P. J. Hayes and his uncle Paddy Canny are both famous fiddlers), Martin's unique sound is based on the music of his native East Clare, but has become a style very much his own. His 1993 self-titled album is an example of this pure and expressive playing. Martin talks about what it was like growing up a fiddle player in Feakle, and shares his thoughts about the Irish musical heritage and its many regional styles, and where they're headed.

Before the following conversation, I was treated to an impromptu session at Martin Hayes' house in Seattle, with Grey Larsen on concertina and flute, Andre Marchand on guitar, Mark Graham on harmonica, and Martin on fiddle. I wish I could include a taste of that wonderful music with this interview, but the reader can imagine what four professionals, passionate about traditional music, might sound like together.

How is the traditional music scene today different from what it used to be, and how are the changes affecting the music?

Sixty years, even a hundred years ago, the music was part of' the people's lives. It was the absence of exposure to other musics and other cultures, and the absence of radio and TV, a simpler way of life. It was a music that not only the musicians were focused in on, but also the people of the locality were focused on. That music was the only form of live music that they had. They didn't hear it from any other source, so there was more of an interaction with the musician. There would have been a familiarity with the tunes, familiarity through singing, poetry and dance. There was a common musical language for the people. The musician is more isolated in the locality now, not as much a part of things, and Irish music is marginalized in the mass media. The universal language is rock and roll and classical music, which I like myself. But as a child growing up I was fortunate enough to have grown up almost without hearing rock and roll music, if you can imagine such a thing....

Irish music is taken out of that natural environment, the same as I felt I was kind of pulled out of that natural environment myself. The controversy is trying to recreate this old style of music, right? To maintain it. But the framework doesn't exist. And so it can no longer exist as a folk music, in the very pure sense of folk music rising out of the people. Maybe it can't exist in an age of CDs and concerts and appearances, and albums, radios and TVs. It can't exist in that format anymore, so maybe the musician, in order to preserve the essence of the music, would have to think as an artist, and would have to take it very seriously and would have to be very dedicated to that idiom, and very true to the spirit and nature of it, because it has a certain soul contained in it. There's a certain expression in it, the inspiration of generations combined ill it, the inspiration of generations combined. There are the struggles, the joys of life, that's caught in every little twist and phrase of those tunes. They were placed there over time, and so we have to look al these now - we tend to overlook them, I think, and forget those little gems of melody. Folk music has a . . . collective unconscious stored there, musical collective unconsciousness all gathered up in the various tunes, so a kind of familiarity with the history and the culture, and the people is important. I've found that listening to the very old players, who sometimes didn't have the technical proficiency and all that, you heard a lot of raw emotion, and you heard a lot of emotional experience. And of course, to some degree it had a universal emotional expression, but also a very personal one for each musician There was some degree to which, as you dug deeper and deeper into each regional style into each area, you found each individual creating his own uniqueness. There's a lot of room for self-expression

At one stage, I definitely wanted to universalize Irish music. I thought I'd do it by expanding out into rock and to jazz.... and bringing those things into Irish music. As I began to think about it more and more, I realised Irish music itself is a universal language.

Is Irish music getting watered down by thinking of Irish music as a universal language?

Well it is, you see. This is what's happening. You can't really have a regional style, you can't have a Clare style or a Kerry style anymore. A hundred years ago it would have taken me a half an hour to get to the next parish. Well now it would take me a half an hour to get to Kerry.

"I think the regional styles are dying out, and I don't think they can ever be revived.... The only hope I see is for people to find individual expression in it."

But do you have a Clare style?

It's the basis of what I do. I think a lot of it is kind of individual But I made a conscious decision about that though, at an early age in music, at about thirteen or fourteen. I grew up in it, and of course I had access to all kinds of different styles. But I decided to play the music of the locality, because I had maybe selfish reasons at the time: "Oh, here's a unique style of music, here's a whole new way of doing it" - not a new way, but here's something that would be unique. So I did it in a very calculated manner in the beginning. In later years I was grateful for it, that I had, for whatever reason or other, gotten into listening to the music of the old concertina players, whistle players, fiddle players, around the locality Because it's nice to pay homage to them, and it's nice to acknowledge their part in it, but very often the real richness of what they're doing is overlooked. It's all very well to say Junior Crehan is the last of the maybe real old West Clare fiddlers, and of course, you can look to his aging hands now and think maybe it's not the music that's important, but the fact that Junior Crehan was there I don't mean to say that that's not important - it's absolutely important But what is Junior Crehan trying to say. It's his music. What emotional feel, understanding and expression does he have? That's the most important part. When I wanted to find a way of interpreting the music, I looked to the way these people interpreted it. But of course, I couldn't interpret it as Junior Crehan, but I could interpret it as me, in a personal way. But there's a common understanding too. You can't go to the personal expression in the music until you've gone through the broader, more common approach to it. It's not like you could just take this up and decide to be an individualist with this music, unless you had gone through the mill, found at least the common expression in music, and at least a familiarity with the language of the music and the tones played. I just think you have to go through that point and then you have to really understand that very, very well before you can become personally expressive.

I think the regional styles are dying out, and I don't think they can ever be revived. I think any resuscitation of them in that sense would be very mechanical, would be very premeditated, and of course this music never came out of a premeditated, orchestrated form. It would be imitation rather than a real expression. So the only hope I see is for people to find individual expression in it. Right now most of the traditional music I hear.... seems like a work in progress. There's an evolution taking place, a fast evolution, and of course, certain mistakes and avenues will appear and then be blocked off or will be just not very fertile ground for music. What's happening is that there's a homogenized style of music developing, which is, I think, part of the common language of the music. And I think it's an important part of the process. I know people are very scared, but I think there are two logical conclusions to this: People keep playing it and eventually are bored, and eventually frustrated by not enough individual expression, and so lots of things get tried out - Celtic rock gets tried out, jazz music, they bring in rhythm sections from any part of the world, they're doing all these kinds of things - you hear it on albums all over the place. Because there's that need, that feeling, to do something unique and different. And yet, what happens, you chase that down, and the further and further you chase that, the next thing you're playing jazz music and rock music - you've left the Irish music behind. And so now you start scratching your head and go "I'm in a whole other genre, and that's not what I wanted." Another conclusion is that it'll all become just one traditional music, just become one generic style, and it'll just fade out, or people will get bored and start looking into other areas. It's a wonderful experiment and I've enjoyed a lot of the music that's come out of that whole area, but it's an adjunct, it's not the avenue, it's not the natural course for the music. I think that the natural evolution, now that regional styles are dying off, is for much more individual expression it would then be as rich as there are people and individuality. So the music ultimately has enormous possibilities, because everyone is a unique collection of emotions and feelings.

But don't you have to be at a very advanced level to be able to individualize it like that?

Not technically, I don't think. I think maybe emotionally. yes. In your mind, I think you need to be very comfortable with it. And you do need to have gone through this raw process of playing tunes and sessions, and playing this gig, and doing a lot of different things before you feel comfortable. . . it's like a journey

The only thing that's meaningful is the music, so long as you can make it in a meaningful way. If, for example, you think competitively about music, if you think about it as a business, a financial thing that you're involved in, it you think about it as something you must do, if you feel pressures to perform on stage, if your ego is seated to be appeased in a performance of this music, all is lost in a sense. If pride takes the place of humility in music, it's lost. In order to get to the heart of the music you must have pure expression. Whenever I hear music that's set out to impress me, I'm unimpressed largely. I'm amazed and dazzled at the proficiency and technique and the intelligence of the language and the complexity at times, but if that's what it sets out to achieve, it's absolutely pointless. It's missed the initial point, the core meaning of music. And an awful lot of music does that. You'd almost want to have the childlike simplicity again and just go, "I like that. That's nice." A big thing with a lot of musicians is the fear to play something very simple and delicate, in case somebody would think you weren't a great fiddler or something. In order to get your own individual expression, would you have to become a highly technically proficient musician? The answer really is no, I don't think that that's as important as getting your head straight, and getting your heart in the right place.

What do you do to prepare for a gig?

It's mostly emotional. I meditate. But I'll do that every day anyway. It's just part of living, for me. And music is part of living, because it's integrated into my life, so what I do away from the stage or away from a performance, it all eventually comes out in the music, because I'm expressing me, I'm expressing what's core to me. Everything is related, every person I meet and interaction I have, my own personal anger, my own disappointments, my own sorrow, my own history, my own joys, expectations, hopes, all of those things are there, so it's kind of finding that calm balance that allows the music to flow out really freely. It's like when you get this personal stuff of the way, the music can come out.

Do your tunes change every time you play them, depending on your emotional state?

Yeah, they do. They may not change visibly. You could go back afterwards and examine them and they wouldn't look like they changed very much. But it's the emotion behind the tune, and the feeling, that decides where the note falls, decides the spacing, decides a lot of things that may fall. If I were to play that tune exactly the same the next night without the emotional content I would be mimicking myself and nothing would be happening. It's that intangible aspect of the music that we cannot put our finger on.... that's the important part of it. When you're expressing yourself, it's a very egocentric thing to say that you're baring your own soul - it's not your own really. In a way it's a part of a greater soul. So you can be bringing forth something you can't put into words because if you could you probably wouldn't need the music.

Has your music changed a lot over the years as you're evolved personally?

It has changed. I've been through a lot of different experiences with the music. When I first came to the States . . . I ended up playing with a band that played rebel music, and songs and stage Irish humor in clubs. and all kinds of things, and I really wasn't known very well at all in the States in any musical community. I was way out in the backwater in these strange clubs where real music listeners very rarely went, where I was playing all kinds stuff.... If I were to walk into a club and hear somebody like me playing like that, I'd be very dismissive. So I learned a lot of humility the hard way. When I was playing as a teenager I was winning a lot of honour.... you don't know how to handle that. You're always told, "Don't let it go to your head, don't let it go to your head," and you're always saying, "Don't let it go to my head, I won't let it go to my head," but it does.... But in my early twenties, when I was in Chicago, here I was playing absolutely the worst music that I could imagine myself playing for a living, and doing it day in and day out, and being embarrassed by it.... and beginning to wonder if this was all it was ever going to be. I could see no way out of it, really. That was one musical experience.... that made me swallow a lot of my own pride.

After that initial experience, I played with lots of musicians from different musical backgrounds in Chicago, and that had a certain effect. It's like taking something and putting it against a different backdrop to look at it. You begin to see it in many different ways and you get a clearer picture of it. I went through that experience. I played everything from wedding music to planing out and out rock tunes at extreme volume levels. to playing electric fiddle. to playing cocktail hours. all kinds of things, which normally traditional ethnic music isn't exposed to

Since then, I've completely submitted to the notion that I'11 play what's in my heart, I'll play what I feel. and I'll try and not make any commercial judgments I'll try and not make any decisions that would be easy to make in terms of popular choice or whatever. I'll just try and believe in a divine existence in this world that will pull me into doing some things. I'll just do what comes naturally to me while I have the talent to do it, and follow where that leads me, and assume that it will take care of me if I take care of it.

"It's the emotion behind the tune, and the feeling, that decides where the note falls...."

Where do you think it will lead you next?

I have no idea. it's like I'm standing in the doorway of it. One way I look out into the vast world of music, and I see all the people, all the musicians, who go off and play, create wildly different things. And then, at time I'll look back the other way, and I'll look into the music, and I see that universality in there also. I feel there's a whole world to explore inside that. I've tried to get inside the tunes - to make them expressive, and I feel like there's more of me that can go in there, there's more expression , there's more expansiveness in the tunes that I need to explore still. So I've no idea what will happen next. I don't know.

Do you have plans for another album?

Yeah. Well, Green Linnet has plans for another album, because I signed a contract saying that I'll make four of them! I've thought about it. What happens is I have a million ideas, and it just seems to leave me defeated. Indeed, making the first album was the same way. I had to say "Okay, snapshot, this is it." It's going to happen within the next year.... it's kind of like you have this date approaching and saying, "Okay, make some decisions now.'' You really have to kind of be forced to do some things sometimes. I didn't know whether the first album would go well or not, whether anyone would like it, whether they' d think, "oh, another fiddle album," and that would be it.... I'm delighted that people like it, that they get it. I'm very pleased that people get it. That they can enjoy it. I don't want anyone to be impressed by me. I like them to enjoy it in the real sense, and I'm very pleased that it's happening.

What's your favorite environment to play in? Performing? Playing by yourself?

I think performing, actually, is my favorite, because it forces me into a very concentrated place. I can do it at home, and I have done it at home, where you collect all these energies, inside your self, and you set everything right, and go at it. It's harder to discipline yourself sometimes there.... I mean, you can sit there and play through the tunes, and do a lot of the kind of nitty gritty stuff, like dawdling and all these kinds of things, at home. But when I go up to play, I feel like all of the pieces, all of the loose ends that I've been dawdling upon now must be pulled together. It's kind of like tidying your house. You kind of pull everything apart, you know - you're tidying the house because some guests are coming over. Well now, that house would not really get tidied maybe, as well, if those people weren't coming. So that's kind of what the gig is. You've got to tidy up all these loose ends and get on the stage. The happiest time of my life is when I sit up there playing for people, making the connection with the music. It's very easy to make the connection by dazzling and impressive playing, exciting playing, and giving into the flash, and doing all that, you can get a crowd going. But it's superficial and you feel like you've cheated yourself.

Music is to be shared, it's a sharing experience. It's nice to be able to sit there and get some sublime feeling inside yourself, some sense of ecstasy, and loss, and excitement. and vigor, and translate it out, and let it ripple out and be magnified as it goes through people. And it does get energized by other people feeling it and sensing it - it gets strengthened. And you could do it with one note, if there was enough purity and strength behind it. Micho Russell for me is always a case in point - he's not into any technical frills or anything like that, and I don't think he takes himself seriously in an artistic sense, or ever thinks or talks about it. but what the man has is a lot of natural purity, a lot of natural loveliness as a person. And he goes out and he is himself.

Do you ever play in positions other than first? Do you play other styles?

When I'm playing Irish music, even the way I hold my fiddle, I've locked myself into first position and I can't find any use for any other position in the music, or the need to show that I could play other positions - the music wasn't structured in a way that it made any sense to do so. On the other hand. when I take up my fiddle and I play along with Chick Corea, or Jan Garbarek, or all these other musics that I listen to all day long, I'll play my fiddle and find myself naturally jumping out of position, and quite comfortably so, and it feels right. I'm very much an amateur in all those other musical areas, but I dawdle along in other styles. I like to improvise a bit, dawdle with the scales and stuff. I think just freeing myself up and putting my head in another music format is good, and when I come back to play traditional music, I've kind of broadened it up a little, opened up, expanded the prospects. Then when I go back to traditional music, I'm in that mindset. As soon as I play a few notes of it, that's what I am.... I'm not that fascinated with the current repertoire of Irish music on albums. More often than not, the music I listen to is Bach, Beethoven, endless amounts of other music, world music. I've learned how to appreciate and enjoy it. I also make myself listen to music that I'm not familiar with. It's like a drudgery process in the beginning, but you know that it's rewarding at the end. I think music requires a bit of effort on the listener's part too. The attention span of people and the inability to concentrate, and the overexposure to music is a real detriment to it at the moment, or to serious music anyway, because people site in their cars and go like this (snaps finger) and they have music. They have music in the stores, they have music in school, they have music in the office, music in the workplace, they have music on the boat, they have music on the bus. The specialiness of music is being wiped away. A moment without music would be considered boring, whereas at one time, a moment with music would have been special. So people are more lazy about the way they listen to it. The stuff that's easiest to comprehend and is most accessible with the least effort is what succeeds.

What do you do to practice? Do you do scales at all, or work on new tunes?

Yeah, I dawdle along on scales.... I'm actually going to take some lessons. There's a jazz player here in town that teaches one of my students.... I'm going to go and learn a bunch of other scales -I'm not going to re-invent the wheel at home. To practice, I play along with albums of all kinds of music. I just think that to take up the fiddle and play is to practice in a way. I should rephrase that. I never really practiced in my life, so much as I wanted to have the experience of playing. I can't imagine doing it as a chore. A lot of the time I'll just dawdle, but I'll be dawdling or fun, to hear my fiddle. Just to hear the sound of it is therapy.

"In Ireland there is still a sense of music being more intimately interwoven into the community"

But don't you have to practice to find out what techniques are going to express certain emotions?

You do, yeah, but of course you can never say what technique expresses some emotion Some emotion causes some technique to develop. When you think about finding technical things to open up the doors to expression, and you think about it in a mechanical way like that, you kind of open up a can of worms, because now you have an infinite amount of things one could be doing technically to open up all the doors. You're trying to create the emotion out of the physical instrument, out of the process, whereas that has to come from inside. If we can imagine the human species inventing the spoken word - I think they felt a need to express something, and the need to say it shaped the language. And I think that music was shaped by the need to express something, and then afterwards the music theorists came down and analyzed what took place, and they wrote a certain set of rules around it that explained it. It's not the technical stuff that expresses the emotion. One of my own favourites is a tin whistle player called Joe Bane. I have a tune on the album called "The Britches." It's very simple. Anybody could play it. Any beginner could play every note I play. It's not technically difficult. And it wasn't technically difficult the way he played it. But when he played it, it would bring a tear to my eye. He'd look forward to playing that tune all night at a session, and when the opportunity would arise, he'd go, "Ah sure, we'll play 'The Britches.'" He'd been waiting to do this. He loved it. It was like a lullaby - there was sweetness in it, there was humility in it, there was joy and love, everything in it, and it was the climax of his day, of his week to do this tune. He had no chops, he had no knowledge, no theoretical anything, but his space was magic. He didn't need to know any more technical anything. The only thing that was amiss around him was a world that didn't understand what was going on.

Music to me is a very spiritual and philosophical thing, and it's very much an integrated part of my life, more and more so. It didn't always have to be that way. At one time I would have said to myself "Now hold on a second, Micho Russell, Junior Crehan and Bobby Casey don't need to do that, they don't have to think about that," but then again, you know, I'm not Junior Crehan and I'm not Bobby Casey, and I'm not Micho Russell, so I guess I'll have to do it my way. It is a more complex time these days, there are more complex issues to be thought out, even though you end up coming down to the most fundamental and simple principles in the end. It's a complicated process to weed through all that, it's like a process of unlearning in some ways

What differences do you see between music in Ireland and in the U.S.?

It's not so much that it's a vast difference, it's only the degree to which things are commercialised in America There's no doubt that music is all shrink-wrapped, and in the store, and on the radio and on TV, and on a large stage with lighting and a massive PA. and it's so often distanced from real life. People are distanced from the music. In Ireland, it's a bit closer. In Ireland there is still a sense of music being more intimately interwoven into the community. It's a bit more present, in the real sense. I remember old John Kelly's shoe shop, horse shoes, anything, could be bought in that shop But there [John Kelly] was, working around the store.... Well, he was also a fiddler, and there was that sense that the music could happen right there in the shop, and it often did! And it happened in the local bar, and it happened very spontaneously. I lived in Chicago, and inside the city confines, it's actually the same population as the Republic of Ireland. And on a night out, musically, in Chicago, I had to compare it to the whole island, and there was no comparison. The number of musicians and bands and music that comes out of Ireland, for its size, is quite amazing. The amount of music is just phenomenal. The amount of things that happen, the amount of movies, the amount of writers.... it's very easy to say, "Ireland, it's another country out there across the Atlantic," but it's only a population of 3.5 million people. A lot of artistic stuff does come out of it, on a per capita basis. I don't know why that is, but it does amaze me. I think maybe it's because the arts are not so distant from people. I think everybody can play music. I don't think it's beyond anybody's capacity to learn to play music if you've got a soul and a spirit at all, and you've got a mind.... Everybody doesn't get the opportunity, that's for sure, everybody doesn't get exposed to it in the natural way, that I know for sure, and not everybody is led to believe that they could play, that I also know, but I think that everybody could play music, as easily as they could do anything else. It's just that in Ireland there are more opportunities for people to be involved in music, especially from a very young age.

How do you think we can encourage kids to play traditional music?

I think, just let them hear it. Just let them hear it from day one, let them hear good music. Records and live music. Just being exposed to it.... There are households where children see books, they become readers. Where they listen to classical music, children have all interest in classical music. I think maybe the time that they acquire language facilities might be the time for music to creep in. I don't know, I would be no expert on that. I'd say, to be on the safe side, just play lots of music.

Do you remember when you decided you were going to take up the fiddle? Or the first time you picked one up?

Santa Claus brought me a fiddle. I was destined and ordained to be a fiddle player, because if Santa Claus figured I was a fiddle player, and I was in a house with lots of fiddle music.... My dad did it. Like wearing long pants, it was the grown up thing to do, so l figured, yes, this was it.

Did fiddle playing come naturally to you?

Ah, no. Not at all. I struggled very hard. My father, for sure, definitely gave up on me many times, and assumed that I would never make it. He kind of let me know that, too, in his own disappointed way. He didn't mean any harm. But he never ever forced me to, or never made me practice my fiddle. It was entirely up to me to ask him to show me how to do it. I struggled. He taught me the first tune about ten times. The start was really shaky. It took me several years to get just a few tunes together, to get two or three tunes. So, never give up. I mean, I looked like somebody who wasn't going to make it, for sure. And I struggled through, and right around the age of twelve, thirteen, fourteen, it all clicked. Finally I got over some hump that I couldn't put my finger on, and finally it was starting to flow.

Do you have a favorite tune?

It's a matter of being in that ball park. the cluster of my favourite tunes. There's a tune of Ed Reavey's that I put on the album called "The Whistler from Rosslea," I've played around with that tune a lot. I like "The Star of Munster" a lot, as a tune, it tends to open up for me personally I love ' The Morning Star.'' A lot has got to do with how long the tune has been with me, and, not that it's any better or worse than any other, but the attention I give that tune, and the gestation period, makes it more or less expressive. The tune in itself is kind of what you make it, in some ways, what you find in it. They're all full of wonderful stuff. But some of them are kind of indestructible tunes, some of them have lots of gems of melody.

How do you decide whether a tune is going to be played fast or slowed down a lot? This summer [at the Willie Clancy School] you taught a tune called "Paddy Taylor's Jig" very slowly, and it was beautiful, whereas I'm sure a lot of people would tear through it.

I think the standard approach has been one of speed, and to tear into the music really fast Then, when they wanted to play emotionally and expressively, to play slowly. Whereas I tend to start out from the other side. I tend to not start out at maximum speed and maximum volume, but somewhere at a medium to slow speed and volume. When I want to heighten the expression into excitement or vigor, I can do that. I can strive upwards and outwards. If I start out at that point, that's the base point I've established.... I think it's foolish to start out at full speed and at full volume. You're eliminating all kinds of possibilities.... Playing a tune at full speed would be like driving through a country road at full speed. You may get the excitement of driving fast through a country road, but there's a lot of little gaps and avenues and trees and houses and such that you miss along the way. And it's like that with a tune. There's all these little dips and hollows in the tune that are self-explanatory, but time should be taken to go through them slowly. They explain themselves, they interpret themselves. They almost show what should be done.

Did you enjoy competing?

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed competing with the fiddle as much as I would have enjoyed competing in the 100 meter sprint, you know? In the sense that I loved to play, and I think the reason I did well in competitions is that I loved the sensation of sitting up and playing to people. I loved getting the music out, causing the experience to happen, because whatever I experienced at home, 1 could magnify on the stage, I could multiply it. I would actually play music, whereas a lot of competitors tried to play everything they could play to impress the adjudicator. I just played, and I liked playing, and it turned out that was the right thing to do for competition, because it transcended all technical stuff where you couldn't really tell one from the next and it really didn't make any sense to the adjudicator. I enjoyed winning the competitions. It was like winning the hundred meter race for me.

Competition doesn't make any sense to me.... especially in music because there is no way of ranking music in any order. There are so many variables.... And there's a lot of ego damaging at competitions. It had two effects on me it had a very encouraging effect, convincing me that I had something that was worthwhile, and that I was good at what I did and that I should continue. That was very useful But it also had the negative effect of inflating the ego. We live in a world that adores competition Competition implies winners, and to imply a winner, implies a loser, so why do we adore systems of anything that imply losing? We seem, as human beings, to have this competitive need, and we make holy and venerate concepts of competition, winning, and being a winner.... it's a pity to see that aspect of life creeping into music. In truth it doesn't make any sense. It's not a good thing.

What are your plans for touring?

Well, I'm touring away a little bit, around the country, doing workshops and concerts, and my plan is to keep doing that, just keep playing. I woke up the other day and thought, where shall I go in February? There's a map on the wall.... there's a lot of places to play, but it requires a lot of work and organization to line it all up.

I don't think too much about the future.... I'm kind of happy enough to make it through the year, you know? This is not the most commercial music around, so I have to be content to have a lot of enjoyment in some areas of my life, and I may have to make some compromises in other areas. You can't have it all. I can't have a big fancy house, and a big fancy car, and play the most pure folk music I know - well, maybe I can some day, I don't know. I don't really care. I can't even afford to think that. Since my life is concerned with playing music, I'll do it, I'll go where I've got to go to play it, and where there are people who want to hear it.

Tell me about your fiddle.

There's nothing fancy about it. It's not extravagant or expensive, but I am emotionally attached to it. It was one that my dad had rejected and left up in the attic. Then one night it was kind of rescued on my behalf. I felt like I could feel it being rejected until I picket it up, and so I felt like I kind of worked that fiddle. I feel you can nurture tone by playing it in a certain way, by trying to cultivate that sound. I believe I haven't got the most out of my fiddle yet.... I haven't reached the pinnacle of tone and quality for myself. But I think the tracks of my playing, the prints of what I play are imprinted on that fiddle.

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