photography: Mike Ford
Never far from a fiddle, Tim Chaisson is a member of Prince Edward Island’s Chaisson family, a lineage that has produced over six generations of admired musicians. Recording his first album at just fifteen, he draws inspiration from the East Coast’s expanse of Celtic music and culture, and has since gained a reputation for his honest lyrics and smooth, country/folk infused sound.
Joining forces with his band, Morning Fold, in 2008, Tim and Morning Fold received an award for COCA Emerging Artist of the Year, and he was selected as the Musical Director for Will and Kate’s Royal Tour of PEI in 2011. Now, after celebrating the release of his fourth album, The Other Side in September, Chaisson has wrapped up another cross Canada tour, and is currently down under for his third tour of Australia.
Before he jetted off, though, we had a chance to sit down and discuss his album, touring, fiddling, and how a b’y from PEI handles Australia’s deadly assortment of creatures.
Laura Eley: So, you just arrived in Toronto last night?
Tim Chaisson: Yep. We finished off our tour on the fourth, and we’re here until Sunday when I head off to Australia.
LE: I know you’ve done a ton of touring around Canada. Do you feel like you now have a different a perspective of our country?
TC: I’d never been out to the western provinces until about three years ago, so it was neat to travel through there. You really notice a unity between the Canadian people, but the Maritimers have their own thing going on, as do Quebec, and Ontario, and out west. And the way people perceive music is definitely different. Being from PEI, I try to play Celtic music during our sets, and playing in the east coast it’s a normal thing, but once you get out of the Maritimes people don’t hear it very often.
LE: Speaking of the Maritimes, you recorded your last album between Dartmouth and Austin, Texas. With the country and folk influences that run through both cities, do you think there’s a musical connection there between the Maritimes and Deep South?
TC: I think what brought it together for me was working with Gordie Johnson, because he lives in Texas and has Canadian connections down there. We did the majority of stuff in Dartmouth, and then I spent about twelve days in Texas and got to take it all in. I think your surroundings definitely influence what you do, and when you’re submersed in a culture you tend to do what they do without realizing it. It was also really, really hot down there, so I spent a lot of time inside.
LE: And you’ve written in Nashville too?
TC: Yeah, I’ve been to Nashville and did some demo-ing, I guess you could say.
LE: Having written your latest album, The Other Side, at Toronto’s Woodshed Studio, do you feel like Toronto influenced the music at all?
TC: Yeah, I think so. Well, I wrote a lot of stuff back home, but I did do some stuff here in the city with members of The Trews, and I wrote with Patrick Ballantyne who’s from Oakville. But I did a lot of writing at home in PEI, which is a pretty laid back spot, and I think the music there definitely influenced me the most because there’s tons of musician there that don’t tour and play at home, not because they’re not good enough to tour, they’re amazing musicians. But you’re obviously influenced by what goes on at home, and I spend whatever time I’m not on the road at home. And being in Toronto, we weren’t downtown, but we were still in the city.
LE: In Greek Town, right?
TC: Yeah! It was cool there. I really liked it.
LE: You grew up in a musical family. While kids like me were being forced into practicing the piano, did music just come naturally to you and your siblings?
TC: Well it’s funny because Koady and I are sixth generation fiddle players. It’s just been passed down and passed down and passed down, and the goal for each generation is for it to not die out because it’s a style of music that’s not played as much as it used to be. I don’t remember learning how to play the fiddle because it was one of those things that all my brothers and sisters played, and we just did it when we were so young. Everybody did it, it was completely normal to be a fiddle player.
LE: Is there anyone in the Chaisson family that doesn’t play music and is an accountant or something?
TC: Pretty much everybody can at least play something on the fiddle.
LE: You’ve recently been touring with the Poor Young Things, which from what social media tells me, has been a lot of fun.
TC: It’s been a good time.
LE: They toured with The Trews which you guys have done a lot of as well. Is that how you met?
TC: Yeah it is actually. I met them for the first time in the spring of last year when they were playing for The Trews, it was just at a show that we met, and all of us really clicked, the guys in my band and them. They’re just really solid, nice fellas.
LE: They’re originally from Thunder Bay?
TC: Thunder Bay, yep. It was awesome, we became really good friends. It’s just really nice to tour with bands that you just click with personality wise.
LE: You’ve been to Australia for two tours before. Is it different touring down there?
TC: Yeah it’s different, but it’s also pretty similar too. I opened up mostly for Australian acts, and every show that I’ve played they’re always super welcoming and seemed to enjoy it. They all think I’m from Ireland when I go there, not even because I play the fiddle. They’re like “But you talk like you’re from Ireland!” A friend of mine from PEI went there before too, and everyone thought he was from Ireland. But it actually happened, not even a joke, five times at least after ever single show.
LE: Did you or will you get a chance to surf while you were down there?
TC: Yeah, I did the first time that I went there, because it was the summer time. It’s pretty much summer time all year round there. I tried it and I wasn’t very good, but I’m going to try it again this time, and if I get a day off I might try and take an actual lesson.
LE: Any fear of being eaten by a Great White?
TC: Um, no. But my girlfriend and I were there together for my first tour, she came and stayed for a couple months, and one day we went to the beach and there were these little blue jellyfish in the water. And we asked a guy surfing if it was okay, and he said “Oh yeah, they’re called blue bottles”, so we went in, and something didn’t seem right; we never got stung, but we had wetsuits on. But then we found out that they’re actually Portuguese man o’ wars, which if you get stung by one of those, they’re not deadly, but you’re gonna be in pain for a couple of days.
LE: There are some serious creatures there.
TC: Oh yeah, it’s bizarre. Even deadly spiders are outside of people’s doors. I went to bed and saw some spiders there in a little web, and thought “Oh, what are they?” I can’t remember the name of them, but if they bite you, you have to go get an antivenom or you’ll die. And I was like, “Okay, the door’s open and the spiders are out there.” But they don’t really… They were like “Oh, we don’t know anyone that’s died from the spiders.”
LE: I wonder if living with those deadly creatures plays into Australians’ laid back attitude.
TC: Oh, yeah. And I’m not a fan of spiders really at all.
LE: Or snakes?
TC: Oh, no. I didn’t see any snakes there at all, thank God. Just at the zoo there.
LE: Are you going home at all before you head to Australia?
TC: No, I’m not. We play here tomorrow and then the next night, and then Sunday I fly out.
LE: So you’ll have been away from home for over two months?
TC: Yeah, about two and a half months away from home.
LE: Is it hard being away?
TC: We were actually just talking about this the other day. I think the toughest part about being away, because I don’t have any kids, is just being away from your significant other. That’s really the… Because family everyone moves away, but whenever you’re doing a long distance relationship, that’s always a little bit tougher. But my girlfriend’s coming here, so at least we’ll get to see each other for a couple of days before I leave.
LE: Finally, I wanted to ask, what is your big dream?
TC: For me it’s really just playing music full time, and just being able to sustain my life playing music. And I never ever really had any, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or whatever, but I didn’t have any intentions of fame. But right from the get go I just wanted to do something I love, play music, and I couldn’t care less if I… I mean obviously money would be nice, to have lots of money.
LE: To be able to eat?
TC: (Laughing) Yeah. But I mean, as long as I can eat and live, and still be playing and touring and making records, and writing more, even writing for other artists, stuff like that. I’ve done a bit of that and I love that.
LE: Well it certainly sounds like you have enough musical friends and connections to sustain it for awhile to come.
TC: Yeah, I hope so. We’ll see.