Canadian singer-songwriter duo Madison Violet playing first-ever Santa Barbara show at SOhO
Twenty years after its members first came together to make music, Canadian singer-songwriter duo Madison Violet is making its first ever stop in Santa Barbara. Promoting their latest LP “Everything’s Shifting,” Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac will perform a set featuring their new material at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on October 18. In an interview with the News-Press, the ladies discussed their two-decade history as a creative unit, touching on everything from Madison Violet’s formation to the themes of their latest music.
Formed in 1999, Madison Violet came about after Ms. MacEachern and Ms. MacIsaac met at The Green Room, an artist’s hangout in Toronto, Ontario. As Ms. MacEachern recalled, her ears pricked up when she heard her future band mate’s last name, which she said wasn’t very common in Toronto. She soon found out that Ms. MacIsaac hails from the small town of Creignish, Nova Scotia, where Ms. MacEachern’s father is also from. In fact, the two discovered that their fathers actually knew each other.
Growing up in Nova Scotia, where the fiddle is a big part of the province culture, Ms. MacIsaac plays the instrument in Madison Violet and initially joined up with her foil when Ms. MacEachern’s band was seeking a fiddler. The ladies were the only two band members who played music as a full-time job and their bandmates eventually fell away until the lineup was reduced to a duo. During a six-week writing excursion the pair took to New Mexico, they underwent a strange experience where time seemed to stop. After that, they arrived at a hotel to settle in for the night, where they were checked in by a woman named Violet. From these events, the duo found its initial name, Madviolet, and later expanded it into Madison Violet.
Two decades after they started Madison Violet, Ms. MacEachern and Ms. MacIsaac both expressed how they feel more true to their authentic selves than at the beginning of their careers. When the duo first started out, the two ladies were in a same-sex relationship, which they were encouraged to keep quiet by people in the music business.
“At the time we were a couple and the industry told us we needed to nip that in the bud and keep that under wraps,” Ms. MacIsaac recalled.
In retrospect, Ms. MacIsaac wishes that she and Ms. MacEachern had not taken the industry advice and just been open about their relationship. However, their current openness about who they are has found its way into their music, as they said that a few songs on “Everything’s Shifting” touch on LGBT topics.
The new record’s lyrical themes also include addressing imposter syndrome, the fear of getting exposed as a fraud that some artists and people in general experience. This is particularly the subject of “Seal My Fate,” which both Ms. MacEachern and Ms. MacIsaac named as one of their favorite new songs to play live.
“Songs like that feel good because we can emote more when they’re songs that feel close to our hearts,” Ms. MacIsaac said.
Like all of Madison Violet’s music, “Seal My Fate” is a writing collaboration between the two members. Ms. MacEachern spontaneously thought up the song’s first verse one day she was struggling with writing. When she stepped away from her guitar out of frustration, she suddenly started singing the verse in a moment that she recalled “felt like a gift.” Ms. MacIsaac then finished off the song, as per their usual method of working. While each of them comes up with song ideas on their own, Ms. MacEachern said those ideas that are like a “half-painted room” until the other member adds the finishing touches.
“The room is never going to get painted unless the other person shows up,” Ms. MacEachern said.
Her songwriting partner added that this approach is made easy because they both have so much parallel experience and life knowledge. For example, if Ms. MacEachern were to begin writing a song about her grandmother with sixteen kids, the fact that Ms. MacIsaac has relatives with nearly as many offspring gives her the frame of reference needed to finish the song.
“We have so many of those parallels… I think that’s what makes it easy to write together,” Ms. MacIsaac said.
When asked what Madison Violet hopes the Santa Barbara audience takes away from its first performance in town, Ms. MacEachern said she hopes the crowd at SOhO is deeply compelled by the sound of her and Ms. MacIsaac’s voices, a combination she said is just as effortless as their songwriting.
“There’s something about the texture of our two voices that always blended seamlessly,” Ms. MacEachern said.
Tickets for Madison Violet’s October 18 concert at SOhO cost $15 and can be purchased online at www.sohosb.com. Doors to the venue open at 5:30 p.m. and the show begins at 6:00 p.m.