Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Madison Violet

East Coast bluegrass duo say their break-up was artistic inspiration

Madison Violet plays the NAC on Jan 14. Credit: Promotional photo
Breaking up is never easy. Just ask Madison Violet.
The long-time musical and romantic duo, composed of Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, came to a crossroads two-and-a-half years ago. Their career was blossoming on the heels of their breakthrough 2009 album, No Fool for Trying. Highly in demand on the folk festival circuit, they had regular gigs, which meant a steady flow of cash and increasing exposure. After toiling together for nearly a decade, it seemed things were finally falling into place.
But something wasn’t right. Being partners in both life and art was no longer sustainable.
“It had to be one or the other, and music was the aspect of our relationship that was working best,” MacIsaac says. “It’s not an easy transition to make when you spend nine months a year on the road together. But the desire to keep collaborating musically helped us to work through it.”
MacEachern adds, “Remembering why you loved the other person in the first place is essential if you want to stay friends and keep working together. We had our way of talking it through to make sure we could still play a show.”
The duo’s latest disc, The Good in Goodbye, aptly captures a breakup’s messy qualities while maintaining the kind of sunny optimism the two are known for.
Blending their usual genre-defying mix of down-home bluegrass, traditional East Coast fiddling, and the occasional radio-friendly pop hook, it’s a record about that part of a breakup when a couple is ready to move on. It is not one dedicated to wallowing in the depths of misery. Knowing the creators are singing about the end of one part of their relationship adds a new dimension to songs.
The pair met at Toronto’s Green Room bar in 2001. MacEachern, overhearing MacIsaac drop her last name, swung by her table to ask if she was from the East Coast. Not only were both their families from Creignish, Nova Scotia, their fathers had been friends in high school – maybe not surprising given the size of the tiny burg. They began jamming shortly after, and Madison Violet was born.
The girls say a constant touring schedule is the main reason for their success, both in terms of expanding their fan base and making a living. They’ve played across North America, Europe and Australia, sharing stages with Chantal Kreviazuk, Ron Sexsmith and lezzie favourite the Indigo Girls. Though they came out four years ago, their sexuality was never a focus of their songwriting or their promotional strategy. Still, since going public they’ve noticed an upswing in the queer quotient at their shows.
“We’ve noticed the pockets of lesbians in our audience get bigger,” laughs MacEachern. “In the beginning we were private about our sexuality because we didn’t want it to pull focus from our music. But it seems like we may be gaining some fans from coming out. If nothing else, it may cut down on the number of love letters we get from straight guys.”  

The Deets: 
Madison Violet
Sat, Jan 14 at 8pm
National Arts Centre Studio, 53 Elgin St