Liz Carroll:
fiddles, kids & the Cubs

Chicago fiddler Liz Carroll grew up in a very musical household. "My mom played Elvis and I bopped to the music," she said with a giggle.

But, lucky for us, this wasn't the music she decided to pursue. Her father played the accordion and there were several recordings around her house. "I always liked Irish," she said, "so I began playing it when I was young." She did not get started on fiddle, however. Her first experiences at playing tunes were on accordion and whistle, but nobody taught her. She figured the tunes out by ear. At the age of 9, she began fiddle the same way. "My family belonged to the Irish Musicians Association and I listened to the music on radio shows, so I was constantly exposed to it," she explained. "I also took dance lessons, so I got a lot of tunes from there and played them for my classes."

Eventually, she began writing her own tunes. "I just write the tunes as they occur," she said, when asked about her thought process. "When I string notes together, it doesn't just sound like another tune, so I go with it." Carroll went on to say that she doesn't write as many now because there are so many new ones. She also enjoys varying old tunes.

For a good dose of her music, she has a new album out with John Doyle called In Play. "It's a duet record -- not a fiddle and guitar accompaniment one," she said. It includes several of her own compositions, as well as a waltz by Doyle and a collaborative tune. It also includes some traditional tunes with "Liz Carroll variations" on them. "I like the album because it feels very uncomplicated," she said. "There's no fancy arranging -- just a lot of great tunes."

With all her recording, touring and performing, I had to ask Liz how she stays so down to earth. After a laugh, she said, "Well, it's nice to know that you think that about me." Then, she added, "I said to my husband, once... 'I'm the most normal person I know,' and he responded, 'No you're not.'" She said she always feels like there is more to learn, so she can't get totally into herself. "I've had so many different experiences and it's also a very small world, so it's hard to be full of myself," she said. She also loves to do things that keep her grounded, such as watching Cubs games, or any sport for that matter. She also loves to read and to do stuff with her kids and her friends (as this interview was taking place, her family was getting dinner ready for company that was coming to visit). "I'm really lazy at heart," she said with a chuckle, "I love being home."

She does enjoy her career, though. "I've grown a lot as a person. When I started, it was hard for me to look at the audience and talk to them, but I can do that now," she said.

She really enjoys being with people, she added -- they are what keep her going in her career. Carroll sees herself still playing and performing in the future. "I must really like what I do," she said, "because if I won the $250 million lottery, I'd still go to my gig the next day."

by Kaitlin Hahn
12 November 2005