Dan Stacey of Seven Nations: |
Fiddles with bagpipes
An interview by Tom Knapp,
A traditional fiddler might be a little intimidated by the idea of playing with a loud, brash, bagpipe rock band. But Dan Stacey, a fiddler and stepdancer from Ontario, Canada, wasn't worried when he joined Seven Nations, one of the most popular Scottish-American rock bands on the circuit.
Folks who haven't seen the Florida-based Seven Nations perform lately will notice a difference in the band. Besides the addition of Stacey, bagpiper Neil Anderson has been replaced with Canadian piper Scott Long, who previously toured with Cape Breton fiddling sensation Ashley MacIsaac.
"When I joined Seven Nations, I had listened to a bit of the music," Stacey said during a telephone interview from Richmond, Va., a recent stop on the Seven Nations tour. "But I went in without a preconceived notion of what the music would be like. Obviously, the addition of a new instrument will change the sound."
Working mostly on solo projects and traveling the competition circuit didn't bring Stacey into contact with Seven Nations before he flew south to audition for the band.
"I'm actually at the point now where I'm quite comfortable," Stacey said. "At first, I was finding myself in the band. Now I have a direction for my personal sound, which obviously affects the overall sound of the band. ... I seem a lot more stable up there. I'm all over it."
A lifetime of performance has acclimated Stacey to the stage.
"That part has always come easy," he said. "Sometimes when I'm in front of a crowd, I don't even realize they're there. I get so wrapped up in the music and listening to other members of the band. ... I've always been very energetic and I get so excited about playing the music. I think that comes across in my performance."
He and Long joined the band in January 1999, first appearing on the album The Factory. Initially, Stacey said, the two sat down with lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Kirk McLeod's songs to see what arrangements they could derive from the music.
The musical frequencies of bagpipe and fiddle "work together so well, it was almost easy," he remembers. "And the guys made the transition easy. They're a great bunch of guys, I had that going for me."
Besides McLeod, Stacey and Long, the band includes bass guitarist Struby and drummer Ashton Geoghagan.
Stacey began his musical career after his twin sister started stepdancing at age 4. "I decided to try, it looked like she was having fun and she was getting a lot of attention, so I went for it," he said. "It got to the point where we were competing in Ontario."
He got into the fiddle scene there, he said. Gradually, his fiddling became more important to him than his dancing.
"This is my first band," Stacey said. "I played as a soloist for years, but this is the first time I got caught up in something I feel is greater than being a solo artist. You have the guys on stage with you, and you're all going for the same thing."
"The guys had no idea I stepdanced until I started doing shows with them," he added. "They saw me do it and said, yeah, let's put it in the show."
Growing up, Stacey said, music was a hobby. He went to college to study business administration, but "it didn't agree with me." After a stint as a fiddler and stepdancer in Ottawa, he went up to British Columbia to spend time "as a snowboarder and a bum, basically." He returned to school to study English and philosophy before being bitten by the performance bug.
"I love playing music, but I never dreamed I could make a living doing it," he said. "I'm going to go back to school sometime, but not now. Maybe when I'm 70."
For now, he's too busy enjoying the road.
"Nobody really would ever do this for a living if they didn't love it. It's grueling being out on the road constantly," Stacey said. "We did 280 shows last year, and I wouldn't want it any other way, I love it so much -- I'd miss it if we cut it down to 120 shows a year. I love getting up and knowing there's a show today.
"It's bizarre, and I love it," he said. "Now that I've done it, I could never do anything else."
[ by Tom Knapp ]