Folk for Little Folk: Interview with Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman

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Folk
Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman is an award-winning Canadian fiddler and dancer who creates family-friendly music and performances.



Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman is an award-winning Canadian fiddler and dancer whose family-friendly music and performances have delighted millions. His first official family album titled “Folk for Little Folk Volume 1” is s scheduled to be released on September 17, 2021.

Gordie MacKeeman has been performing since the age of six. When he was 14, he played at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival and outshined seasoned professionals like Ron Hynes and Ken Whitely. Since moving to Prince Edward Island in 2000, Gordie MacKeeman’s career has blossomed and his music has appeared on radio and television stations across the world. He has won 13 Music PEI Awards and frequently collaborates with other musicians and singers.

Gordie recently discussed his career via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in music and songwriting and did you always gravitate towards the folk genre?

Gordie MacKeeman (GM): I started dancing when I was six by fluke. Someone just got me up in the floor and I was good at it. And so, I continued dancing, but at the age of nine I decided that I wanted to play the fiddle. I don’t come from a musical family, so I had never really had much musical influence. Where I come from, here in Eastern Canada, dancing and playing the fiddle go hand in hand, so it was just the next logical step. There weren’t many fiddle teachers in my area, so I only took lessons for a couple of years and then I joined a local fiddlers’ group and we played at nursing homes at least once a week. This group was made up of “seasoned” folk musicians. I was definitely the youngest member of the group, with the next youngest being about 60! It was great because I learned so much and created some really great relationships. I always felt like I had many grandfathers. But their influence certainly fostered my musical interests.

FolkMM: What is it about folk music, in particular, that so inspires you?

GM: I like the raw natural feel of folk music. I like that folk musicians generally don’t use effects. They just play with feeling, and you can hear that in the music.

MM: What comes to you first, the lyrics or the melodies?

GM: A bit of both. Sometimes the melody comes first, and I write lyrics to match but then sometimes I come up with a catchy lyric and write the music for it.

MM: How did you break into the industry and how would you describe your style?

GM: I played for years playing back-up fiddle for various touring groups in the area. I was often asked if I had my own CD. So, my roommate and I made a traditional fiddle album, for fun really, and we started to be asked to play live shows. I formed a band with some other musicians that I had played with, and we’ve been playing ever since. I never really intended to be a front man, it just kind of happened. I was always happy playing back-up, but the lead role was kind of thrust onto me because of that first album we made. I always say I’m a roots musician because I pull from so many different genres, like folk, rockabilly, Canadian fiddling, country, bluegrass. It all just falls under that roots umbrella nicely.

MM: Why did you decide to focus on children’s album, or at least one perfectly suitable for families?

GM: When I’m not on the road, I’ve worked as a daycare teacher/autism assistant for more than 10 years. I’m also a father of three beautiful children. As a musician, I have noticed a lack of quality, diverse music for children. I think, just like adults, children should listen to different styles of music, not just the typical “children’s music.” I also want to enjoy the music my kids are listening to so we can enjoy music together. I really wanted an album that parents will keep listening to, even if the kids fall asleep! When my daughter Annie was born, we were gifted a couple of albums from a friend in England. His family had recorded some children’s albums that were mostly old British folk songs and not only did Annie love it, but my wife and I loved it as well. That really inspired me to create something similar. I think children should be exposed to all styles of music, not just folk, but that’s what I am able to record well, so that’s what I wanted to contribute.

MM: How long did it take you to complete this recent album, and what was it like working in quarantine?

FolkGM: I’ve been working on the music, writing, and arranging for a couple of years now.  The pre-production work took the longest, about a year. I recorded all the demos myself because of COVID restrictions. And then, once I gathered all the musicians I wanted to participate, it then took a while to collaborate with them virtually. The process of recording was quicker because I tried to do the bulk of the album live, but that was difficult because we could only have so many contacts at a time. So, I didn’t get to record the whole album live like I had wanted. We were really lucky here on Prince Edward Island because we were only in true lockdown for a few months. I was the one who stayed home with my girls, ages 1 & 3 at the time, because my wife is an essential worker. This was actually really helpful for my creative process because we worked on the music together and they naturally gave me a lot of input. Being on Canada’s smallest province was certainly a benefit because, thankfully, we maintained a pretty normal quality of life throughout this whole pandemic.

MM: Out of all songs on the album, do you have any personal favourites? If so, which ones and why?

GM: My personal favourite song is “All Around the Kitchen” because I really feel that it encompasses the live feeling I was trying get from the album. Also, the Peggy Seeger version of the song is one of my family’s favourite songs. For years we all have been dancing to that one! “Dreamland” is another song that is really meaningful to me. When my wife was about eight months pregnant with our first child my father passed away following a very brief struggle with cancer. It was devastating that he wouldn’t be able to meet his granddaughter. The melody of this song actually came to me while my wife, Jill, was giving birth, specifically the rhythm of the monitor when they were checking the baby’s heart rate. The words came to me later and are about my daughter meeting my father in her dreams.

MM: What are you thinking music-video-wise for these songs?

GM: I’m definitely in the planning process for some music videos. I really want to do some unique concepts for some of these songs. I think for “All Around the Kitchen” I’d love to have some live action footage of children dancing, because it’s so fun to see the kids’ reactions to that song. For “Snaccident” I envision some animation, probably cartoon characters. And I’d really like to incorporate puppets or marionettes somehow into a video, even though my wife has an irrational fear of puppets!

MM: You have won so many awards, so what were those experiences like?

GM: I really have been so lucky to win those awards. You put so much work into writing, recording, and making music. It’s nice to know that people appreciate all that hard work. Especially when you admire all the other amazing musicians who are creating fantastic music as well.

MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten about your music?

GM: I think my favourite response to my music is when people approach me after a show and say, “I really don’t like this kind of music, but I really loved that!” That just reinforces to me that I am successfully sharing my favourite style of music to all people and that I maybe have influenced someone in a small way.

MM: How would you describe your live performances?

FolkGM: I think my performance style could be described as high energy! I move a lot on stage. I actually can’t help myself. I can’t play without moving. But I really strive to make my live performance as entertaining to the crowd as possible.

MM: How do you hope your career evolves over the next five years?

GM: I would love to add this children’s music into my touring. Hopefully, I will be playing more children’s/family festivals. My hope is that I will be able to play these festivals in both capacities with my existing band and be able to cross over as a children’s entertainer. I also hope to be recording a “Folk for Little Folk Volume II” in a COVID free world!!

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

GM: I hope to continue making music and entertaining people, young and old. I’m looking forward to watching my kids grow-up, and hopefully they will want to play music with me. It would be my dream to continue making music with my family.

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“Folk for Little Folk Volume 1” will be available at www.crazylegs.ca and on iTunes. Also follow Gordie via FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.