Posted By Chassily Wakefield on January 26, 2010
Fiddlehead, with Musician/Author Anthea Lawson
Anthea Lawson of Fiddlehead Celtic Band
Interviewed by Chassily Wakefield
Copyright © 2010 Chassily Wakefield and Anthea Lawson
This interview was first published on 1st Turning Point on January 26, 2010, as part of our featured artist schedule. 1st Turning Point’s January featured artist is musician Anthea Lawson. Anthea Lawson is the pen name for a husband and wife writing team, co-authors of spicy Victorian-set romantic adventures. Anthea has contributed an article to 1st Turning Point in her role as Romance Author, but she and her husband are also accomplished musicians with their own Celtic band, the popular Northwest group known as Fiddlehead. Lucky for me, she’s also a friend, so I was able to pelt her with questions over brunch.
CW: Tell me about your background in music.
AL: I grew up in a very musical household: my mom is a professional classical viola player. It was not a question of if I would play an instrument, but which one. I came home from school in 4th grade and announced I wanted to play…the trumpet! I ended up settling on the violin. In high school, I began to play fiddle music, and in college really got into Irish fiddling. I’ve also always sung, and I love the richness of traditional Celtic songs and ballads.
Lawson took some guitar lessons in high school, then tucked his guitar in the closet when he left home for college. After we met, he called his parents and had them send his guitar to him—it was obvious that he was getting involved with a serious musician and needed to be ready!
CW: You play music and co-write novels with your husband, not to mention being married and raising a child. How does so much togetherness feed your creative muse? How do you handle creative differences?
AL: We have the temperaments for working closely together—luckily! Creative collaboration keeps us connected, and over the years we’ve worked out how to communicate about our projects. There’s a lot of similarity between playing in a band, writing novels, and raising a child.
There are inevitable differences of opinion. We each have our own vision of where we’re going. Usually, whoever feels the most strongly about something can talk the other one around to their point of view.
We have to respect one-another’s opinion, recognize we’re both contributing to a whole that’s greater than both of us, and keep the ultimate goal in mind: A solid and lyrical song arrangement, a book that delights readers, or a competent and confident kid.
CW: You also teach violin. What’s your favorite part of passing on your musical knowledge?
AL: Getting people hooked on playing the fiddle. I love the traditional music idioms (Irish, Old-time, Quebecois, Contradance) and the way people can go out, have fun, and make music socially with only a handful of tunes under their fingers. It’s a very satisfying job.
CW: Do you have a manager? How is promoting your music different from promoting your novels? Is there overlap between the two fields?
AL: I manage the band—we’re not commanding the kinds of fees that would justify involving a manager, plus we’re not able to tour extensively. That said, we’ve played all over the Northwest and in Canada as part of various Celtic Music Festivals.
In terms of promotion, we apply to festivals and concert series with a promotional pack that includes a CD, band bio, and glowing reviews. A number of local gigs come our way because we’ve been playing for quite a while, are known in the area, and have a specialized niche. March is a busy month for us, with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations giving us lots of performance opportunities.
We could do more as a band with a website, though we are online at CDBaby.com/cd/fiddlehead, where you can purchase our music and read a little about the band. Eventually, we’d like to make a page at our home site of anthealawson.com that focuses on our musical lives.
I think the overlap between promoting a band and promoting an author comes in the big areas like branding, word of mouth, and taking the opportunities that come your way.
CW: How has the economy affected the band? Is it harder to find paying gigs? What strategies do you employ for overcoming those obstacles?
AL: The economy has definitely made it harder to find gigs. We didn’t play any weddings last summer, and usually we do at least a handful of those. A few venues have folded or are not hiring as many bands. Or people want you to play for free, which doesn’t work out that well when you’re trying to make a partial living by playing music. We’re playing less and waiting for things to come around. We still have our regular gigs—St. Patrick’s Day, the Seattle Folklife Festival, etc.
CW: What are your musical goals, personally and for the band?
AL: It’s not that difficult as niche musicians playing traditional Celtic music to find work if we’re motivated. I think it must be similar to self-publishing in nonfiction to a tightly targeted market. We don’t need national distribution. Stores that specialize in Celtic items or folk music are willing to carry our CDs. We have played national (and international) music festivals and made a lot of people happy with our music. What could be better? Ok, maybe selling another thousand CDs, but the music is only a part of what we do. We’ve always quilted together a bunch of smaller projects to make a creatively fulfilling life.
CW: Anything else you’d like to share? Where can local readers see you play next?
AL: We usually announce gigs on our website at anthealawson.com, so take a look there, especially in early March when we know what our St. Paddy’s line-up will look like.
Thanks so much Chassily and 1st Turning Point for having us back, this time wearing our musician hats!
CW: Thank you for being here, Anthea! It’s always a pleasure to talk with you.