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'I'd struggle to stay still' says fiddler 'Crazylegs' stepdancing as he plays

By Margaret Chrystall

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Creating a live experience to charm audiences all over the world, Canadians Gordie MacKeemam & The Rhythm Boys make it to Inverness this week to play at Under Canvas with their roots music taking in country, bluegrass and rockabilly, all powered by the energy of frontman Gordie.

Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys coming to Under Canvas. Picture: Brady McCluskey
Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys coming to Under Canvas. Picture: Brady McCluskey

His stepdancing and Canadian clog dancing has given him the nickname 'Crazylegs' but he also plays the fiddle, sings and plays other instruments too.

They have made several albums, but the impact seems to be rooted in their live performances which have featured in festivals from Denmark’s Tonder Festival and Glastonbury, to the Port Fairy Folk Festival in Australia. Below, Gordie talks about his music life.

Q They call you Gordie 'Crazy Legs' MacKeeman – I've got to ask how did all that start?

A A lot of times in my area of Canada music traditions are handed down through your family. I don’t come from a musical family, I got into music by accident. My brother is a lot older than me, and he went to join a clogging class. He didn’t wind up liking it, but someone suggested that I try, as I was sitting with my mother and tapping my feet. I was six years old at the time, and I have never looked back since. It was something that always came naturally to me. I can’t remember how the nickname Crazylegs got started, but it is a name I have had for many, many years because of my dancing style.

Q You are step dancing and – Canadian 'clogging' – while playing the fiddle in your sets – did you have to learn to be that coordinated or did it come naturally?

A Clogging is a style of dance that crept up to Canada from our US neighbours, then eventually developed its own Canadian spin throughout the years. The style of dance I do is a blend of Canadian clogging and traditional step dance from our area.

In eastern Canada fiddling and dancing go hand in hand. Being a dancer at age six I was always around great fiddle players. I started playing fiddle at age nine. Moving and dancing while I play has always just been a part of me. I think I would struggle to stay still! I definitely feel the music through movement.

Q The styles of music you play – country, "reckless rockabilly" to intricate bluegrass – how did the band settle on that your genres – or did you start out with the music and form the band later. How did you all meet?

A We all were back-up players for different bands in Canada. My roommate, at the time, and I decided to record a traditional fiddling album. From that album we won multiple awards, and were then being asked to play live shows. So we formed our band from that, and we having been touring and playing all over ever since.

We consider ourselves a roots band. That covers a lot of those genres we love. We play music that inspires us and that we like.

Q In one of your videos, you mention you are from Prince Edward Island, I think that is where Anne Of Green Gables lived. What else is the island famous for – I'm guessing music?!

A Yes, one of our claims to fame on the island is Anne of Green Gables. PEI is Canada’s smallest province, but we have an explosive music scene. It’s an amazing place to be musically.

Gordie MacKeeman. Picture: Brady McCloskey
Gordie MacKeeman. Picture: Brady McCloskey

Q What gave you the idea to put together your earlier album Folk For Little Folk for youngsters – are you hoping to inspire a new generation of elastic-legged folk fans?

A I have three wonderful children at home who were a big part of my inspiration. I also have worked as an Early Childhood Educator and Autism Assistant for over 10 years when I’m not on the road. So, this album was something I have wanted to do for years, and the Covid break from touring was the perfect time to complete this. It actually just won a John Lennon Songwriting Award and a Canadian Folk Music Award. My goal for this album is to pass down the folk tradition and hopefully inspire a new generation to fall in love with the music, just as so many great musicians did for me.

Q There are so many great Canadian musicians, do you have special programmes for children over there that give people a good start if they like music?

A I would say culturally Canada works hard at continuing traditions, and this support inspires the next generations. But there are some really great music programmes and music is taught in public schools. Because we have so many great musicians that means we have many amazing music teachers who producing talented students.

Q What do you like about coming to Scotland?

A I love how similar Scotland feels to home. I actually grew up in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. It is definitely easy to tell, while visiting Scotland, why they called it that. There is definitely a feeling of home every time we visit.

Gordie MacKeemam & The Rhythm Boys play Under Canvas at Eden Court on Thursday, July 13 at 4.30pm and 8pm in a double bill with Jack Badcock. TICKETS:

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