Each month GoGirlsMusic.com spotlights an artist or band from its community, asking a series of questions. This month we feature Cady Finlayson. New Age Voice Magazine says, “Cady Finlayson is one of America’s top Celtic fiddlers, expressing a level of soulfulness not commonly heard.” Enjoy!
Music and fiddle playing has always been my “voice”— I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s a connection that comes from deep inside, even when I try to ignore it! I was the kid in preschool singing through every activity. Even at age three, I knew music was my calling. Good thing I listened to this inner voice, because my high school career assessment suggested “pest control”!
Describe your music style and name three musicians you have been inspired by and why.
My music style is “Spirited Irish Music with a Global Twist.” We blend traditional Irish fiddle tunes (the dance music of Ireland) with American folk and world music influences.
Three musicians who’ve inspired me are:
1. John Carty, an Irish fiddle and banjo player who creates tune variations that sound both traditional and inventive
2. Youssou N’Dour, for his beautiful live show and soulful delivery.
3. Dolly Parton, for her incredible melodies, charisma, kick-ass live show, and remarkable business sense.
What’s your ideal venue atmosphere?
I love beautiful venues—with great sound and gorgeous lighting—but the audience really makes the venue. Some of my nicest shows have been in places where people are truly touched by the music, and this can happen anywhere. I’ve played concert halls, parks, parades, and even a car rental lot in Brooklyn. Every venue has its moments!
Describe how your music career has evolved since you first started performing.
I studied classical music for many years, but the first time I heard Irish fiddle playing, I was hooked. I traveled to Limerick, Ireland to study with some of the fiddle greats and have been going full-force with Irish music since.
How would you describe the music scene in your area?
I live near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where they host summer concerts with musicians from all over the world. It’s so inspiring to walk down the block and hear world-class artists playing all kinds of music styles. Brooklyn has a vibrant music scene and there are many great Irish music sessions throughout New York City!
What was the inspiration for your latest release?
My latest CD, Electric Green (with guitarist Vita Tanga) came about because of a GoGirls show we did at a bar called Otto’s Shrunken Head. Vita had his electric guitar and wah pedal so we tried something new. It clicked.
The Electric Green title refers to the electric Irish sounds, and that special electricity that happens when the audience is there with you.
My first fiddle CD, Shines Like Silver, happened organically, without a lot of planning. It feels very innocent now. My third CD, Irish Coffee, was well-planned and quick. I think you need both. You save time by being ultra-prepared. Practice with a click and know exactly what you want to achieve in the studio. I was lucky to have an experienced engineer and percussionist, Jim Roberts, co-produce my first 3 fiddle CDs. He had expertise and a willingness to experiment creatively. After all the planning, leave room to play and be open to ideas that come up in the moment!
What makes or breaks a musician just starting out in your opinion?
The willingness to keep learning/growing and trying new things, both musically and business-wise. There’s a balance between listening to your own voice and being open to learning from the experience of others. That’s why a community like GoGirls is so important. You need to be in the driver’s seat but you don’t have to go it alone.
Describe your toughest moments in your quest for a music career and tell us how you overcame them.
I worked closely with a guitarist (Elkin Brown) who passed away unexpectedly. We’d recorded three CDs and had big plans for touring together. Even more important, he encouraged my music writing and we had incredible musical chemistry from day one. I have a painting he made of me playing the violin. It celebrated that I was forging my own musical path and breaking away from restraints of the traditional Irish music scene. Looking at that painting reminds me to keep following my individual path with courage. I’ve also learned that every musician you play with brings something new to the table. Their playing becomes part of your playing, too. It stays with you.
Go back to what drew you to music in the first place. The business side can be tough. Know this and continue to remind yourself why you do what you do. Go to inspiring concerts, play for people who get excited by your music, and collaborate with other artists. Listen to your inner voice, recognize that carving out a career/life balance is different for everyone, and enjoy the process. Remember, music is a gift!
Tell us something you want the music world to know about you.
I’m currently planning a big production – a show with lights, Irish dancers, costumes, the whole shebang. We plan to kick it off in New York City next year.
What have you gotten out of being a member of the GoGirls community?
My first experience with GoGirls was at a Folk Alliance Conference. It’s such a huge conference and having a community of people to meet and support each other made me feel very welcome. Madalyn has a way of bringing people together. It’s also a great network for resources. GoGirls’ community wants you to be your personal best – and that’s invaluable.
Connect with Cady Finlayson at: