On March 28th, The Quill sat down with BU’s own Maria Cherwick, a third-year music student, to interview her on her up-and-coming folk band and the unique situation it presents for a classically-trained violinist.
The Quill: Tell us about your group and who’s involved.
Maria Cherwick: It’s a band called “Reel Brew.” I play the fiddle.
TQ: Just to clarify, that’s the same instrument as your violin, right?
MC: Yes, a fiddle is the same instrument as a violin, but played in quite a different style. Matthew Zimmerman, who’s also a BU music student, plays guitar and sings. He’s in his fifth year. Tim Stackhouse does bodhrán (an Irish drum) and he sings. He lives in Shilo.
TQ: How long have you been playing?
MC: I’ve been playing fiddle all my life. I started playing in Celtic bands two and a half years ago. I play with another group called Tom Foolery. That’s a group of all music students. We performed at Winter Fest. I met Tim a year later.
TQ: What places has Reel Brew played at?
MC: Lots: Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Winnipeg, Steinbach, Virden, and Brandon, of course. We’ve played for festivals, pubs, and private parties.
TQ: Can you describe the genre of your group?
MC: It’s like traditional Irish music meets Canadian folk styles, as in East Coast. Fiddling is both Canadian and Irish.
TQ: Does any of your group members have Celtic heritage?
MC: Yes, Tim is Irish. He grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick. I am part Ukrainian, part Scottish. I also have family in the East Coast.
TQ: Has having family in the Maritimes influenced your tastes in music at all?
MC: Yeah, definitely. When I visit, I make a point of meeting as many musicians as possible, and learning as much as I can.
TQ: I’m interested in the fact that you’re a classically-trained musician playing in a folk group. Can you elaborate on this?
MC: I think it’s important to explore a variety of genres. In each, the focus is on different things. I find with the things you learn in one genre, there’s always this crossover. What you learn in the one genre can help you in the other. I can make the switch when I’m playing.
TQ: You mentioned two of you are school of music students and one of you isn’t. Does this present any challenges or opportunities for you as a group?
MC: There are times where I’ll start talking about [music] theory with Matt, and Tim will have to stop me. He has a general knowledge of the basics. Matt and I joke that he’s the one who knows all the lyrics.
TQ: And does your approach to the folk material differ than Tim’s, because you are a classically-trained student?
MC: For folk music, I learn a lot by ear. When given something new, Tim’s approach is working out the harmony, when we’re working out the theory. He thinks about the sound combinations. But we find a way to make it work. He trusts us.
TQ: Is there something particular that draws you to traditional folk music?
MC: It’s a lot of fun. You learn to let go, put yourself out there. Celtic fiddle is so free. It’s a lot less stressful than all my music for school, for juries and recitals. It makes me remember why I play music.
TQ: What’s the appeal of traditional genres for the public?
MC: Folk reaches out to a more general audience. It’s more familiar and people feel more comfortable. [It’s] a lot more accessible.
TQ: Where would you like to see Reel Brew go, in terms of exposure?
MC: I’d like to try to do some more touring, in places other than Manitoba and Saskatchewan. More exposure throughout Canada. I’d like us to be more known, but I’m happy to do it for fun.
TQ: Will you be doing a record anytime soon?
MC: We are planning on recording a CD or EP; hopefully this spring or summer.