Ashley MacIsaac


Ashley Dwayne MacIsaac (born February 24, 1975) is a Canadian fiddler, singer and songwriter from Cape Breton Island. He has received three Juno Awards, winning for Best New Solo Artist and Best Roots & Traditional Album – Solo at the Juno Awards of 1996, and for Best Instrumental Artist at the Juno Awards of 1997. His 1995 album Hi™ How Are You Today? was a double-platinum selling Canadian record. MacIsaac published an autobiography, Fiddling with Disaster in 2003.

Ashley MacIsaac
Ashley MacIsaac.jpg
MacIsaac performing at the Burlington Sound of Music festival in 2010. Neil MacIntosh also pictured on drums.
Background information
Birth nameAshley Dwayne MacIsaac
Born (1975-02-24) February 24, 1975 (age 47)
Creignish, Inverness County, Nova Scotia, Canada
GenresCeltic fusion, folk, rock
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
Instrument(s)Fiddle, vocals
Years active1992–present
LabelsA&M, RCA, Decca, Linus, Loggerhead

Life and familyEdit

MacIsaac was born in Creignish, Inverness County, Nova Scotia. His sister Lisa is also a fiddler, who has her own alternative country band, Madison Violet.[1] She also appears on his album Helter's Celtic, which was recorded at Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, Ontario.

His cousins Alexis MacIsaac, Wendy MacIsaac and Natalie MacMaster are also touring fiddlers.[2] He is also a distant cousin of the White Stripes guitarist and lead vocalist Jack White. The two met and MacIsaac opened for the White Stripes concert in Glace Bay in 2007.[3]

In 2007, MacIsaac married Andrew Stokes.[4][5] According to MacIsaac, spoken during his February 25, 2017, concert at Koerner Hall in Toronto, they are now divorced. He lives in Windsor, Ontario.[6]


MacIsaac's album Hi™ How Are You Today?, featuring the hit single "Sleepy Maggie", with vocals in Scottish Gaelic by Mary Jane Lamond was released in 1995. The song peaked at number 13 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart[7] and found minor success in the United States, reaching number two on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100.[8] Hi™ How Are You Today? was a double-platinum selling Canadian record[9] and earned MacIsaac a 1996 Juno in the category Best Roots & Traditional Album – Solo.[10] During his early career, MacIsaac subtly acknowledged his sexual identity, sometimes wearing a set of rainbow flag freedom rings on a neck chain in promotional photos,[11] but avoided explicitly coming out to the press.[11] He officially came out in 1996 after Frank, a Canadian gossip magazine, published a cover story about his sexuality.[12] In 1996, in a Maclean's interview, he claimed that he had discussed his sexual life, including his young boyfriend and a claimed fondness for watersports, in an interview with the LGBT newsmagazine The Advocate.[13][14] The Advocate did not print any of the material,[13] but Maclean's dropped him from its year-end honours list.[15]

In 1996, MacIsaac toured the United States as an opening act for the Chieftains.[16] It was widely reported in the media that another opener, folk singer Nanci Griffith, dropped out of the tour because she objected to MacIsaac's musical style,[16] but Griffith later confirmed in Rolling Stone that her primary conflict was not with MacIsaac's style, but with tour organizers over how much time was available for her after the addition of MacIsaac to the bill.[17] On a 1997 Late Night with Conan O'Brien appearance, his leg kick lifted his kilt high enough that his genitals were visible to the studio audience, although they were blurred out in post-production before the actual broadcast.[18] On that same year he also featured as a guest on Toronto indie rock band Glueleg's final studio album, Clodhopper, specifically on the album's second track, "See Saw Man".[19][20]

In 1998 MacIsaac fought successfully to be independent of his record label.[21] He subsequently signed with the independent label Loggerhead Records for his 1999 album Helter's Celtic. During the promotional tour for that album, he indicated to the press that he had battled an addiction to crack cocaine from 1997 to 1999.[15] In 1999, a journalist for The New Yorker noted MacIsaac's rock-star bravado and eccentricities.[22]

In December 1999, MacIsaac screamed obscenities at a New Year's Eve rave in Halifax; the performance led to cancellations of his concerts across Canada and a "media frenzy over his perceived downward spiral".[23] MacIsaac got into a media spat with his label Loggerhead after the label sent out a press release distancing itself from his actions.[23] Also the same year, MacIsaac told the Halifax Chronicle-Herald that he was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, retracted the statement within a few days, and then actually filed for bankruptcy several months later.[23]

MacIsaac playing at a 2011 Liberal Campaign Rally with Michael Ignatieff.

In 2003, MacIsaac was alleged to have made a racist statement on stage, at a show where he reportedly accused an Asian woman in the audience of spreading SARS. He subsequently stated that the comment was intended as an ironic parody of racism, and sued the Ottawa Citizen for misrepresenting the statement as racist when in fact he was speaking out against racial profiling happening in Canada at the time.[24] In 2005, MacIsaac signed on with Linus Entertainment, forming a rock band with himself on lead vocals and guitar. In 2010, MacIsaac wrote a charity single, "Dreams", to benefit Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, a skier from Ghana who was the first Ghanaian athlete ever to compete in the Winter Olympics.[25] In addition to Matthew Harder of the band House of Doc and Geoffrey Kelly, Vince Ditrich and Tobin Frank of the band Spirit of the West, Nkrumah-Acheampong himself participated in the recording, playing traditional Ghanaian percussion.[25] The single, credited to the Parallel Band, was released to iTunes on February 19, 2010.[25] MacIsaac also performed in the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.[26]

In 2016, MacIsaac co-hosted, with Heather Rankin, the East Coast Music Awards.[9]

Political involvementEdit

MacIsaac has declared an interest in politics and has stated, in a letter to the National Post, that he is studying constitutional law so as to pursue an entry into Canadian federal politics.

In the March 20, 2006, edition of the Halifax Daily News, MacIsaac declared himself a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.[13][27] He denied that his campaign was a publicity stunt,[28] telling the Canadian Press that he fully intended to mount a serious campaign, but on June 21, 2006, he decided to no longer take part in the leadership race.[13] In 2013, he again suggested to the press that he was interested in entering politics, although he did not specify for which political party.[6]

Equipment & playing styleEdit

MacIsaac plays a right-handed fiddle left-handed, most notably allowing it to remain strung right-handed,[29] a highly unusual style of playing. MacIsaac however explained in a 2014 interview for the Celtic Colours Festival that during his first fiddle lesson with Stan Chapman when his father asked if he should change the strings around the other way, Stan said "Well, if you change the strings on your fiddle, you'll never be able to play anyone else's fiddle. So if he's gonna learn that way, learn that way". In the same interview, MacIsaac also elaborated that his unorthodox playing style allows the lower notes to remain on the lower side of the fiddle, and this allows him to go up to the higher notes; he said it "just makes sonic sense" to him to have the strings upside down.[30]



Year Album Chart Positions CRIA
CAN CAN Country US Heat
1992 Close to the Floor 71 10
1993 A Cape Breton Christmas (Ashley MacIsaac and Friends)
1995 Hi™ How Are You Today? 9 20 2× Platinum[9]
1996 Fine®, Thank You Very Much 24
1999 Helter's Celtic
2001 capebretonfiddlemusicNOTCALM (with Howie MacDonald)
2003 Ashley MacIsaac
2004 Live at the Savoy
2005 Fiddle Music 101 (with Dave MacIsaac)
2006 Pride
2008 The Best of Ashley MacIsaac
2011 Crossover
2014 Beautiful Lake Ainslie (with Barbara MacDonald Magone)
2016 FDLER (featuring Ashley MacIsaac and Jay "Sticks" Andrews)


Year Single Chart Positions Album
CAN AC CAN Dance CAN US Adult US Dance US
1995 "The Square Dance Song" (with BKS) 18 Astroplane (BKS album)
"Sleepy Maggie" 42 15 13 29 102 Hi™ How Are You Today?
"The Devil in the Kitchen" 47 53
1997 "Brenda Stubbert"
1998 "Great Divide" (with Bruce Hornsby) 43 33 Spirit Trail (Bruce Hornsby album)


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Musical duo: Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac". Xtra!. June 4, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  2. ^ "MacMaster now has time to fiddle a bit". London Free Press, August 26, 2004.
  3. ^ "Ashley MacIsaac to open for White Stripes". CBC News. June 15, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  4. ^ "Fiddler MacIsaac marries on stage". CBC News. February 18, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  5. ^ "MacIsaac marries sweetheart onstage at music awards". Ottawa Citizen. February 19, 2007. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Musician Ashley MacIsaac hints at political run in Windsor". CBC News. September 23, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  7. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 1898". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  8. ^ "Ashley MacIsaac Chart History (Bubbling Under Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c "Ashley MacIsaac and Heather Rankin announced as hosts for 2016 East Coast Music Awards gala". East Coast Music Awards. November 2, 2015. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  10. ^ "Juno Awards Database". Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Fishbowl living hard for fiddling sensation". Victoria Times-Colonist, September 19, 1995.
  12. ^ "He's baacckk!: Ashley MacIsaac comes clean about the recent chaos on tour and his lifestyle". Kingston Whig-Standard, September 7, 1996.
  13. ^ a b c d ""Ashley MacIsaac". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  14. ^ Fitzgerald, Nicole (March 9, 2007). "MacIsaac No Longer Fiddling Around". Pique News Magazine. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Cracking up"., October 29, 1999.
  16. ^ a b "MacIsaac outlasts Griffith in tour feud". Edmonton Journal, July 16, 1996.
  17. ^ "These Days: Nanci Griffith". Rolling Stone.
  18. ^ "Fiddler MacIsaac bares all on TV". Toronto Star, February 19, 1997.
  19. ^ Sweet, Matthew (March 28, 1997). "Blue Sky on Mars" (PDF). Entertainment. p. 21. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  20. ^ "See Saw Man". YouTube. April 21, 2020. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  21. ^ "MacIsaac is out on his own"., July 13, 1998.
  22. ^ "Sex, Drugs, and Fiddling: Is the Celtic virtuoso Ashley MacIssac Too Wild for Rock and Roll?". December 20, 1999. Archived from the original on May 28, 2006. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  23. ^ a b c "Skirting around"., July 19, 2000.
  24. ^ "MacIsaac sues newspaper over alleged racist label". CBC News. May 13, 2003. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  25. ^ a b c "Ghana's Snow Leopard records Olympic dream song with Canadian fiddler MacIsaac". Canadian Press, February 19, 2010.
  26. ^ "You oughta Juno: What happened to those artists voted most likely to succeed? Part 2 — 1986 – 1999". National Post, David Berry and Rebecca Tucker | March 14, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  27. ^ "Fiddler Ashley MacIsaac pledges to run for Liberal leadership". CBC Arts. March 22, 2006. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  28. ^ "MacIsaac denies leadership bid is a stunt". CTV News. Archived from the original on February 24, 2007. Retrieved April 23, 2009.
  29. ^ Thomson, Ryan J. (2003). Playing Violin and Fiddle Left Handed, p.42. Captain Fiddle. ISBN 9780931877421. "Ashley MaIsaac...plays left handed on a regular right handed violin."
  30. ^ "Ashley MacIsaac". Celtic Colours International Festival. Retrieved March 24, 2021.

External linksEdit

  • Ashley MacIsaac Official website
  • Ashley MacIsaac at IMDb