For an amazing 23 years now, Maine fiddler/vocalist Erica Brown has been entertaining audiences here in Maine and around New England with her considerable talents. She also fronts a band called The Bluegrass Connection — which will be performing at Jewett Auditorium at 2 p.m. Sunday. For more information, you can call 621-3551, email [email protected] or go online to [email protected] Brown teaches at 317 Maine Street Community Music Center in Yarmouth. She was on a break there when she called to chat about her band, her latest CD and how it all started for her.
BROWN: I started when I was 6 — I started taking Suzuki — and then when I was like 7 or 8 I started expressing interest in French-Canadian fiddle music because that’s my heritage. My mom and dad started asking around and heard about Don Roy. They called him and asked about lessons. When he found out I was 8 he was little bit hesitant, but after my mom explained how serious and interested I was he agreed to do a trial lesson. After that lesson he realized that my mom was right — I was pretty serious about it! So we began weekly lessons, but I had to promise him that I would keep taking classical lessons every week so I could still get the technical stuff because he couldn’t teach me any of that.
Q: How long did you take lessons from him?
BROWN: For two or three years. But at age 9, he invited me to join the Maine Fiddlers — a band that he was involved in at the time — and I played with them from about 9 to 13 years old. We toured all over New England and Canada, and the French Connections Tour took us all the way down through Louisiana. I just learned a lot from everybody, especially Don. So, that’s kind of how it all got started.
Q: Now, who’s in your Bluegrass Connection band?
BROWN: It’s Matt Shipman, he plays guitar and sings; Steve Roy plays mandolin — he plays bass on a couple of tracks on my new CD; Ken Taylor plays bass in my band — he’s also on my CD; and then there’s Read McNamara who plays banjo and dobro on a couple of tracks on that CD, as well.
Q: What number CD is “From Now On”?
BROWN: It is CD number 5.
Q: How do you decide what songs to cover on your albums?
BROWN: There’s no special process when it comes to picking material to record. It’s just what I’ve been listening to. It’s what comes to my mind from when I was a child listening to old country radio and stuff like that.
Q: When it comes to putting a set list together, does having five albums worth of material make it hard to do?
BROWN: Well, you always want to feature songs off your CDs — especially the latest one — and, yeah, after a while you get quite a list of tunes that you can pick from, and sometimes you have so many tunes you can’t think of any (chuckle). But it’s nice to mix it up.
Q: Have you ever played at Jewett Auditorium before?
BROWN: We played there probably two or three years ago now — at the same series.
Q: Just out of curiosity, where did you go to school? Musically speaking, that is.
BROWN: I went to UMA actually for a little while, but I was going there for the Audio Recording program. But then I stumbled upon this teaching job in Yarmouth at 317 Community Music Center. I was teaching private lessons at my home in Lewiston at the time. I’ve been here six or seven years now.
Q: Is there anything, Erica, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this “What’s Happening” article about your upcoming show in Augusta on Sunday?
BROWN: If you’d be willing to throw my website –www.ericabrownonline.com — out there, that would be good. Oh, and I should add that we’re always excited to have people come out and see us. So that’s important, too!
Lucky Clark has spent over four decades writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.