Over barely five years, the four members of Rising Gael have made a name for themselves around Wisconsin and beyond. Fusing new and old Celtic styles, Peter Tissot, Jeff Olson Katie Dionne, and Erin Ellison have integrated the guitar, fiddle, drums, vocals, other instruments to create rich and varied arrangements on their three albums. The band is the winner of a Madison Area Music Award for Best World Album, and is nominated for five MAMAs this year. The quartet was also recently featured in an Isthmus cover story, which detailed the group's origins, approach towards its music, and rigorous touring schedule, which includes Celtic festivals nationwide.
Rising Gael is on tour in Indiana for St. Patrick's Day, but will be performing around Wisconsin both before and afterhand. The Daily Page queried the group about its plans for the holiday and all things Kelly green. Here's what band member Erin Ellison had to say.
What are your St. Patrick's Day plans?
Luckily, we're pretty busy this St. Patrick's Day! Because Peter, our guitar player, is attending school in Texas, we try to pack in as many shows as possible when he returns for spring break, which luckily happened to coincide with St. Patrick's Day this year!
We have nine appearances in seven days, so it should be a wild week! We're starting with two shows in Milwaukee, traveling to Fond du Lac, and then returning to Madison to record a Live at Studio M session. On the 17th, we're playing at an Irish pub in West Lafayette, Indiana, which is always a blast! To finish out the week, we're playing a show at Claddagh Irish Pub in Middleton on the 18th, and then two shows in New London, Wisconsin.
How is the St. Patrick's Day crowd different from those at other shows?
It's always fun to play for a St. Patrick's day crowd because the people who turn out always have one goal in mind: to have a really, really good time! As a musician, it adds a lot of energy to a show when your audience is dancing, singing along, and enjoying themselves in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day. Also, these folks might not have heard our music before, so it's always nice to share a few tunes with new people.
What is your favorite St. Patrick's Day memory?
There's a pub in Waterloo, Iowa named Jameson's Public House. They let us play music and Irish step dance on top of their bar, which always fires up the crowd -- and is really fun for us, too!
Do you have any St. Patrick's Day traditions?
Other than playing music together, we don't really have any "traditions" so to speak.
How did you get started in Irish music? Katie, Jeff and I all met through the Trinity Irish Dance Academy. As Irish dancers, we were surrounded by traditional Irish music and that's really what catalyzed our interest. Jeff knew Peter -- who was initially trained as a jazz guitarist -- through high school. Somehow we managed to rope Peter into playing with us and the rest is history!
What do you think is the allure of bagpipers? Why are we so fascinated by kilts and plaid?
The pipes are loud, flashy, exciting, and I think for many people, the pipes harken back to a Celtic heritage that many individuals try to reconnect with on St. Patrick's day, or at other Celtic/Irish/Scottish festivals. I know that when Jeff, who also plays the highland bagpipes in our band, fires up a fast-paced tune, the crowd goes wild!