For more than 15 years, Great Big Sea have been fusing modern pop with the traditional English, Scottish and Irish sounds of their native Newfoundland. So it's only fitting that they play a Saint Patrick's Day show March 17 at the Majestic Theatre.
Last week, I talked by phone with Great Big Sea fiddler Bob Hallett about the band's unique sound.
Growing up, did you listen to traditional music more than pop?
In the world we grew up in, traditional music was pop music. It hadn't been poked into a corner and turned into a separate thing. Folk music in North America can carry with it certain rituals. You've got to wear the right costume or go to the right festival. In Newfoundland, traditional music is played on the radio. If you go to see music, it's what the local bands play.
Do U.S. audiences react to your music differently than your fans in Canada?
In Canada, we have a patriotic appeal. We sing very Canadian songs about very Canadian things. It's the way Americans see Mellencamp as standing with the average person. But first and foremost, live music has to be entertaining, and that appeals to anyone.
The ocean looms large in your music. How would you describe the effect it has on the way your music sounds?
In Newfoundland, the ocean is scary. People don't swim or play in it the way they might in Florida. We have a love/hate relationship with the ocean. You can hear that in the irony of our music. The melody is often light and frothy, but the lyrics are dark and twisted.
How is the experience of being in Great Big Sea different now than it was in the 1990s?
When we first started it was all about momentum. It was about getting in the paper, getting played on the radio, selling CDs or being on a TV show. We were completely driven to take it to the next level. Now the important thing is playing in front of other people. That's what we enjoy most.