Madison Violet; Barnoldswick Music & Arts Centre

The song-writers of Madison Violet follow their muse no matter the cracks in the road: it's why there's a striking honesty to their music.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 2:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 8:30 pm
Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, AKA Madison Violet, are performing in Barnoldswick next month. (s)
Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, AKA Madison Violet, are performing in Barnoldswick next month. (s)

This cathartic truthfulness is cocooned in a blend of genres: indie; folk; blue-grass and old country.

Through their songs, Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac throw light into the deepest caverns of reality.

“The unfortunate part is we’re mended by the muse,” said Brenley. “There’s been a number of deaths in our lives. We’ve lost people so tragically: 10 years ago my brother Stevie was murdered and then my niece was killed. Song-writing is the only way to tell my own story.”

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It’s a means, it seems, to validate their feelings and make sense of the world - a compulsion, something as organic and necessary as breathing.

“With song-writing, there’s this feeling I can’t even explain,” the singer added. “When thinking about the deaths I’ve had to endure, being creative becomes the only way [to process them].”

Loss dominates their songs not only in the form of death: they’re also conscious of “losing people to mental health.”

As Brenley said: “Sometimes people disappear from themselves.”

So, in the spirit of togetherness, the tracks brim with a soul-soothing quality: vocal harmonies lapping soft guitar rhythms. This isn’t escapist music: the layers of gentleness envelope the truth like a salve.

“We try to write songs that inspire people to wake up in the morning and keep plugging away,” Brenley added. “In all the sadness we write about, there’s hope at the end. There’ll always be sadness but [our songs say] we can do this and stick it out together.”

And it’s clear their searing honesty about the impact of death and loss, told through a prism of music, has resonated with audiences, lighting and refuelling hearts and minds.

“A fan brought her mother who had just lost her partner to a show,” said Brenley. “Hearing on stage about the ones we’ve lost made her realise people have to keep going.”

The intimacy of live shows, the singer realises, can amplify the healing power of music.

“One of the reasons we love to perform live is that when you buy a record and put it on you might not find the story in it,” she said, “because you’re doing something else at the same time but at a live show you’re just there listening. You won’t be doing anything like your taxes in the moment.

“We tell a lot of stories from the road, about where the songs came from and the inspiration behind them.”

And no doubt a duo that’s been performing for 17 years has immeasurable chemistry.

“When there’s just the two of us, if Lisa goes in a direction that differs from the night before, I follow,” Brenley said. “We’re in tune with each other. With a band, you can hide behind the base and drums - but it’s fun to have a party on stage and play off one another.”

The fluidity of their performances follows on from a meandering of influences. Growing up, Brenley inherited from her parents a love of “old country”, like Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Pride and Freddy Fender, mixed in with Elvis, the Bee Gees and The Beach Boys. She then discovered Neil Young at 13 and Britpop at university. Meanwhile, Lisa’s parents were both well-known fiddlers and she grew up on a diet of East Coast folk like John Allan Cameron.

Over the years, Brenley’s lists of influences has increased: Fr John Misty; Bryan Adams; Ane Brun; Mother Mother; Arcade Fire; and Jan Grant. This fleet of song-writers has no doubt helped to sharpen their story-telling talents: The Ransom, a track about disillusionment early in a musician’s career, was even named Song of the Year 2009 in The John Lennon Song-writing Contest.

“It felt pretty incredible,” said Brenley. “We were the first Canadians to win it. We’d never entered a song-writing competition before - it goes against our belief of pitting songs against each other.

“But to know Elton John listened to it [and picked it] makes us feel maybe they got it: all these artists started somewhere.”

It’s not surprising their style - an equilibrium of dark honesty and uplifting harmonies - has caught the eyes of the industry’s biggest names.

And the story behind their band name captures it all.

“Down in New Mexico, at a hot springs camp near where a load of extraterrestrial activity was reported,” Brenley said, “we met a woman named Violet who had this oddness [about her]. It was such a mad experience. So we called ourselves Mad Violet but people didn’t understand it so we extended it to Madison.”

After all, these quirky and people-orientated story-tellers, realistic about life while celebratory of its strangeness, pin down the harsh truth of human experience then filter and splinter it out through a prism of light.

The pair will perform on Tuesday, May 2nd at Barnoldswick Music & Arts Centre, 18-22 Rainhall Road.

For tickets (£15 each) please call 01282 813374 or 0771 262 8366 or visit