The music of Prince Edward Island folk trio Ten Strings and a Goat Skin owes as much to traditional Acadian music as it does the world of folk music.
So it’s no surprise that the group has found an audience in a region that embraces musical diversity.
With two full-length records to their credit – Tri and Corbeau – the group has earned numerous industry awards on regional levels while also picking up nominations on a national level.
Composed of siblings Rowen and Caleb Gallant along with their friend Jesse Periard, the group was brought together around 2008 by a fundraising concert held in Rustico, P.E.I. Since that debut performance, the group hasn’t looked back, earning fans the world over thanks to their infectious mix of music that the public can readily identify with.
Ten Strings and a Goat Skin member Rowen Gallant says there is little doubt that the DNA of Atlantic Canadian music can be heard in their songs.
“The music that has influenced us is definitely a by-product of where we are from,” he says. “I feel that traditional music holds a very special place in the minds of many Atlantic Canadians who see it as a sort of cultural identity.
“I believe that those who pick up traditional music early in their lives are usually influenced by family members that have a background in the music, while those who pick it up later in life are usually looking to reconnect with their heritage or ancestry. That being said, it is also a medium of self-expression, which we particularly like exploring. For the most part, when we interpret or write music, we do so because we like the sound of something, not because a certain method or sound is an inherent part of the tradition. Of course, we never fully disregard the history of the music either.”
Rowen says that while the band may have made their English-Acadian roots more distinct in the past, he sees those two worlds coming together more and more in their music.
“The influence of anglophone, Franco-Canadian and Acadian music has always been in our blood, but I don’t feel they are quite as distinct now as they might have been at one time. Although they have essentially formed the basis of our sound, we have blended these worlds together to make what I feel is our distinct sound.”
Their willingness to embrace the music and traditions of the past no doubt factored in to the band being invited to perform at the influential Folk Alliance International music festival, held last month in Kansas City.
Rowen says that while the group enjoys performing their music wherever they are given the chance, showcase opportunities at events like Folk Alliance afford them the chance to mix the business of being in a band with the pleasure of making music together.
As opposed to the many public events offered by a festival like the East Coast Music Awards, Rowen says that Folk Alliance is mostly geared towards the industry side of the business.
“From a business standpoint, Folk Alliance went really well. We had the opportunity to make a lot of new connections with people with whom we are excited to potentially work with.
“On a musical level, however, each of us found the real magic of the week stemmed from having met and befriended such a wide array of artists. We saw a lot of younger bands and musicians doing absolutely amazing things with traditional sounds and music. It ends being inspirational in a lot of ways. It is safe to say there was a solidarity that has emerged amongst us by the time that the weekend wrapped up.”
Rowen says that at the present time, music is only a part-time venture for the members of Ten Strings and a Goat Skin. While he serves as an apprentice to a Charlottetown-based luthier, his brother Caleb is studying music business in Nova Scotia, and Jesse is undertaking studies at the Holland College School of Performing Arts.
There will come a time in the not too distant future for the group where music is a full-time thing for each of the members. With tours and shows planned for Western Canada, the United States and Europe later this year, Rowen says that the group also plans to enter the recording studio to begin work on their next full-length effort.
“So far, the summer is packed with great festivals and shows across North America and Europe,” he says. “Come autumn, we will be making our first foray into year-round professional musicianship. It’s a little daunting to consider, but we are pretty confident that we will, at the very least, have a couple of good stories to tell by the time that 2015 wraps up.”
What: Ten Strings and a Goat Skin
When: Saturday Mar. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Empress Theatre, Robinson Court, Downtown Moncton