At a Glance:
-Prince Edward Island-born with Irish Acadian background
-His siblings all sing & play instruments
-Parents were both school principals
-Attended Westisle Composite High & studied archaeology at the Univeristy of Calgary
-Husband to Carolyn & Dad of Molly & Shane
-Coaches basketball and writes plays on the side
-Currently re-reading "The Bank Slate" by Steven Pinker
-Lives in Tracadie Cross & is the choir director at St Bonaventure's Church
-His preschool audiences know him as the "Music Man"
-Has released two children's albums, four traditional music albums, & two gospel albums
Where did your passion for music, storytelling, and entertainment come from?
We grew up in a household full of music. My father, Reg, entertained and my mother, Eileen, organized the rest of us into the semblance of a family choir and drove me to piano lessons weekly. I bought my first accordion at the Crossroads Flea Market while going to university in Calgary and I never looked back!
When it comes to music, what are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about old, washed up, forgotten songs. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to introduce an audience to a ditty they have never heard before and will probably never hear again. Somehow I have been able to turn a ragged collection of "dusty old songs in my head," into a career.
What advice do you have for aspiring entertainers?
I believe that musicians and entertainers should be realistic about their talent. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can truly express yourself. You might call it finding your voice. Artists can get held back professionally by trying to be something they are not. That's one of the hazards of a creative mind. We imagine we are something we are not.
What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?
The late Urban Carmichael once gave me a succinct picture of how the music industry works and I've avoided it ever since. It's a tough life but fulfilling for me to be an independent musician. I certainly don't recommend it to everyone.
Reflecting back, what were some of the most inspiring and exciting moments you've experienced as a musician?
I have experienced a great deal of personal satisfaction as I have introduced more and more of my own songs into my performances. With a repertoire of timeless songs, it is hard to write something that can stand next to a classic. When that transition is seamless, I am thrilled. It's like building a new house and having people compliment you on a great renovation.
Also, my favourite performances with adults are those where you see both tears of laughter and tears of sadness. To be able to write and sing songs that provoke both emotions in the space of one night's performance is rare and so something that I aspire to. With children, I always aim for the belly laugh, the one where it's hard to stop laughing long enough to breath.
Who is one person who's influenced you?
My uncle Ivan Chaisson was always the funniest person I knew when I was a kid visiting the farm. I find myself always trying to be that funny teasing uncle when I work with kids. I have to thank him for his manner, his storytelling, and the great twinkle in his eye over the years.
When did you know you wanted to write your own music?
My first epiphany about the magic of words came when I read a Robert Frost poem called, "Fire and Ice."
A poem like that can teach you more about writing than any degree or diploma.
What do you love about living in Prince Edward Island?
I can't imagine living anywhere but Prince Edward Island. The first story I ever remember was my dad reading about David and Goliath in our children's Bible. PEI is a classic underdog like David. My whole career was built on being outside the popular and the commonplace. The Island and I are like couple of sentimental old timers sitting on a porch, just getting by.
What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?
One of the nicest things anyone ever said about me was when an old lady told her tour guide after one of my shows that I was "like an old soul in new pants." I appreciated her turn of phrase so much that I wrote it into a song.
Tell us about your latest project, "This I Know"
My latest project is a picture book that illustrates a song I wrote after my father died nine years ago. The song and the book is called "This I Know." It is published by Acorn Press and the book will be used as an ongoing fundraiser for the PEI chapter of Hospice. The experience of his death was the last gift he gave me as a father, a spiritual gift. The song attempts to capture that gift in words. The illustrations are beautiful expressions of light and hope. They are the work of a friend in Newfoundland, Joanne Snook-Hans, who is an accomplished illustrator of children's books and magazines.
What's in-store for you in the coming months?
The summer months mean it's back to Avonlea Village in Cavendish for daytime shows! At 11:00am there's a children's show called "Lively Songs for Little People" and at 2:00pm there's a show of Traditional and Maritime music with Leon Gallant. I have Ceilidhs in Malpeque on Wednesday nights and in Stanley Bridge on Thursday nights.
Want to book Mike the Music Man? You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info and for bookings!