At four years old, Jocelyn Pettit heard Natalie MacMaster's fiery Cape Breton fiddling at a folk music festival in B.C. She explains, "The energy and drive of the music had a powerful impact on me! The music was so much fun that I wanted to play it too. I haven't looked back since I started playing fiddle at the age of eight."
Strong Roots (Profiles in Canadian Roots Music): Jocelyn Pettit
I talk to Jocelyn Pettit about her passion for fiddle traditions from around the world, how she creates new music and her love of sharing music with others.
The roots of her music lay in Cape Breton and Scottish style fiddling, as well as in Irish traditional fiddling. Jocelyn says, "I love learning about different styles of fiddle playing, and exploring music from the Celtic nations, from both traditional and contemporary composers. My band and I were in Brittany, France a few years ago, and it was so fascinating to learn about the traditional music and dance of the region. I love arranging medleys with these traditions, and I enjoy writing music of my own inspired by them."
Many of Jocelyn's pieces are inspired by her surroundings and experiences. She points out, "There's a piece on my first album called Shades of Mist. It was inspired by being on the road and driving through the mist of the Coast Mountains here in B.C. Once an idea has sparked, I build on it and it continues to grow until it becomes a full tune."
Her music is a balance between her own compositions, and traditional and contemporary tunes. Jocelyn says, "I love all of the intricacies of ornamentation and bowing in the traditional music and I incorporate that into my own tunes.”
The band with which Jocelyn performs is comprised of two fiddles, piano, percussion, guitar, low whistle, vocals, Québécois podorythmie, and Cape Breton stepdancing. She says, "My family makes up part of the band. My mom, Siew, plays piano and fiddle, and my dad, Joel, plays percussion. Two talented friends, Colm MacCárthaigh and Erik Musseau, play guitar and whistle with us as much as possible. Music was a part of growing up and it was always a family activity. Practicing was never something that felt like work to me. It was just playing and having fun!"
The life of an independent musician also brings its challenges for Jocelyn. She elaborates, "This is an exciting time with band and music development, as well as building a team to gain more expertise in management and business. As an independent artist, it is a juggle balancing the creative, performance, and the management aspects of my career. Huge time and effort is required in order to make opportunities happen."
She adds, "My latest album, Caravan, is self-produced, and we are honoured that it has been nominated for a 2016 Canadian Folk Music Award! This was a very special project, involving a wonderful team of musicians and studio engineers, and I’m so excited for people to hear it.”
Canada's folk music scene is going strong and full of positive things in Jocelyn's view. She says, “I think it's so great that there are organizations like the Canadian Folk Music Awards to recognize and promote folk and roots music in Canada. There are wonderful festivals, venues, radio stations, community groups, and individuals who are doing excellent things to spread the music far and wide.”
She adds, “At the same time, I’d love to see greater media investment and more widespread coverage of roots and traditional music, more people going out to shows, and more people picking up instruments, and having kitchen parties and community music gatherings.”
Teaching music is something that Jocelyn finds rewarding. She says,"I love seeing people of all ages take up the fiddle and enjoy playing music. I'm currently teaching at music schools in Squamish and Vancouver B.C., as well as teaching at various camps and workshops.”
The next year is full of touring and other engagements for her. Jocelyn explains, “I’m very excited about the projects I have on the go, and what is to come! Shows are lined up over the next several months in Washington, Oregon, B.C., and Ontario. The band and I will be headed to Toronto in early December to perform at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, and I’ll be doing a Celtic Yuletide Tour with Seattle-based group, Magical Strings, from late November through until Christmas. An exciting year of performing is coming up in 2017, including a return to Europe for several festivals.”
More broadly, she wants to continue writing more music, collaborating with other musicians, and teaching. She adds, "I'm planning my next album. I'm in the writing stages for it now.”
Seeing people having fun and enjoying themselves is important for Jocelyn. She continues, "Sharing music with others means a lot to me, and I strive to create melodies that are engaging and memorable - that will connect with people in some way, whether it’s a lively tune to get the feet going, or a more soulful and reflective piece. I’m so happy and grateful to be making music my profession, traveling the world doing what I love, and meeting so many wonderful and supportive people along the way."
To learn more about Jocelyn and her music, please visit her website here.
This profile is based on a telephone interview with Jocelyn Pettit conducted and recorded on Nov. 1, 2016.