I interviewed Jonny Hardie at Don Quixote's in Felton on June 9th, 2010. Jonny plays fiddle and guitar and sings for Old Blind Dogs. Jonny is delightful, very approachable, and so fun to talk with.
Paul Edwards, Celtic Society of the Monterey Bay
How did you get started in music?
Well, music has always been in my home and in the family. You know, my mother's a musician and piano teacher. She taught harmony and counterpoint. She's a very talented lady, and she probably would have been an amazing piano player had she not had very small hands, so she went more to teaching. So, we were exposed to music, you know, from an early age, and we always did a lot of singing. It was just part of the family. My sister plays the fiddle as well, my older sister Ruth.
I never really played any traditional music early on. There wasn't any opportunity to do that when I was growing up. There just wasn't any in the school curriculum, and there wasn't the social opportunity either when I was growing up. There were piper groups, but I wasn't a piper. Anyway, I really didn't start to get into traditional music until I left school and went to study music. I started to listen to a lot of traditional stuff, and I loved it. It grabbed me — just the accessibility of it; and just realizing the power and the drive of it; the atmosphere it creates and what it does to human beings and how important it is to human beings. It's just a necessity as far as I'm concerned.
The great thing now is that in Scotland the amount of fiddle players now playing at a high level has increased since I was in my early twenties not ten-fold, but a hundred-fold. We have a degree course in traditional music in Scotland, and we have a tremendous interest in the education of it. I honestly couldn't have imagined it would be such an overwhelming tidal wave of interest in such a short period of time.
How can you possibly consider a day of your life without there being music in it? It's just a part of being alive to express ourselves in a song or tune. I grew up in the Eighties. It was all about saving up your paper route money to go buy a record, or whoever could afford a record, you'd go to their house and listen to it together and you'd learn all the words and guitar riffs together.
What would be great things to see in Aberdeen, your home town?
The history of the town is quite incredible. My real passion apart from music is history, local history, British and Scottish history (how it all fits together), and social history (trying to get inside the heads of people and how they used to live).
Aberdeen is not on the map as one of the great cultural centers of the country, but if you go to the old town, the cathedral, and all around, you can go into these old parts of town and they're quite stunning places to wander around in. There's also the beach and the ocean, which have played such a part in the history of the town. It's always been quite a wealthy city. Now it is the oil capitol of Northern Europe.
There is a tremendous amount of Pictish history. Romans never got that far. The Vikings didn't raid there much. It's a very stable environment, which is amazing. There are beautiful hills to climb, there are stone circles, and there are medieval fortresses. We've got some of the best castles you will ever see.
Oh and of course, another thing I really must add about Aberdeen: we have a unique dialect in the Northeast of Scotland, and a tremendous song tradition; of song collecting and perpetuating the stories given by ear. The language is called Doric, which is quite different from Southern Scottish. It is related to Sixteen Century Old English, Flemish, and Danish. It's a unique part of our culture and a lot of the songs we sing are from that culture and sung in that language.
And Aberdeen has some good bars as well.
How about sessions?
Yes!! There are a couple of really good sessions regularly in a couple of bars.