Ashley Dwayne MacIsaac (born February 24, 1975 in Creignish, Nova Scotia) is a Canadian professional fiddler from Cape Breton Island.
While MacIsaac's fiddle-playing is traditional, he often sets it in contemporary rock songs with hip hop and dance elements. He has, however, also released several albums of more traditional folk music. Unlike most other violinists who are left-handed, he actually plays the fiddle right-handed. His major mainstream success in Canada was his 1995 album Hi? How Are You Today?, featuring the hit single "Sleepy Maggie", with vocals in Scottish Gaelic by Mary Jane Lamond. MacIsaac published an autobiography, Fiddling with Disaster in 2003.
MacIsaac's sister Lisa is also a touring fiddler and appears on his album Helter's Celtic. His cousins Alexis MacIsaac, Wendy MacIsaac and Natalie MacMaster are also touring fiddlers. Ashley MacIsaac is a distant cousin of The White Stripes guitarist and lead vocalist Jack White. The two met and MacIsaac opened for The White Stripes concert in Glace Bay.
MacIsaac has sometimes been a controversial figure. In 1999, a journalist for The New Yorker noted his rock-star bravado and eccentricities. In 1996, in a Maclean's interview, he explained he had discussed his sexual life, including his younger boyfriend and his enjoyment of kinky sex acts in an interview with the LGBT newsmagazine The Advocate. The Advocate did not print any of the material, but Maclean's dropped him from its year-end honours list, and instead wrote a disparaging article on him. On a 1997 Late Night with Conan O'Brien appearance his leg kick lifted his kilt high enough that his genitals were visible to the studio and television audience. MacIsaac stated it was unintentional.
Also in 1997, MacIsaac toured the United States as an opening act for The Chieftains. It was widely reported in the media that another opener, folk singer Nanci Griffith, dropped out of the tour because she objected to MacIsaac's musical style. Griffith confirmed in Rolling Stone that her primary conflict was with tour organizers over how much time was available for her after the addition of MacIsaac to the bill.
In 1998 MacIsaac fought successfully to be independent of his record label. He subsequently signed with the independent label Loggerhead Records for his 1999 album Helter's Celtic. During the promotional tour for that album, he indicated to the press that he had battled an addiction to crack cocaine from 1997?1999.
In December 1999, MacIsaac, now known for his onstage antics, reportedly screamed obscenities at a New Year's Eve rave in Halifax, the performance led to cancellations of concerts across Canada and a "media frenzy over his perceived downward spiral". MacIsaac got into a media spat with his label Loggerhead after the label sent out a press release distancing itself from his actions. Also the same year, MacIsaac told the Halifax Chronicle-Herald that he was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, retracted the statement within a few days, and then actually filed for bankruptcy several months later.
In 2003, MacIsaac was alleged to have made a racist statement on stage, at a show where he reportedly accused an Asian woman in the audience of spreading SARS. He subsequently stated that the comment was intended as an ironic parody of racism, and sued the Ottawa Citizen for misrepresenting the statement as racist when in fact he was speaking out against racial profiling happening in Canada at the time.
In 2005, MacIsaac pursued a new direction, after signing on with Linus Entertainment (home to Gordon Lightfoot and Ron Sexsmith) forming a rock band with himself on lead vocals and guitar. He has declared an interest in politics and has stated, in a letter to the National Post, that he is studying constitutional law so as to pursue an entry into Canadian federal politics.
In the March 20, 2006, edition of the Halifax Daily News, MacIsaac declared himself a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. MacIsaac denied that his campaign was a publicity stunt, telling the Canadian Press that he fully intended to mount a serious campaign, but on June 21, 2006, he decided to no longer take part in the leadership race.
MacIsaac is currently auctioning off 50% of all his future earnings on eBay. As of July 1, 2008, the highest bid was $1.5 million.
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