Lily McCabe is another young artist who was drawn from far afield to Ashland, Oregon, from upstate New York, where she works as a professional musician and also owns Hilltop Music, the Phoenix-based musical instrument store that used to be Fretwell Music. I caught up with McCabe to talk about her art — past, present and future.
JG: Lily, What series of events brought you to professional musicianship?
LM: I grew up in a music-loving and musically talented family. When I was 7, my mother asked me if I wanted to learn to play the fiddle like Alison Krauss. I said “sure!” and so it began. I studied classical violin with a private teacher for 10 years. Fortunately, she encouraged my exploration of other genres as well, and I did make it to the occasional jam session or festival while I was growing up. After I stopped taking lessons, I did sometimes play in public with various groups, but it wasn’t until 2010 when I moved to the West Coast that I really began to develop as a professional musician, playing all different styles with various artists.
JG:Tell us about your growth as an artist in the Rogue Valley.
LM: I have only lived in the Rogue Valley a little over two years, and much of my time and energy has gone into developing Hilltop Music Shop with my fiance Wayne Cameron, which started in Ashland and is now located just up the road in Phoenix. However, in the time that I have lived here, I’ve been occasionally performing with several different local groups, including bluegrass band 33 String Drive; my trio with Wayne Cameron and Samantha Cathcart (which has yet to be named); Conrad Johnson and several others. I am currently trying to improve my theoretical knowledge and improvisational skills by taking jazz lessons with Bil Leonhart, and I am also teaching violin/fiddle lessons at my shop.
JG: Do you have any particular musical periods and composers that you especially love or feel have influenced you?
LM: I would say that rather than musical periods, specific genres and artists have inspired me. While classical music gave me a wonderful foundation and I still love it, my first loves are really Celtic, bluegrass, folk, and all kinds of world music. In recent years, I have been delving a bit into jazz and loving it. Some of my favorite artists are Alison Krauss (obviously), Mark O’Connor, Natalie MacMaster, Liz Carroll, Solas, Gillian Welch, Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny, Joe Venuti, Stephane Grapelli and so many more. I have a very broad palate of musical tastes!
JG: What projects do you have upcoming that you'd like the community to know about?
LM: My bluegrass band, 33 String Drive, is always working on new material. You can follow us on Facebook or our website to stay up to date on new performances. Wayne Cameron and I are excited about getting back into performing together and also working on new material after a long hiatus. We are called Swift Pony. I think I will also be singing and playing some jazz pretty soon once a month or so at Martino’s with another group. And of course, Hilltop Music Shop is the ongoing project; we feel it's the best music store for used, vintage and rare music gear in southern Oregon, if not the whole state. And, we host live music shows there too, so there's something for everyone!
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.