Putnam family band reaches milestone 

'We love putting smiles on people’s faces’ 

For anyone who loves Cape-Breton-style fiddle music with a twist, played by a mainlander, take note! Alycia Putnam & Family, a band which originated in Brookfield and has something for everyone, recently reached the 20-year milestone. 

From left, Kelly Putnam, Alycia Putnam and Robert Putnam, of the Alycia Putnam and Family band, are shown playing at the Old Triangle in Halifax. 

The band includes Alycia playing the fiddle and step dancing, her father Robert Putnam playing the guitar and her mother Kelly playing the bagpipes. 

Since her performing career took off in the late 1990s, Alycia has amassed a network of artists she regularly adds to her live performances. Her core family band can be expanded to feature percussion, bass, vocals, banjo and mandolin. Alycia’s younger sister Janelle, who also dabbles with instruments, makes occasional guest appearances. 

“I don’t think we ever thought about making it 20 years together as a band,” Alycia said. “It has basically been a way of life. The gigs all start to blur together, but the fun we have never changes. I am very fortunate to have such a great support system, a family that loves to play music as much, if not more than I do. I can barely keep up with them sometimes.” 

For many years, the band maintained 100-plus shows annually. “Over the years, Alycia has managed the majority of client relationships,” Robert said. “She leaves travel and logistic details to her parents.” 

The family has performed at a wide range of venues including the Marigold Cultural Centre in Truro, the deCoste Centre in Pictou, Louisburg Playhouse in Cape Breton, Wentworth Ski Hill, the Gathering of the Clans Canada Day Celebrations in Pugwash, Fox Harb’r and numerous festivals, weddings and corporate events. In Halifax, they appear at the Old Triangle monthly. Music has provided the opportunity for the Putnam family to meet amazing international musicians and has exposed the group to many new experiences. 

“It has taken us to corporate conventions in Halifax, Fox Harb’r and New Brunswick,” Robert said. “Quite the thing for a kid. The deCoste Centre in Pictou has been a big influence on Alycia’s career. Thanks to John Meir, as well as Darlene, Dave, Al and Troy, we have been given the opportunity to share our music and the stage with many great musicians and promoters.” 

Inspired at the age of nine when she saw Natalie MacMaster in concert, Alycia began working on a deep repertoire of foot-stompin’ tunes. The result of this dedication has been three solo recordings and thousands of live performances. 

Alycia’s most recent album, Wired for Sound, includes 13 tracks of traditional to more eclectic fiddle music and the immense talent of 10 of the province’s most well known musicians. 

Celtic Life International had this to say about the album. “An engaging and entertaining selection from one of North America’s finest young ddlers. Wired for Sound captures and conveys the Celtic Heart with great creative charm.” 

The family’s love of performing resonates with audiences. “We love putting smiles on people’s faces and it becomes more than just music. I’m not a perfect player – it is much more important to me that we have fun and bring the audience along for the ride.” 

Alycia said there’s no fighting over the microphone. “There’s no arguing over who gets to talk, but more so – who has to talk. For a group that loves performing as much as we do, all our band members are quite microphone shy.” 

Robert, an outstanding former athlete who starred for the 1980 Canadian Senior Fastball Championship winning Brookfield Elks, says they have their lighter moments. 

“At least once a year someone will come to me after a show and say, ‘you must be thrilled to play with your two daughters on stage.’ Kelly gets a kick out of that. I’ve also been asked on occasion; ‘do you know the Robert Putnam who pitched for Brookfield Elks’ or 'are you Robert Putnam who pitched for the Elks?’ I think to myself, yeah, I used to be someone once.” 

When Alycia began taking lessons 20 years ago from local musician Gordon Tucker, her father agreed to pay for the lessons as long as she practiced. “She never paid for a lesson,” Robert said. 

Fun, unquestionably has a lot to do with their longevity. 

“We’re so lucky to be able to play music so long as a family,” Kelly said. “People have asked if we get tired, you’re rarely tired when you’re having this much fun.”

- Lyle Carter
Truro Daily News (November 29, 2016)

Land and Sea - CBC Newfoundland & Labrador: Visions of Vineyards 

We have enjoyed performing (and tasting wine) at Jost Vineyards for a number of years. This past summer, we were happy to be a part of the CBC Land and Sea episode, Visions of Vineyards, that tells the story of Carl and Donna Sparkes' passion for the wine industry. Click here to watch the episode.

Carl Sparkes has always had an appreciation for anything that comes from the soil. 

His dad was a vegetable farmer in Bay Roberts.  Now, after years climbing the corporate ladder in the Canadian food processing industry, Carl and his wife Donna are getting back to their roots. 
Not root vegetables, though. The Sparkes' are growing grapes in Nova Scotia and have visions of vineyards in Newfoundland too. Cheers!

Land and Sea - CBC Newfoundland & Labrador: Visions of Vineyards (March 1, 2015)


Supper, music fundraiser this weekend for Truro legion band 

TRURO – A fundraiser for the Colchester Legion Pipes and Drums band will be held this weekend.

On Saturday, a turkey supper will be held at the Royal Canadian Legion on Brunswick Street in Truro. The meal will be held between 4:30 and 6 p.m. and cost $12 per person. Musical entertainment will also be provided by Alycia Putnam.

The fundraiser is to assist with the cost of the pipes and drums band’s trip to Holland in 2015.

Truro Daily News (November 10, 2014)

Recording with the Saunders Brothers Show 

Alycia recently recorded with the Saunders Brothers Show on Dumping Day - the first track released from their new album.

Please support this local group by buying the song here.

"Dumping Day" is the first day of the lobster fishery on the east coast of Canada and the US. This is a tale of the people of Peggy`s Cove, Nova Scotia involved in the fun and flurry of activity of this important day.

She also recorded fiddle and stepdancing tracks on the group's Get off your Ass and Dance song. To listen to this track, check out their YouTube video here.

Join them to celebrate the release of their album 'SINGLES':
Saunders Brothers Show
Tues Nov 25, 7 - 9pm 
Dalhousie University Club
$5 at the door


State of Mine - Portrait Project by Chris Geworsky 

Photographer Chris Geworsky spent 7 years researching and shooting the subjects for the portrait series State Of Mine. The portraits, of musicians, are about exploring the personal, intimate and unique place each subject visits when he/she looses themselves in their own music. The exhibit at NSCAD’s Academy Building (1649 Brunswick St.) includes not only the photographic portraits but access to video interviews taken of several subjects used by Chris to help create each portrait and define each place.

Click here to see Alycia's video and photo.

Atlantic Film Festival (September, 2014)


Robbie Burns Day at Ski Wentworth 

We had a blast performing at Ski Wentworth for Robbie Burns Day. The Weather Network stopped by - check it out! 

Skiing full tilt, in full kilt, at Ski Wentworth (January 25, 2014)

What better way to pay tribute to the legendary Scottish poet Robert Burns than by sporting a kilt as you hit the slopes?

Skiers at Ski Wentworth in Nova Scotia did just this weekend, donning Scotland's most famous attire as they sped down the hill. 

"We’ve had over 325 people here today that came and wore a kilt and got a free lift ticket so I think that’s a record number," Ski Wentworth's general manager, Leslie Wilson, said. 

The tradition is 22 years old, and to celebrate, skiers were treated to a free lift ticket for the day. 

Maneuvering down the mountain can be a little difficult with a kilt, but some skiers said the extra layer helped them keep warm in the windchill. Despite the cold, most who wore them had a great time as they those who dashed down the slopes full tilt, in full kilt. 

Robert Burns (b.1759, d.1796) is widely regarded as Scotland's national poet. Among his works are the lyrics to popular New Year's song "Auld Land Syne."

CD Review by Celtic Life International 

Halifax, Nova Scotia-based fiddler Alycia Putnam comes of age with her third full-length recording Wired for Sound, a 13-song melange of melodic medleys that bridge past and present. The Mystery Motorcycle and Banshee on the Harbour open in sure, steady foot-stompin' style; Johsefin's Waltz is a traditional ballad, while the Mad Bulgar explores gypsy soul. The Tipsy Butterfly shines a light on Putnam's newfound musical maturity as both a player and arranger, and the diversity of Colin's Fiddle and The One with the Strathspeys showcases a solid supporting cast, specifically the stylings of multi-instrumentalists Dave Gunning and Darren McMullen. An engaging and entertaining selection from one of  North America's finest young fiddlers, Wired for Sound captures and conveys the Celtic Heart with great creative charm. ~SPC

Celtic Life International (Spring, 2013)

CD Review by 67 Celtic Music Promotions 

Click here to view this review on the 67 Celtic Music Promotions website.

Wired For Sound. The latest dynamic, high energy release from Alycia Putnam.

Alycia Putnam
Wired For Sound
reviewed by Konnie Stykel

Alycia Putnam, a fiddle player from Brookfield, Nova Scotia, is out of this world. Her music is exciting and fun. Alycia has been performing around Maritimes for the past 12 years and has been making music for over 15. Alycia’s band consists of herself on the fiddle and step-dancing, her dad Robert on guitar, and her mom Kelly on electric bagpipes. Besides her family, Alycia incorporates percussion, bass, vocals, banjo, mandolin and a suite of other sounds depending on the event/venue.

After being inspired at the age of 9, when she saw Natalie MacMaster in concert, Alycia recorded her first CD at the tender age of 13, her second at age 16. In September 2001, her original composition, Goodbye Little Fiddle, was selected as part of the soundtrack for the Pictou area’s historical video, New Beginnings: The Story of the Ship Hector. She was awarded a Young Achiever Award, for music, from the Sport Hall of Fame Gold Club.putnam

Alycia graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science Degree, honors in Psychology, and a Human Resource Management Certificate, from Saint Mary’s University. In the spring of 2013, she will graduate with her MBA Degree.

Her newest CD, Wired for Sound, was released January 5, 2013. From the moment I popped the CD into the player, I was hooked. Her CD is strictly instrumental, although I usually enjoy singing along to my music, I do love to dance, and dancing I did; although I did get a few funny looks while driving down the road.

Wired for Sound consists of 13 tracks, and includes 10 well-known musicians from across Nova Scotia, Canada. Each Track is a mix of traditional and original tunes, including Track 11 – The Holland Set – Bonnie Lassie o’fife; Auld Lang Syne; Farewell to Nova Scotia and Scotland the Brave, and Track 12, her own original composition; New Beginnings.

She leaves me begging for more! (March 19, 2013)

Interview with Celtic Life International 

Click here to view this interview on the Celtic Life International website.

Since being inspired at the age of nine when she saw Natalie MacMaster in concert, Nova Scotia fiddler Alycia Putnam has been working on her chops and a deep repertoire of foot‐stompin’ tunes. The result has been three solo albums and thousands of live performances spanning the globe. Her most recent recording – Wired for Sound – includes 13 tracks of traditional and eclectic fiddle music. Celtic Life International spoke with her about her passion and profession.

What is your own heritage?
I was born and raised in Brookfield, Nova Scotia, Canada, and have been living in Halifax for the past eight years. Although my great grandfather was from Scotland, I mostly consider myself a true East Coaster!

What inspired you to start fiddling?
When I was nine years old I saw Natalie MacMaster perform – her charismatic stage presence, style, and energy sparked my interest in music. Immediately following the concert I asked my parents if I could start taking lessons. During my first few months of fiddle lessons my dad, Robert, told me that he would buy a guitar, jam along, and learn new tunes with me. Before long we were performing at concerts, festivals, business conventions and other events. I think I picked it up so fast because I was exposed to Celtic music at a young age – growing up hearing my mom, Kelly, play the bagpipes with the Colchester Legion Pipes and Drums.

Are they the same reasons that you still do it today?
I think I remained interested in fiddling because it was something fun that my family, friends and I could all do together. My younger sister, Janelle, occasionally joined us playing the mandolin and bodhran, and Matt MacLellan has been playing percussion with us more recently. Music has taken us some interesting places and has given us the opportunity to meet a lot of great people.

Although the Celtic genre is my favourite style to play, I feel that learning to appreciate a variety of fiddle styles at a young age – from my first instructor, Gordon Tucker – made a huge difference in my approach to picking new tunes and staying interested. I was fortunate enough to be taught by a number of great musicians, including Kendra MacGillivray, Buddy MacMaster, Richard Wood, Brenda Stubbert, and Kimberley Holmes. All of these instructors have been influential in the development of my style and numerous more continue to inspire and motivate me. Overall, I love the challenge of a new tune, performing, and making people happy through my music.

What motivated you to put this recording together?

I have been itching to get back into the studio ever since the release of my last recording over eight years ago. I have recorded two albums in the past – my first when I was 13 years old and my second when I was 16 – and I finally had the necessary break in my university schedule to not only have time to record, but also to enjoy the process.

What were the challenges of the process?

There are nine other musicians (all busy doing their own projects) on the CD so scheduling was definitely a challenge, but it all worked out. We put in quite a few long days, but always made sure we took breaks, remembered to have fun, and had lots of laughs.

What were the rewards?
I feel that my playing has changed so much in the last eight years, so I am very happy to be able to give fans and supporters of my music a new recording. It was great to get into the studio and work with such an amazing group of musicians, including: Darren McMullen, Zach Smith, Dave Gunning, Ardyth Robinson, Jennifer Wyatt, Gordon Tucker, Kimberley Holmes, as well as my mom (Kelly) and dad (Robert). It was so exciting to be creative, build tracks, add layers, and learn more about the technology used in the recording process.

Do you have a favourite track?

It is difficult to select one track as my favourite. Everyone I talk to seems to have different favourites on the CD. My dad likes track two, Banshee on the Harbour, which features Darren McMullen on banjo. I like track four, The Gremlin, but I also like Colin’s Fiddle, and New Shoes.

What has the response been like from those who have heard it?
The response has been great! Stephen Cooke, entertainment reporter at The Chronicle Herald, recently named the CD his “Pick of the Week.” I am really happy to hear that so many people are enjoying the album. A lot of people have mentioned that this recording is a lot more upbeat and more diverse than my previous recordings. I think a lot of people like the number and variety of instruments that were incorporated in each track.

What is your creative process like?
Whenever I write a new tune, such as New Beginnings, I concentrate on the feeling I have while composing – the tune is much more emotionally charged because of this process. In the studio, my process is very collaborative. I start with something in mind, create sets of interesting tunes I like to play, and work out rough arrangements, but remain open to new ideas. This organic process often produces the best arrangements. Everyone I have worked with is so talented – it makes the creative process very enjoyable!

What makes a good song?
A great tune is unique, has an emotional impact, or makes me stomp my feet.

How else are you involved with the fiddling community these days?
My family and I perform at approximately 100 shows annually, many of which include other performers. I always like to hear other fiddlers/musicians play, whether it is at a concert, festival, or local pub.

What events will you be involved with this year?
I will be performing at some private functions, such as conferences and weddings, as well as at my regular events, including the Summer Sounds of Nova Scotia concert series at the deCoste Centre in Pictou, Nova Scotia. We are just starting to get our summer shows lined up, so be sure to visit my website where details will be posted as they become available.

Are young people still drawn to fiddling?

Young people are definitely still drawn to fiddling. So many bands such as Sprag Session have been taking traditional music and making it more modern. I think this keeps the tradition alive and strong but also presents it in a way that gets people interested in fiddle music.

In your estimation, is enough being done to promote Celtic culture today?
I think interest in Celtic culture is on the rise. It seems like great Celtic music festivals and workshops are popping up everywhere around the globe – as long as people continue organizing events such as these, I feel that the Celtic culture will become more understood and appreciated world-wide.

What’s next on your own creative agenda?
Apart from promoting my new CD, I am hoping to start writing more tunes. I always used to write a tune whenever the mood struck me, which has only been once every few years. I would like to challenge myself and compose a bit more often than I used to. I’d also like to explore some opportunities to collaborate and perform with more musicians.

Celtic Life International (January 31, 2013)

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