April Verch is no one-trick pony. Her many YouTube clips bear witness to the Canadian fiddler's high-energy performances, which combine her singing with award-winning fiddling and step dancing. Verch's shows come to a head as she leaps into fiddling and dancing simultaneously toward the end of each show.
“It was pretty hard … a gradual process,” Verch says of intertwining her talents, both of which she took up as a small child. “I started with just shuffles. It took a while to add steps, but I was pretty young. When you do things like that when you're young, it's easier. You don't realize you're doing something so difficult.”
She aimed to harness the energy of her live show on her latest album, “Steal the Blue.”
“People really respond to our live show, and I've found it a challenge – without doing a live recording – to capture that on a record,” she says. “I also was trying to capture the music that I'm passionate about right now. I wanted it to be material that I wanted to listen to, instead of focusing on what fans wanted to hear. Chances are, if I am passionate about it, that will translate to the fans.”
Verch performs at Charlotte Folk Society's concert at the Great Aunt Stella Center on Friday.
The 30-year-old Pembroke, Ontario, native collected awards for both dance and fiddle as a child, and recorded two albums before graduating from high school. She left Berklee College of Music in Boston after a year, taking her love of roots and traditional Canadian music (and her newfound knowledge of other styles) on the road.
The first four of her seven albums were instrumental. It was only at the suggestion of Rounder Records that Verch began singing. “They said it would be good variety for (my) shows, and open more doors. That's what made me give it a go,” she recalls. “At first, it was really hard, because I felt vulnerable. Your feet and your fiddle don't show if you're tired or have a cold. My voice gave everything up.”
Given the sweet ring of her voice, the energy and uniqueness of her dancing and live performance, and recent comparisons to fellow fiddlers Natalie McMaster and Alison Krauss, Verch could be headed for the mainstream.
“I don't think that Alison actually had to change what she loved doing to become mainstream,” Verch says. “A lot of people have to (change). She was able to do what she wanted to do. If it could happen that way for me, and I had people that could help me do that, I would. But I would never change the style I play to reach those markets.”
Although Verch is a fan of both Krauss and McMaster, she doesn't see many similarities beyond the fact that they're all females with fiddles.
“What I do is really quite different from both of them – especially Natalie,” she says. “She plays the Cape Breton style and I don't. I play Ottawa Valley style and bluegrass. But it's cool, because she's good at what she does.”
Verch has branched out stylistically to include roots, acoustic, Latin, Celtic and jazz over the course of her career. Yet much of her early influence came from the music and dance that is specific to the Ottawa Valley region, where she still lives “one road over from where I was born.” Although her repertoire has expanded, she continues to include those roots in her sets.
“The regional styles aren't that well-known. There just haven't been that many people that have traveled or toured. That's why it's important for me to include the Ottawa Valley style – at least one song – when I play, so people get a taste for it,” she says.