Checking in with Alex Caton


What were you doing when we called?

I was checking e-mail and puttering around the house cleaning. Very exciting.

Between busy touring and teaching schedules, Alex Caton will head to Mingo, West Virginia, in late August to host the Mountain Road Fiddle and Music Camp.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve been busy. I just released a CD called Fiddle Tunes that I recorded at my home studio with Pat Egan, which has been a bit of a return to Irish music for me. I just finished recording with Pete Winne, Lou Burrs and Stuart Gunter. I’ve also been playing a lot with Old Calf these days, which has been fun, learning all their material. And then I’ve also been working on this new country cover group called Sin City with a woman named Betsy Wright, who plays really killer honky-tonk style piano, and we do everything from Gram Parsons to Dolly Parton.

Tell us about your day job.

I teach music, mostly privately at my studio, but I also teach for the Blue Ridge Irish Music School in town. So my days are pretty much teaching lessons and working on camp and working on material for shows and trying to get gigs.

Tell us about a recent concert, exhibit or show that has inspired you.

It was very sparsely attended, but this Irish fiddler Tony DeMarco from Brooklyn came down to play in town. There was hardly anyone in the audience, but he was amazing. He’s a character, too, a very unlikely Irish fiddle player. He has this thick Brooklyn accent and he’s just this kind of big, gruff, Italian man who happens to have the most delicate, fun way of playing traditional Irish music. It was kind of surprising, but he’s really a treasure.

How do you prepare to work on something?

I just kind of have to get in my space and make myself do it. If I waited, I think I would find an excuse to do something else.

What is your first artistic memory from childhood?

The strongest one was probably from when I was 5. I grew up in England, and I was in this little school. A violin teacher came in to play music for us and to show that we could take classes. I was just really taken with it, and I signed myself up for lessons right there. I remember walking home, my sister telling me I was going to get in trouble because I didn’t ask. But then when we got home and told her, my mom was thrilled.

Tell us about a work of art that you wish was in your private collection.

I like a couple of the local artists a lot. I really like Cynthia Burke’s work, and I don’t know which particular one I would pick. She does these portraits of animals, sometimes with Elizabethan collars on them, and they’re quirky but just incredible at the same time. And Tate Pray, he’s a local artist who does prints, and really great stuff with cement. He does very functional items, including countertops and chairs, but he also just uses it as a medium for more abstract works.

If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why?

It would definitely be Willie Nelson. I think he would be fantastic company. He’d bring good food, and it would be a great time. I just wrote a song professing my love for Willie Nelson with the Pete Winne project. The name of the song is “Willie Nelson, I Love You (and My Husband, He Doesn’t Really Mind),” and we’re trying to get it to him. My favorite line—I use lines of his throughout the song—it goes, “If you only had one arm to hold me / I guess I’d be on that side / If you told me you’re half the man you used to be”—which is a song he wrote—“then I’d tell you it’s the half I’d like to see.” He might be into it!


Locally, who would you like to collaborate with?

It would probably be Sarah White. We recently talked about doing a little project together. I just think she’s a great musician and great person, and we both share a love of the late Hazel Dickens.