Karin McQuade

Karin McQuade is a 21-year-old singer and fiddle player in the band Good Foot. (Kayla Boyd)

As part of this year’s Piccolo Spoleto Celtic Series, local band Good Foot performed at the Circular Church. All three members are extremely skilled musicians, but the youngest of the group stood apart.

At just 21-years-old, Karin McQuade has mastered the fiddle and vocals with Good Foot, graduated from the College of Charleston a semester early, started her own band, and began teaching violin lessons full-time.

In the following Q&A, edited for concision, McQuade shares her experiences, goals and plans for her evolving music career.

Q: How did you get started with music?

A: I started playing violin when I was 7. I was really lucky because we just happened to have a music teacher who wanted to start a strings program in Georgia, which hadn't happened in Brunswick, where I was living. I was lucky because I got to start learning really early. Most kids start around middle school and sometimes that’s too late.

Q: You're from Georgia?

A: Not technically. I was actually born in San Diego. I lived there until I was 4 and then moved to Georgia for elementary to middle school. Then I moved to Charleston for high school and college, where I studied music theory and composition, with psychology as a minor.

Q: When did you start playing with Good Foot?

A: Good Foot has taken a couple of forms, but it began when I started contra dancing in my junior year of high school. The most recent ensemble with Bart (Saylor), Susan (Conant) and me has been going on for two to three years.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: Recently I've started another band with my boyfriend, Andrae Raffield, called Tea & Whisky. We just played a dance weekend in Atlanta and we got a really good response. We’ve written a lot of original tunes that encompass traditional stuff and some more groove and improvisational rock elements. I’m on the fiddle and doing vocals.

I sing a lot during contras, which isn’t as common; it's usually just instrumental. That's what sets us apart from a lot of the bands. They may have singing, but it's not like what I do. I make up languages. It's like scatting, but more cohesive because I'm using special vowels and consonants that I sense fit well with a certain rhythm.

Andrae’s on guitar. Sometimes we do dual fiddle stuff and we've got a kick pedal. It's a lot of components for just two people, which is fun.

Q: What do you plan on doing now, since you're done with school?

A: I was actually working at a coffee shop and getting trained as a barista, but the studio that I was working at lost two instructors, so I took over their positions. That allowed me to start teaching full-time.

I get weekends off now, and sometimes I go out of town, either for gigs or with my boyfriend's other band. I get to go dancing or hiking. It's fully integrating all the things that I really love, which is the cool thing about the contra community — it's a bunch of hippies.

Kayla Boyd is a Goldring Arts Journalist at Syracuse University.