Peter Purvis of Gaelic Storm:Titanic and Playing with big bands (Interview)


Peter Purvis strikes me as a person who’d rather play than talk. But when he starts talking about music, it gets very interesting. I guess this is due to the part of him that loves teaching music. Growing up in the Ottawa valley immersed him to the culture of fiddle players, step dancers and yes even developing the love for maple syrup!

He picked up the Highland pipes at 12. He progressed to the Uilleann pipes and Irish whistle at 16. His musical upbringing provided him the great opportunity to be trained by the great musicians in the field.These lessons helped shaped his musical path to this day.

Peter joined the  Gaelic Storm in2004.  The band  brought  three albums to #1 in World music on the Billboard charts. Gaelic Storm have performed side by side, Goo Goo Dolls,Zac Brown Band,Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris at events such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Milwaukee’s Summer Fest.  So let us welcome this week’s featured artist Peter Purvis!

Gaelic Storm’s tour calendar is busy until April. How is the American tour doing so far?

The US tour is great. We do most of our touring in the US these days. All of us are based here now. I’m engaged to a wonderful and beautiful girl from Chicago so that’s where I spend my days. We try to get over to either Europe, Asia or Australia at least once a year, but we typically do about 100-110 shows in the US every year.

The movie Titanic helped skyrocket the band to the American Top 40. What were the memorable things that you remember achieving such mainstream success?

Haha…..Well I has about 14 when that movie came out. My mother drove me to the theater because I wasn’t old enough to drive. That’s a question you would have to ask the other guys in the band.

When you are a touring piper, what do you need to remember in terms of comfort and getting ready for a gig?

Tuning, tuning, tuning…… Keeping a well-tuned bagpipe is a hard thing to do in perfect circumstances and my circumstances are anything but perfect. The climate on the road is always changing, making it difficult and time-consuming to stay in tune. Additionally, my pipes are being thrown around in road cases all day. Plus your instruments are in a freezing cold trailer in the winter and a boiling hot trailer in the summer.

Your first pipe instrument was the Highland pipe at the age of 12. What were the challenges learning those instruments at an age where everyone wants to pick up a guitar and be a rock star?

I think I hear this question everyday, and I still don’t have a great response. I had family friends and relatives that played, plus Braveheart had just come out. As a 12 year old a had a man crush on William Wallace (Mel Gibson) All those factors together got me interested and once I started I became obsessed and haven’t looked back.

You have an online bagpipe lesson page. Would you please tell me about that?

I love to teach and wasn’t able to do much of it because I’m on the road so much. So, I wanted to figure out a way to continue teaching with my schedule. Online seemed to be the perfect solution. I’ve created lessons on my website,, and from there, I’m able to provide a month of lessons for people to work into their own schedules. These online lessons also cost less than in-person lessons. 

What I love most about it is that I’m able to offer lessons to people who don’t have access to good instruction and classes because of where they live or they simply can’t afford it. I have students as far away as Japan and as young as six years old.

What are the no no’s that one must remember when picking up a bagpipe as it differs from an Uilleann pipe?

I have been playing both for so long now that I never get them confused when playing. There are a couple of highland pipes embellishments that I will accidentally do on the uilleann pipes. However, for the most part they are such different instruments it’s hard to get them confused. As soon as your fingers hit the chanter your brain goes into an autopilot and you always know which one your playing.

What suggestions can you give to anyone trying to pursue such musical path?

If you love music and you want to make it your profession, just go for it.  Who would have thought that a bagpiper from the small town of Merrickville, Ontario would be playing at some of the biggest music festivals, venues and musicians in the world?  Anything is possible, you just gotta go for it. It’s not all about practice and trying to be the best. It’s also about getting out there, meeting people and being social. Above all, you really have to love what you do. I’m grateful enough to be able to do what I love for a living. 

Are you doing studio work apart from the band right now? And care to tell me about it?

Currently, I’m working on two studio albums. One is a more contemporary Celtic/world/rock album and the other is new highland dancing album. I hope to have both out sometime in the summer. Gaelic Storm is filming a DVD on St. Patrick’s day in Milwaukee as well.

Who is Peter Purvis when he is not performing live or doing studio work?

It’s hard to ever really escape the bagpiper in me. When I’m at home, bagpipes are still a part of my everyday life. I give a lot of lessons and play in a pipe band. I do what all other Canadians do. Sit on my Chesterfield, watch hockey and eat maple syrup (the real Canadian sort) and poutine.

Since touring with Gaelic Storm, you’ve had the chance to perform with groups and artists like Sarah McLachlan, Hanson, the Barenaked Ladies, and Collective Soul.  How was it like?  What are some other highlights of touring and performing with Gaelic Storm?  

Playing with these big bands is incredible; it’s something I never thought I would be able to do. However, it’s not very different than touring with any other band. They are all very down-to-earth and always ready to have fun.  Some highlights in my time with the band include: performing at the Milwaukee Irish fest for a crowd of about 25,000 as well as playing at Telluride bluegrass festival with some of the best musicians in the world (Elvis Costello, Bella Fleck…..). Additionally, we do massive festivals in Europe that are just out of this world.

We also play music festivals on cruises around the Caribbean. “The Rock Boat,” one of the cruises that we’ve done, is the most fun that you could possibly have in just five days. If it weren’t on water, I’m sure it would be against the law to have as much fun as we have on it. Over the years, we have been joined on this boat by Sister Hazel, Collective Soul, Better Than Ezra, Hanson, Zac Brown Band, Barenaked Ladies, Sara McLachlan, Great Big Sea and many other great bands.  It’s an absolutely wild time.

While on tour, anything can happen – from our singer Patrick Murphy slugging Russell Crow (It’s true. Look up our song called “The Night I punched Russell Crow”) to skydiving.  Every day is different and more exciting than the last.

You can find out more about me at:


Music video by Gaelic Storm performing Rag and Bone. (C) 2012 Lost Again Records




After the previous article’s experience, I find it hard to write something without getting personal or not mentioning any reference to that incident. But then again I make sure to keep a balance between being informative and humorous (that is if you even find some of my writings humorous). But I understand the value of really being true to oneself. Flaws and all. You know when you get to that point in your life when you think you have created every unimaginable faux pas, every grain of hopelessness that permeates the unbearable lightness of being, that’s when you stop caring and just let everything flow. And when you allow that feeling to flow then your fingers simply follow and the brain works at a speed that is comparable to ordinary speech.

The Celtic Music Fan celebrates along with the billions worldwide, March as the month of Women. So today I will feature all women artists that I think are amazing in their fields.  The first one in this list is Kyle Carey. I am amazed how she is able to maintain the balance between lightness and resonance in her singing.

I discovered the music of Heather Dale two years ago and once in a while she pops out in my status discussion.Musician Jim Wearne recommended her. Between funky sounds and spruce up renditions of classics, she maintains her vocal identity while highlighting the beauty of the Celtic harp  :

If you don’t know yet, Shauna Burns combines the beauty of Goth, Americana and Celtic atmosphere in her every song. To me she is the Celticky Tori Amos and the god child of Siouxsie Sioux in the fashion department. For those who are more into the spiritually driven music then Shauna will haunt you with her fascinating melodies.

We are also celebrating St Piran’s day in Cornwall! So what better way to celebrate than the music of Dalla and Sue Aston!

Sue Aston has the most haunting Celtic violin.

If I didn’t include other notable female artists, it means they were heavily featured in my other editions so it doens’t mean those who are not here aren’t great. Everyone always finds her way back here 😉


2 thoughts on “Peter Purvis of Gaelic Storm:Titanic and Playing with big bands (Interview)

  1. Music sources for this clip are Gaelic Storm (Thirsty Work, Death Ride To Durango, The Mechanical Bull), Celtic Woman (The Butterfly, The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun) and The Chieftains (Treasure Cave, from the album Film Cuts ). I except this video would get your vertigo going! High def video (1080p and BluRay and up) has been such a revelation! It’s almost more real than real. In a while, I suppose we’ll get used to it. But for now it’s so new, we don’t except moving images film video to be able to display with such clarity. I love it. Not sure why I like this HD but hate 3D. Perhaps it’s just a matter of technology, and 3D isn’t there yet. This mountain video, viewed in full HD, already seems 3D to me.


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