TORONTO -- After years as a session player for such headline names as Led Zeppelin, James Taylor and Blue Rodeo, Toronto fiddler Anne Lindsay focused intently on herself for "Soloworks."

She recorded much of her third album while ensconced in northern Scandinavia, studying Nordic fiddle, reading the epic poem "The Kalevala" and mourning the loss of both her mother and the end of her 25-year marriage.

"I was buried in that and playing my violin and you know, crying my heart out and going out and cross-country skiing during the day," she recalled in a telephone interview.

"Really being challenged by being alone -- feeling very alone at that point."

Her just-released album features only Lindsay: on violin, nyckelharpa and vocals. In addition to her Scandinavian experience, she gathered inspiration for the album in Italy and while volunteering at an orphanage in Tanzania.

She talked to The Canadian Press about her globe-trotting record, Jim Cuddy's middling middle-school band performance and meeting Joni Mitchell.

CP: What made you decide to perform alone for the entirety of the record?

Lindsay: Partly necessity was the mother of invention. I was asked to do some solo performances in Italy and they inspired me.

There was this parallel between writing and performing solo and what was going on in my life at that time -- which was I was single again, my three wonderful sons were now adults. A number of them had moved away from home. And I was just facing the challenges of being alone and writing for solo performance as well.


CP: You once held the title "resident fiddler" with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What does that mean?

Lindsay: It was probably the most popular gig in my house when my sons were younger. For a couple seasons I played at the Air Canada Centre, in the stands. Whenever there was a penalty or a commercial break, they would go to either the organ or the fiddle, alternating between them.

I'd play some sort of rousing fiddle tune, hoping to cheer the Leafs on to success. I thought I was going to be the secret for them. We're still waiting for that.

It was a great gig to do. I'm a big Leafs fan.


CP: Sorry.

Lindsay: Well, it is tough times right now. But you know what? We're a loyal bunch.


CP: You've played on Jim Cuddy's two most recent solo albums and several with Blue Rodeo. How did that collaboration come about?

Lindsay: It's great. Jim and I go back a long ways. We actually went to school together here in Toronto and back in Grade 7 or 8, we played in the school orchestra. I was the concertmistress and Jim had been demoted from timpani (for) bad behaviour. He got demoted to bass drum.

Then our kids played hockey together when they were younger, so we've had a longtime friendship and musical collaboration. I love working with him. He's the most gracious performer. He lets his side performers stretch out and take wonderful solos on their material. He's very open as a singer/songwriter to other people's influences.


CP: How did you wind up onstage with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant?

Lindsay: They had put out (1994's "No Quarter") and it had a bunch of original tunes that they'd written and some reworkings of Led Zeppelin classics with the London Symphony Orchestra. When they came to Toronto (at SkyDome in March 1995), they wanted to do that -- and they had Egyptian and Moroccan instrumentalists with them as well. So they picked up a small string section here in Toronto and I was a part of that.

It was the loudest concert I've ever played at. Not so much the stage volume, but the audience screams and howls when they came out onstage. It was phenomenal.

And another interesting one was playing violin with James Taylor on (Joni Mitchell's song) "Woodstock" (at Mitchell's induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007).


CP: I understand Joni Mitchell was in the crowd for that?

Lindsay: I got to meet her afterwards. She'd been a huge mentor for me when I was starting out, just starting to play and sing and write my own material.

I found her completely modest. Of course I wanted to talk about her work and also tell her how grateful I was for the inspiration she offered to me. But she didn't want to talk about that. She just wanted to talk about me: "That was you onstage out there? You were great. How did you get into improvising on your violin?"

I just remember also that they set aside a special room that she could smoke in backstage, because of course it was verboten to smoke. But she got special clearance.


This interview has been edited and condensed.