- Profession: Award-winning country and folk singer
- Age: 68
- Hometown: Big Pond, N.S.
- The car: 2009 Nissan Cube
- Her albums Flying On Your Own, Reason to Believe, Rita, and Home I’ll Be went double platinum
- Her musical variety show, Rita & Friends, won a 1996 Gemini award
- Has received honorary doctorates from five Canadian universities, inducted into the Order of Canada in 1992, awarded Order of Nova Scotia in 2005
- Her latest CD, Saving Grace, was just released
- MacNeil Christmas concert dates in Perth, Ont., Dec. 7 and 8
- Rita MacNeil and Frank Mills’ Sharing Christmas concert dates in Calgary on Dec. 16, Edmonton on Dec. 17 and Saskatoon on Dec. 18
She launched her musical career with her first CD, Born a Woman, back in 1974. Nearly four decades later, Rita MacNeil is still going strong.
In 1990, she sold more records in Canada than Garth Brooks. And she has garnered countless awards – including Junos, Geminis, Canadian Country Music Awards and East Coast Music Awards.
MacNeil shows no signs of slowing down. She just released her latest CD, Saving Grace, and has a jam-packed concert schedule across Canada. But when she returns home to the east coast, she keeps it low key and takes it slower driving around Cape Breton in a 2009 Nissan Cube.
Why did you buy a Nissan Cube?
I tried other vehicles and I found some of them a little hard to get in and out of. I love a van, but I didn’t find anything I felt comfortable with.
Then I spotted the Cube in an ad. It was a demo and I just fell in love with it. I went in, I sat in it, and I said, ‘This is the vehicle for me!’
It’s just so perfect. It reminds me of a little Tonka truck. It’s so comfortable and spacious. It has everything I really need in a vehicle – lots of room in the back, you can move the seats, and the windows are beautifully designed so you have a great view of everything. I just love it.
What don’t you like about the Cube?
I was thinking about that and I really can’t find anything that I don’t like.
They didn’t have it in many colours. I have it in green, which is fine. I really don’t care about colours. I just like it a lot. I can’t really find one thing I could complain about.
What does a Nissan Cube say about you?
It says I’m low-key. I like comfort. I love the look of a van without the whole van. This is as close to a van and it’s just the ideal vehicle for my needs.
Does it stand out on the road like a singer on stage?
It kind of stands out because of the oddity of the look of it.
I often find people staring at it, which I find amusing. Maybe because there’s not many of them in the area that I come from. I get a few looks, but I find it quite cute.
What was your first car?
The first car I ever owned was the Dodge Dart back in the ’80s. That was a great vehicle.
The only problem I had with the Dodge Dart was it seemed to stall a lot on the highway. That was always very frustrating. Luckily, I managed to work around that. Not knowing what’s under the hood is always a little challenging.
My favourite vehicle of all that I have in my possession is a golf cart.
I travel my laneway in Big Pond on my golf cart. It’s a two-seater and it’s just magnificent. It’s as close to a convertible as you can get. It’s quite a little vehicle to play around on.
Have you had any mishaps with your vehicles?
No. I’ve been lucky with my cars.
Do you drive to many of your gigs?
Yes. But I travel with people who have to do the drive on the gigs, which is great. When I’m home, I love to drive.
What’s your favourite driving road?
Along the shoreline past the ocean and out into the countryside. It’s so beautiful.
I always take the back roads to the areas I want to visit. The scenery is just awesome. And the Bras d’Or Lakes in the mix of all that – there’s no prettier drive around.
What do you listen to on the road?
I put in different CDs – it could be local artists, my own CDs, or I tune into the radio. I listen to the news and weather. I’ve listened to my new CD in the Cube and it has been fun because there are no interruptions.
Is your car a creative venue for writing songs?
It certainly is because you’re in a captive space so you have time to think.
Certainly when someone else is driving I’ve managed to write quite a few songs. I wrote at least two songs on my new CD when driving. That’s kind of neat. I love that.
What’s your best and worst driving story ever?
One of the worst driving stories was driving home from a gig in a snowstorm.
I was coming from New Brunswick and driving back to Cape Breton and the storm was just raging. It was very frightening. It was late at night and nothing was open so you had to keep going. And it was that kind of driving snow that you can’t see.
When I went to get off at my place in Big Pond I couldn’t get in because the snow was piled so high it was impossible. So I had to drive a little farther. It was a little scary. I don’t like driving in that kind of weather. I hope never to be put in that spot again.
The beautiful drives at home and across this country are quite a thing. It’s very beautiful. The whole country is lovely to tour. I enjoy driving through it. Looking at the scenery – those are the best memories and being able to do it on a regular basis is pretty spectacular. Driving through Ontario and going out to B.C. – all the different landscapes and taking it all in. They’re great experiences.
Any plans to replace the Cube soon?
No. This little Cube is a keeper. That and the golf cart are at the top of my hit parade.
I love this one so much I might just drive it to the ground. I’ll see how that goes. I don’t see myself changing it any time soon. I could get another vehicle and maybe say this is nice for a while, but this is the one I’m most comfortable with.
If I could bring you the keys to any vehicle what would it be?
A Town Car. They’re just so comfortable.
This interview has been edited and condensed