There’s a reason she’s called the Crazy Fiddle Lady.
That’s the name Nerea Gourlaouen picked out for her YouTube channel when she was 15, thinking it would be funny.
Fifteen years later, after playing gigs around the world, she typically goes by Nerea the Fiddler. It gets the point across, and it doesn’t require people having to remember her mouthful of a last name.
But on Gourlaouen’s YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, the Crazy Fiddle Lady lives on.
“It stuck with people,” she said. “I think they relate it to what I do. It’s something a little crazy and out of the box.”
Her show is a mix of Irish fiddling and step dancing, “combined in a way you have never seen before,” she describes online.
The moniker also makes sense for Gourlaouen’s personality.
“I’m not your most typical white picket fence type of person,” she said.
Case in point: Gourlaouen wasn’t the kind of kid who liked most sports or toys. But when she was 8, she heard fiddle music on the radio. And she became obsessed. She wanted to play like famous Canadian fiddler Natalie MacMaster. That’s part of the reason her family moved from southern Canada to Nova Scotia, where MacMaster lives.
Even though her family isn’t Irish (her mother is from Spain and her father from France), that’s the kind of music Gourlaouen fell in love with.
“It’s very lively music,” she says. “It made me want to get up and dance.”
And Gourlaouen was determined to be good at making that kind of music. Her parents got her a violin when she was 10. Using her allowance money, she paid off the instrument in two years.
She practiced every day and had teachers, but Gourlaouen says she was never classically trained. She immersed herself in Celtic music scenes.
“It’s almost like learning a language,” she said. “Eventually I just got the gist of it.”
When she turned 15, her family moved to France. She later moved to Dubai, on a whim, and found Irish pubs to play there. That’s when step dancing became a staple part of her performing.
“Once I moved to the Middle East, I couldn’t play a show without dancing,” she said. “That’s what people wanted to see.”
It took some practice to perfect.
“It’s hard to walk and move while you’re playing the fiddle,” she said. “I failed many times.”
Now, she’s a pro. She has to keep her upper body very still and “hang on for dear life.”
“The dance that I do is my own thing,” she says. “When you travel so much, you take things from different places.”
Most recently, that includes Colorado. After six years in Dubai, where she initially planned on staying two weeks, Gourlaouen visited her sister in Denver in 2018. She stayed. And she’s found a frequent gig at Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in downtown Colorado Springs.
“It’s amazing this phenomenon of Irish pubs,” she said. “There’s always a crowd for Irish music and Irish pubs and Irish beer.”