Gordie Tentrees decided to try something new ahead of recording his latest album – he learned how to sing.
The Whitehorse-based folk musician wanted to work on his shortcomings before the release of Less is More, his sixth album, in April.
“I never thought I’d say that after five albums, but it’s been wonderful,” said Tentrees, who has been taking lessons with a close friend in Whitehorse for the past year.
“After focusing so much on the music side of things, I figured, ‘OK, I should become a better singer.’ I’ve learned about all the things I can’t do, what my range is, and what I have to work with.
“It’s cool to learn something new and to try to develop it.”
This week, Tentrees is embarking on a northern tour to promote the album, whose songs haven’t been played live here yet.
The album, clocking in at just over 41 minutes, includes the pick of the litter among the 30 or so tracks he wrote overall, said Tentrees.
In fact, there was a point after his last album where he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to continue producing music or not.
“I gave myself the option of not making another album, ever, or making one that would go above and beyond my own standards,” he said.
“I wanted to wait until I reached that point, whether it was three years or five. I just kept writing and writing, and trying to improve on other things in the meantime.”
Some of the more poignant songs on the album include Somebody’s Child, written after Tentrees witnessed the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April 2013 – a race his wife had completed only nine minutes earlier.
He was four blocks away when the explosions happened. He first thought he had heard cannons going off in celebration.
“For about 20 minutes I didn’t know she was all right, until she found a phone and called me,” he said.
“We stayed in Boston that night and I started thinking about all the things we take for granted, whether it’s our careers or our personal lives. Shit’s real sometimes.”
Two months later, while he was on tour and sitting on a friend’s porch in Ontario, he recalled the event and wrote the song on the spot.
“A lot of my songs come from conversations or tidbits.”
Creating the last two albums has given Tentrees a renewed perspective on the joys of writing, something he hadn’t always appreciated before.
One of the harder songs to write was Deadbeat Dad, he said.
Tentrees, who has two children from two different relationships, wrote the song on Father’s Day after his nine-year-old son talked about what it was like to have two fathers.
It wasn’t easy for Tentrees to talk about the issue until he realized, one day, that he wasn’t alone.
“In this day and age, you can leave the person you’re with if you don’t like them,” he said.
“It wasn’t always like that. Times have changed, and you have a lot more modern families now than you used to.
Tentrees didn’t think the song would end up on the album until he played it for a few friends, all of whom were affected by the content in the song in one way or another.
He witnessed their reactions and began playing it live during his shows.
Unexpectedly, it became the song people requested the most.
“It’s really grown on me, it’s taken a life of its own.”
While some of the songs on the album are meant to tear your heart out, Tentrees said, others contain more uplifting stories about taking the negative parts of your life and making them positive.
On Wheel Girl, an ode to Yukon wheelchair athlete Jessica Frotten, he sings about some of the things he believes she’s gone through to get to where she is today.
After reading about Frotten’s story two years ago, Tentrees helped organize a fundraiser to purchase a new wheelchair for the athlete, as well as help her attend her first international racing event in Switzerland.
When he found out she was going to attend the benefit concert at the Old Fire Hall, he decided to write a song about it, not knowing it would eventually become a favourite of his.
“I think she likes it,” he said.
“I feel lucky to have written half the songs on this album. It’s my favourite so far.
“I learned a lot by making the previous albums, to bring me to this point.”
Tentrees is performing at the Klondike Roots and Blues Festival in Whitehorse tonight, at the Odd Fellows Hall in Dawson City tomorrow evening and at the Keno City Hotel on Sunday.
On Monday night, he’s back in Whitehorse for a show at the Yukon Arts Centre scheduled for 8 p.m.
Opening for him on this tour is Jaxon Haldane, an American musician from Oklahoma whose band headlined the Dawson City Music Festival in 2010.
Contact Myles Dolphin at