Joe Bishop is more than a reality TV subject.
The former stampeder of History Television’s Klondike: The Quest for Gold is returning to the Whitehorse music scene, playing a mix of songs from his CD with Kendall Sullivan and cover songs like Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean.
Bishop and Sullivan were the first musical act I saw when I moved to Whitehorse in 1999. When I told Bishop this, over coffee at Baked, he said, “That was probably around the time we got together.
“I met Kendall at a Folk Society Coffeehouse. We both played at the open mike and introduced ourselves. We said, ‘Let’s get together and jam.’ When we did, it was magic.
“Everything snowballed so quickly that within two months we had two different record companies after us to record with them.
“Within a year, we did the album, Back to You, and toured Alaska and all across Canada to Quebec,” he says.
He speaks quietly and carefully, like he’s not used to talking about himself. “I think it was the speed of our success that self-destructed everything. We probably went five years without talking to each other after that.
“It was Kendall who finally made the effort to reconnect,” he says, holding his near-empty coffee cup. “She sent me a few messages to let me know that things had chilled out and if we ever have an opportunity to sing together again, she’d do it. In the meantime, she’d moved to Peterborough, Ontario, got married and had two kids.
“Our lives are very different now.
“So when I was there this spring, we sang together for the first time in seven years and it was just as magical as the first time,” he says with a smile. “We were so excited, we got a gig in Peterborough, with only 12 hours to rehearse. It went really well.”
That excitement has Bishop making plans for his restarting his musical career with Sullivan.
“I’m recording this winter at Daniel Janke’s studio. I deliver firewood to him during the winter and, instead of payment, I’m trading him for studio time.
“I’m also going to fly back to Ontario and Kendall and I are going to record there. She’s a teacher now and wants to come up here next summer. We’re going to try to get into the festivals.”
“I can stay at home and write songs, that comes natural to me, it’s the thing I enjoy most about music,” he says, reflecting on his semi-retirement from performing. “What I find most difficult is getting on stage and playing. But I have to get more comfortable on stage.
“Everything goes in cycles in the Whitehorse music scene. There seems to be a new resurgence, now, with new faces, new venues. There’s a new energy in town.”
Five things you should know about Joe Bishop:
1. On Klondike: Quest for Gold, it took him 47 days to do the Chilkoot Trail and he lost 30 pounds.
2. He used to play Junior A lacrosse.
3. His father used to work for the Detroit Red Wings and Gordie Howe’s wife used to pick him up to take him to hockey games.
4. He used to be a commercial fisherman in Alaska. He also worked at Disney World in Florida.
5. His first year in the Yukon, he couldn’t find work so he rode his bicycle to the southern tip of Baja California.