Out of everything he’s ever recorded, Gordie Tentrees is most happy with his new album. It’s a bold statement to make, but the renowned Whitehorse musician is confident that his upcoming studio effort contains his best work to date.
“I think it’s the strongest record I’ve made, for a variety of reasons,” Tentrees said, over the phone from Ontario, where he was on his first tour since before the pandemic began. “I think the songs are really strong and I think the record itself sounds really great because of how it was made.”
Rather than chip away at recording over a span of several months, this time around, Tentrees put together a four-piece band with some of his favourite musicians. The group spent one week making the album, titled Mean Old World, which will see its official release Sept. 14.
Appearing alongside Gordie on Mean Old World are Bob and Patrick Hamilton, as well as Jaxone Haldane, all of whom played multiple instruments and shared engineering duties. Tentrees said they spent the week making the record “locked in a house,” waking up every day and getting to work. Once the process was finished, there was no going back to re-record or overdub any parts.
“The goal was to do it for a week, then walk away from it and not come back,” he said. “That’s art—it is what it is, and it’s done now.”
Tentrees said this method was both exciting and nerve-wracking, knowing he wouldn’t get to redo anything he didn’t like, but, luckily, upon hearing the finished product, he couldn’t have been happier, which he credits in a large part to the musicians he worked with, saying he picked the perfect people for the job.
Though he is thankful to have received help with this record from Yukon Media Development, the past year-and-a-half has not been easy for Tentrees where his music career is concerned. Like all working musicians, Tentrees had lots of big plans halted in their tracks—including 140 postponed shows that were meant to take place in 2020.
“It’s a bit frustrating, but everyone’s in the same boat,” he said. “Like everyone else, I had to pivot and be creative, and, luckily, we live in the Yukon where we’ve still been able to play music for audiences. Postponing and re-postponing tours is a bizarre thing to do, but it’s the reality that we’re living in.”
Tentrees will host an official album release concert at the Yukon Arts Centre on Oct. 20, which, along with Tentrees and his band, will feature the junior division of the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, of which Tentrees’ daughter is a member. The dancers will open the concert. Some members will sing with Tentrees on “Every Child,” a song off the new record.
“It’s gonna be a fun show to do,” said Tentrees.
Though it was initially strange for Tentrees to have so much free time at home on his hands, spending his first year off the road in well over a decade wasn’t so bad. While he’s happy to finally be out on tour again, he has enjoyed getting to spend more time with his family lately, and said balancing his music career and family life has actually gotten easier as he’s progressed.
“I used to think you had to live a certain lifestyle, living on the road and performing 300 days a year for anybody and everybody and that it was this constant race. I felt like a hamster in a wheel,” he said. “Now, I just choose where and when I want to play, and that’s been great for my family because I’m not gone as much as I used to be.”
Tentrees said he didn’t know what it would be like to spend more than a year at home for a change, but he’s loved being able to reconnect with the community where he lives. He went as far as to say this was the “blessing” of the pandemic.
Coming out of the pandemic, Tentrees aims to continue setting priorities for himself, making sure he is still being creative, making music and performing shows, but not allowing the lifestyle to consume him and keep him away from his family and home for overly long periods of time.
“I’ve got tours in the works for the next two years all over the place,” he said. “But I’m just taking my time with it; I’ve been enjoying this time out and time to pause. I’m taking my time with how I approach touring in the future, and it’s kind of fun to be more relaxed about it and have less of a sense of urgency like I’m gonna miss something.”
One thing Tentrees is doing differently with his new record is making it only available for purchase directly from him—meaning it won’t appear on any streaming services. In fact, Tentrees has also taken all his previous albums off of sites like Spotify and Apple Music, and is now instead directing fans to sources like Bandcamp, where he will actually see some revenue from people purchasing his music, whether digitally or physically.
“This is a big thing for me as far as taking a stance and not giving it out for free exposure, which I’ve done in the past,” Tentrees said. “There’s more artists doing that; there’s a big underground movement that hopefully won’t be so underground in a little while, where more artists take back the rights to their music so they can actually make some financial income from creating the content they’re creating.”
Tentrees admitted it was a challenge to figure out how to navigate promoting an album that listeners wouldn’t be able to consume for free, but also said the process has ultimately been fulfilling. As for where he hopes this record might take him, Tentrees simply said he hopes a lot of people get to hear it, but being happy with it himself is enough.
“I love playing music whether or not I’m doing it in front of an audience.”
To keep up with all things Gordie Tentrees and find out how to get your hands on a copy of Mean Old World and tickets for the Whitehorse release show, visit Tentrees’ website at tentrees.ca.