When Kate Weekes plays in Whitehorse on May 2, the audience will hear something new and maybe surprising, even if they’re already fans. Having lived in the territory from 2003 to 2014, the singer-songwriter still spends several months here each year. Many Yukoners are familiar with her work. However, her new CD, Taken By Surprise, serves up something different, reflecting her artistic and personal evolution. Weekes’ last album, released in 2014, reflected her dog-mushing, cabin-dwelling lifestyle.
“Overall the songs were at arm’s length, telling someone else’s story or focusing on the physicality of the landscape or locale,” said Weekes. “While they had emotion, I didn’t feel exposed by the words I sang.”
That’s not the case this time. Weekes said her songs are still inspired by the North, dog mushing and travel (for example, time spent in Ontario, Quebec and Scandinavia), but are written with her personal perspective at the core, including, at times, sadness. These songs, she said, make her feel entirely exposed.
“The song ‘Taken by Surprise’ is the heart of the album,” said Weekes. “It captures the beauty of my experience in Norway and the imagery comes from the Lofoten Islands. Contrasted with that fantastical landscape is what has become apparent to me in the last few years … that things won’t always get better, that we can lose our best friend with the end of a relationship, that not all dreams come true, that people we love will die.”
Although most of the material on the new CD was penned post-2014, Weekes said there are strong links to the Yukon and what she’s experienced, emotionally, since leaving. For example, “A Day Called Summer” was written after being stranded for two days on a spit in the Wind River, while the river was in flood.
“The song speaks to the challenge of adapting to an urban lifestyle after spending time in the bush. Even Whitehorse can seem like a big city after a couple of weeks in the Peel Watershed,” said Weekes. Other songs emerged from her job in Norway as a dog mushing guide.
“I was working with a team of 50 sled dogs at a 5-star resort, a stark contrast to living in a Squatter’s Row cabin. I struggled with the commercial aspect of it. It felt removed from social consciousness, political awareness and the wilderness. At the same time, I was working a dream job, living in a beautiful house looking over the fjord and hanging out with some wonderful new friends. I did my best to capture that experience in song.”
Weekes has garnered a fair bit of recent attention on Ontario media, including CTV, Rogers TV, CBC Ottawa and the Ottawa Citizen. She credits this to her work with a manager and a publicist, which she said has focused her energy on both business and creative goals.
“Having a team has helped make publicity for the album more effective,” said Weekes. “It’s great to hear from people who are familiar with my work that they like what I’m currently producing.”
Weekes is enthusiastic about her collaboration with multi-instrumentalist James Stephens, who produced the new CD and will perform with her in the Yukon.
“James has played with numerous bands in Ontario, and when we started playing together in 2015, we hit it off musically right away. In Whitehorse, he’ll play fiddle, mandolin and electric mandolin. Playing with him is like playing with a band!”
After Whitehorse, the duo heads to Faro, Ross River and Carmacks for school shows. Weekes will play on May 14 in Gordie Tentrees’ songwriting series at Hamilton & Sons. She has other Yukon gigs set up as well.
“This summer’s creative goals include songwriting and collaboration. I’m also looking ahead to the fall and next year to book gigs, set up co-writing initiatives and double-bills with Ontario artists.”
It’s clear that Weekes has much more to offer her fans. We can all look forward to being “taken by surprise” by the music that is still to come.
Tickets for the show are available at BrownPaperTickets.com.