It takes almost three weeks to nail down a time and place to interview Gordie Tentrees and Sarah MacDougall.
When the appointed time comes – a late Wednesday afternoon – they are running behind and still haven’t had lunch.
Tentrees seems more than a little frazzled, tossing out half-finished thoughts as he munches something decidedly healthy.
More than once, the conversation is punctuated by a cell-phone call he needs to answer.
MacDougall comes across a bit more focused, but the pair often finishes each other’s sentences, like a couple long-used to each other’s way of thinking.
Which is unusual. The singer-songwriters only met for the first time last summer at a bluegrass festival.
Now, along with another local musician – nicknamed “the infamous Ken Hermanson” by Tentrees, his performing and touring partner for the past eight years – they are about to embark on a major musical tour that will see them give 60 performances in eight countries between March 25 and mid-June.
Each gig will actually be a dual concert, with the performers deciding as they go who will open and who will close the event.
Dubbed the “Yukon Roots Music World Tour”, it will take them from British Columbia and Alberta by minivan to several stops in Texas and other southern US states, and back to the Yukon in early May.
And that’s just the half of it.
They then fly to Italy for a month’s worth of concerts in that country, as well as Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland and MacDougall’s home country of Sweden.
“I think it represents for both of us a lot of new opportunities and a lot of new people to meet, and new places to see and new places to play,” says MacDougall.
“It’s my first extensive US tour, and my first Italy tour, and Gordie’s first Italy tour. Scandinavia is a place where I’ve toured several times, and that’s Gordie’s first.”
Tentrees picks up the theme.
“I’ve never been to half of these places, and the places I have been, it’s going to be great to back with a new show that involves Sarah, and introducing someone new to the audience, which is always a neat thing to do.”
While both artists have toured extensively before, their only time on the road together was a two-week jaunt to Alaska last fall – shortly after they met.
“Gordie and I were the only non-bluegrass act on this bluegrass festival, so we became friends,” MacDougall explains while Tentrees is off somewhere talking on the phone.
“What happened was that he liked my show a lot. We traded CDs, and he said he listened to my CD 26 times in a row on the drive back up to the Yukon. A couple of weeks later he asked me if I wanted to come up for a tour of Alaska.”
But there’s a difference between a two-week sprint in a nearby state and a marathon involving so many performances and so much geography.
“We know for sure that it’s going to be challenging, because it already is. But I’ve toured before with other acts on long tours. I toured with Po’ Girls for a long time,” MacDougall says.
“This one is like three months playing almost every day, so it’s definitely the most intense one. But I think if I can do it with anyone, it’s Gordie and Ken, because they’re so laid-back, and they’re easy to get along with.”
It also helps that they are big fans of each other’s music, even though they took quite different roads getting to where they are now.
Tentrees, who grew up in Ontario, had no interest in music until he came to the Yukon 12 years ago. While working near Haines Junction that summer, a friend suggested he should take in the Alsek Music Festival.
The die was cast.
“I hadn’t played music publicly yet, and five years later I played the festival six years in a row.”
He has since gone on to earn a reputation as one of the hardest-working musicians in the Yukon, maintaining a touring regime other musicians consider “insane”.
“I was always sort of like, if I’m going to do something I’m going to really do it. All the time. Every second of the day. And there’s not enough time in the day, for whatever it was,” he says.
“Those are the sort of experiences that just set me up for ‘OK, if you just play music, and dedicate your entire life to it, like a maniac, then something good will happen eventually.'”
MacDougall, on the other hand, has been involved in music since her childhood in the southern Swedish city of Malmö.
“I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was 11,” she says. “I played in my own bands throughout my teenage years. And then when I was 21, I moved to Canada, basically to study music and meet other acoustic folk musicians.”
While she still writes and performs songs in both English and Swedish, she will probably stick to English for most of the tour, except in her native land.
“I’m trying to persuade her to sing more Swedish,” Tentrees says, but MacDougall has reservations.
“My songs are all about the lyrics. I’m more of a storyteller. It doesn’t make sense to me to sing a song that has a story if no one can understand the words in it.”
Tentrees seems a little less frazzled as the conversation winds down, but the day is far from over for both artists as they attend to the millions of organizational details such a major tour involves.
“An awful lot of phone calls. An awful lot of emails. A lot of boring conversations about timelines and financial details. Getting resources for the van…”
And the list goes on.