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The Ottawa Citizen

After a Decade Up North, Kate Weekes Comes Home

After more than a decade in the Yukon, where she worked as a dog musher and wilderness guide, Kate Weekes is back in the Ottawa area.

The Smiths Falls-born singer-songwriter, who grew up in Ottawa and attended Canterbury High School, has actually been back for about four years, but it hasn’t been an easy transition. Her poignant new album, Taken By Surprise, chronicles the challenges of re-integrating herself into the South, as well as her recent adventures in places like Denmark and Norway.

Produced and engineered by veteran multi-instrumentalist James Stephens in his Chelsea studio, the album captures Weekes’ clear, strong voice, heartfelt lyrics and knack for exquisite melodies. She launches it in Ottawa this week, kicking off a short tour of Ontario. In this interview, edited for length, the 36-year-old talks about moving away, coming back and the appeal of a vast wilderness. 

Singer/songwriter and guitarist Kate Weekes has released her third solo album, Taken by Surprise. ERROL MCGIHON / POSTMEDIA

Q: Congratulations on the album. It sounds like a breakup record. Is it? 

A: (Laughs) I wouldn’t label it that way. I mean, it’s not just a breakup with a human. It’s breaking up with a lot of things. I moved from the Yukon about four years ago, and it was a bit of a traumatic experience. I did go through a breakup around that move but I also had worked with 20 sled dogs up there for about eight years so I was saying goodbye to them, and all of my friends, and the life I had built up there. There’s heartache involved, but it’s a bit more all-encompassing.

Q: What inspired you to move to the Yukon in the first place?

A: When I finished high school, I was looking for an adventure to go on. I’d had the North in mind for a number of years. It kept creeping into my peripheral vision. I was doing quite a bit of hitchhiking down here when I was 19, and I had a number of conversations with people where the Yukon would come up. I’d also seen (musician) Kim Barlow play the Ottawa Folk Festival and she talked about the vibrant music community in Whitehorse. That caught my attention so I went to check it out.

Q: What happened when you got there?

A: Soon after arriving, I found out about a canoe trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and it seemed like something I really needed to do so I went on this two-week canoe trip in the Yukon wilderness, and that changed everything.

Q: How so?

A: Well, it gave me a sense of wilderness that I didn’t even know existed and made me want more. I have basically spent most moments of my life since then trying to get as much time as I can in the bush. I didn’t really know what I was looking for up until that moment, and then it just became clear that I wanted that experience of being in a vast place away from civilization.

Q: Why come back to civilization?

A: (Sighs) I think it’s partly because I was aware that I could stay up there forever. I was in a relationship, I had my dogs and my friends and my cabin, and lots of things happening musically. I just meant to go up for a summer and 12 years went by. But I’m close with my family, and it’s a long ways away. I had talked the whole time about moving back here — I didn’t really mean to become a musician/dog musher living in the Yukon.

Singer/songwriter and guitarist Kate Weekes. ERROL MCGIHON / POSTMEDIA

Q: You wrote songs about dog-mushing on your last album, Frost on Black Fur. How do you describe your mission with this one?

A: The last one in 2014, I made just as I was leaving the Yukon, and I found myself writing about the things in my life right then because I did not want to lose them. But in some ways, I couldn’t speak to the emotion of it because it was too much. This album covers a lot of the emotion of what it is to go through change. And that it’s OK to say I’m sad, I’m heartbroken, I miss my friends and I’m having trouble adjusting. But it’s also a celebration. I did a lot of cool things over the last few years, including a winter in Norway as a dog-mushing guide and travelling around Scandinavia.

Q: What was that like?

A: It was radically different from my experience in the Yukon, in part because I was at a resort. It was a more urban mushing experience. In terms of how far north you are, it felt more similar to Ontario. We hovered around 0 C all winter, and we had quite a bit of rain.

Q: That would be a challenge for running sleds.

A: Yeah, I think I got out of dog mushing at the right time. Everyone is struggling with it. Friends are telling me they’ve barely been able to get on the sleds this year.

Q: What is your plan now?

A: I’m still fairly transient. I just moved to Wakefield but I’m still spending half the year in the Yukon. I’ll likely do some guiding there again this summer. I started working with a manager and a publicist, and I’ll be showcasing at the Folk Alliance conference (Feb. 13-17, Montreal). It’s not my first album so I’m aware of the realities. It doesn’t matter how good the music is, there’s still a lot of legwork to do.

lsaxberg@postmedia.com

https://ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/local-arts/after-a-decade-up-north-kate-weekes-comes-home

The Kingston Whig Standard

Singer returns to Kingston with Surprise in tow

 

Musician Kate Weekes releases her latest album, Taken by Surprise, with a concert at Kingston's Next Church on Sunday at 3 p.m. (Supplied Photo) 

 

When she takes the stage for her record release on Sunday, it will be, in some ways, a homecoming for musician Kate Weekes.

Weekes — who recently released her third solo album, Taken by Surprise — has called Kingston home a couple of times. Once, it was during her so-called “victory lap” after high school and she enrolled in the Theatre Complete program.

It was after that year she decided to head north after hearing that Whitehorse had a vibrant music community.

“I’d always been interested in the North, and I just wanted to go and check it out,” Weekes explained.

“I went up there, and, yes, indeed, there is a very strong musical community there, but I also discovered the wilderness up there.”

 

Enamoured with her new environs, she embarked on a two-week canoe trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City and “that just kind of sealed the deal for me.”

“I just wanted more. I spent a summer up there, and then it was, OK, I’ll try spending a winter, and then 12 years went by. I ended up becoming a dog musher and became deeply ingrained in the music community there,” she said.

Much of her second album, Frost on Black Fur, was about her experiences living in the North.

This time around, she expanded that to include, in part, her return to Ontario, which included a stint living in Kingston again.

“A lot of the writing for this album happened while I was in Norway working as a dog-mushing guide,” the Smiths Falls native said. “I think that had a big influence on the songs that came out as well. So there’s sort of a Scandinavian theme happening. And they were also written while I was doing a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts.”

There, she was studying how to combine jazz with folk music, around which she grew up as her parents were both folk musicians.

“I call myself a folk musician, but I don’t have a lot of songs that sound like classic folk songs,” she explained.

While she sometimes misses her life in the North, there’s one thing she doesn’t miss: the difficulty of finding someplace to play outside of Whitehorse.

“There’s not a lot,” said Weekes, who said travelling to gigs from her home in Wakefield, Que., is significantly easier. “There are a few communities where you can play, otherwise you’re flying to Vancouver or driving to Edmonton to tour.”

Weekes performs — along with multi-instrumentalist James Stephens, who produced her new album — on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Next Church, 89 Colborne St. Admission at the door is $20, $15 in advance. To learn more, go online to www.kateweekes.com.

https://www.thewhig.com/entertainment/local-arts/singer-returns-to-kingston-with-surprise-in-tow?fbclid=IwAR068XeqHwstnXIY5yFxJnoI-X-KhEootwiDwuxiHKg25uKo8LGCwZITOQk

Penguin Eggs Magazine

What's Up Yukon

Yukon News

The more you listen to Frost On Black Fur, the more you enter Kate Weekes’s unique perception of the world around her.

The latest solo album from the 32-year old Yukon singer-songwriter features a variety of lyrical themes such as winter, wilderness, politics, travel and change.

But what comes through the most is a distinct yearning for exploration, discovery and curiosity.

With a voice that can shed light on even the darkest days, Weekes really comes into her own on this 11-track album.

On “Sing It To The Hills,” the Whitehorse-based folk musician sings about Irish tour guides who struggle with feelings of joy, grief and oppression associated with the country’s tumultuous past.

The song came about after Weekes spent two months in Ireland a few years ago.

She kept a journal, a practice she has had for many years, and compiled the lyrics to the song based on her notes.

On “Banks Of The Snake,” based on a trip into the Peel watershed, she tackles issues of development and taking wilderness for granted.

“Chopper by the Iron Creek cuts through the air and it’s all we hear / what’s the iron chopper doing there? / picking up the mess they made or making more with stick and blade?” she sings.

She said she’s grown considerably - both lyrically and as a musician - since her self-titled, solo album was released in 2007.

“I feel like I’ve become a more solid musician, one that plays more consistently,” she said.

“I’ve been playing with some really good musicians over the last few years. I’m more conscious of my playing and how the songs are structured.”

Weekes said she had about 30 songs to pick from for this latest album.

The creative process began last fall when she started working with producer Bob Hamilton, who was instrumental in helping Weekes structure her songs and figure out the best track order for the album, among other things.

In February, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the album.

Almost $6,000 was raised in the span of a month.

The message was loud and clear: people wanted to hear more original music from Kate Weekes.

“That really helped with my confidence,” she said.

“To hear that people were so enthusiastic about my upcoming album was very encouraging to me.”

The timing for a new solo album felt right, too.

Weekes had been collaborating with other musicians for a few years and decided it was time to “find her voice again.”

She also wanted to have more performing options available to her.

“I’m curious to see how people will react to the album, and a bit nervous,” she said.

“You’re really putting yourself out there. I think there is more energy and rhythm to these songs than my past work.”

The album release party will be held at the Old Fire Hall on Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m.

She’ll be performing songs from the album as well as some swing tunes, she said.

http://www.yukon-news.com/arts/kate-weekes-comes-into-her-own-with-latest-album/