Whitehorse brings multiple music styles to Tour de Fort

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Next Thursday, May 5, Whitehorse is coming to the Townshend Theatre in Fort Frances. The band’s style varies from rock and roll to blues to country.

The final show of the Tour de Fort season features the husband and wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland. They came together as an act after they realized they were both helping each other on solo work all the time Doucet said.

“Melissa and I have been playing music together for almost 20 years,” Doucet said. “We’ve been married for 16 of those years and started the band about 11 years ago after we realized that everything we did, we did together and was improved by the other’s participation.”

They each had solo careers as artists, but were both in each other’s bands and also played together in Sarah McLachlan’s band.

“Every time we left the house, we were together, and yet we were still pretending that we were two different, distinct outfits,” Doucet said. “We finally got to the point where that seemed silly. So we were like ‘let’s just accept the fact that we’re a unit.’ Then you hang the banner of being a band around your neck and it liberates you creatively to some degree because a band is like a gang, it’s an idea, it’s a concept and you can kind of reinvent yourself as a person.”

The name Whitehorse came out of a desire to have people ask about their Canadian roots, Doucet says. Though neither of them is from Yukon, Doucet hails from Manitoba and McClelland was born in the US and grew up in southern Ontario.

“We’re sort of cut from the American mold,” Doucet said of the band’s sound. “That’s a relatively new term, it hasn’t really had a solid footing in terms of what people understand it to mean for very long.”

According to americanamusic.org, “Americana is contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.”

Husband and wife duo, Whitehorse, made up of Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet, is the final show for the 2021- 2022 Tour de Fort regular series. Organizers will be unveiling next year’s line-up at the event, with audience members being the first allowed to buy season passports. Whitehorse takes the stage on May 5. – Submitted photo

“It sounds American and it sounds US-centric,” Doucet said. “If that’s the community we’re a part of, that’s great, because a lot of the music we listen to seems to emanate from that community and a lot of music we make seems to fit within it. So if that’s true we wanted an opportunity to explain to people that we’re Canadian. So we actually wanted to name ourselve after a Canadian geographic location. It could have been Fort Frances, it could have been Atikokan. We actually thought we were going to be Yellowknife and then we thought that sounds a bit more punk rock than we are.”

Like many artists, the band is working to come back from being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Doucet says the time off was fruitful for them as they managed to write four albums worth of music. They released two in 2021, Modern Love and Strike Me Down and are hoping to release two more before the end of 2022.

“We spent a lot of time together,” Doucet said. “And we tried to stay sane and we tried to be patient, and we took care of our son. We recorded four albums worth of material. So we were really productive as far as being creative and writing music and all that stuff. I don’t know how we survived, I’ll know how to better answer that question in 10 years when I look back at it again.”

After a lot of uncertainty, Doucet says they’re happy to be getting back on the road. Tour de Fort is the second stop on a northern Ontario tour that also has stops in Kenora, Atikokan, Thunder Bay, Geraldton, Sioux Lookout, Dryden and Red Lake.

“It feels great,” Doucet said. “I spent a lot of the last year feeling like it was never going to come back, like we were never going to go back to work properly. Now it feels like the next three months our schedule’s ramped so that’s really good, it feels like there’s relief in sight.”

The final show of the Tour de Fort season will also see the unveiling of next year’s lineup as well as the first sales of passports for next season. Tickets for the Whitehorse show are available for $25 at Ski’s Variety or the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre or online through tourdefort.com/tickets.