Musicians Leslie Alexander and Jenny Allen have united for a nation-wide tour of song and good times.
Promoting their newest albums, Allen’s Blanket and Alexander’s Nobody’s Baby, they will make a stop in Canmore at the Drake Inn on May 1.
“It’s fantastic, it’s awesome to be on the road,” said Alexander in a phone. “We’ve been planning it for a long time – here it is and we’re rockin’.”
Touring is an important part of finding new listeners, she said.
“You gotta find people to listen to your songs, and the best way to do it is face-to-face,” said Alexander. “People do pass stuff around on the Internet, but number one is getting to play in front of people.
“We love to do it and that’s why we’re musicians. But you can’t play in the same place all the time – if someone’s seen the show, you want to come back with something fresh.”
Alexander usually tours twice a year, first in spring, then again in the fall, with a few summer dates thrown in. For this tour, the duo began on the B.C. coast in mid-April and finish in Montreal in early June. In the fall, they’ll hit the road again with a tour of Atlantic Canada.
“And it’s just a whole lot of fun to be driving around different places, seeing people,” said Alexander. “A lot of the time you’re playing places where you’ve played before, and you’re seeing people you’ve made friends with, so there’s a lot of that reunion vibe.”
Originally from Alberta, Alexander has crisscrossed the country countless times, headlining her own band or opening for the likes of Harry Manx, Joel Plaskett, Jane Siberry and many others. Allen, however, is her favourite.
“We started out with the idea of supporting each other, just in terms of sharing costs and bookings,” said Alexander. “But the first time we got on stage together, it just became apparent that we really liked each other’s songs and really liked playing with each other.
“Basically, the show has morphed into a dual act, as opposed to two separate performers. We sing and play on each other’s songs, and we trade songs within the set. It’s a show.”
Allen, also from Alberta, grew up in Calgary and has many fond memories of the region.
“I have been playing in and around Canmore for years,” she said. “I used to play at the Drake Inn all the time and I love Canmore. In Banff, we always played at the St. James Gate.
“I’ve got a real warm spot in my heart for Kananaskis Country and Banff and Canmore, I love it there,” she added. “It’s like coming home.”
She and Alexander crossed paths for years before they started playing together, said Allen.
“I played in a band called The Fates – we were opening for Jane Siberry and Leslie was touring for Jane – and we found ourselves standing beside each other singing,” recounted Allen. “We were looking at each other and saying ‘Gee, that sounds pretty good,’ and about a month later we got in touch with each other and talked about wanting to tour.”
Originally, they were going to play together as a double bill, but things came together in such a way they decided it was better to play as a team.
“When the time came to book this tour, it just seemed like the logical solution was to team up and do it again,” she said. “It’s going good and we get along great and we have a musical affinity, there’s a real harmony between us that comes across on stage, like we’re having a good time. People get it.”
Allen describes her music as being a mix of folk and roots rock.
“A lot of songs about heartbreak, but I’ve also put a couple of real love songs on the record,” she said, talking about Blanket. “They’re not all affairs of the heart, there’s stories on this record as well.”
Alexander talked a little more about their musical relationship.
“It’s two solo singer/songwriters joined together and harmonizing on each other’s stuff and it’s all roots-oriented music – meaning we mainly write our songs on acoustic guitar – but we also find that between the two of us, percussion and guitar and vocals, can bring a lot of dynamics to the set,” she explained.
“I also play harmonica and kazoo and Jenny plays washboard, which is really fun,” she added. “It is the Dirty Laundry tour, so we need a washboard.”