Talented couple feature new band in City stop

Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland formed ‘Whitehorse’ last fall

Both acclaimed musicians in their own right, Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet will be performing with their new band Whitehorse at The Hideout on April 28.

The husband and wife team released their first disc as Whitehorse last fall.

The results demand respect right from the get-go — examples of their musical mastery abound from the haunting allure of Emerald Isle to the sultry saunter of Killing Time.

They also offer up a stellar cover of Bruce Springsteen’s classic I’m On Fire from his Born in the U.S.A. disc.

During a chat with McClelland from the couple’s home in Hamilton, Ontario (they also live in New York City part of the year), she explains that the decision to form a band was a rather gradual one.

They had frequently supported each other over the years via each other’s projects, and they are indeed extraordinary together onstage.

Merging their talents in a single creative force proved a natural ‘next step’.

“It seemed like kind of the obvious thing to do, and we were surprised we hadn’t thought of it before,” she says with a laugh. She recalls traveling not too long ago with her husband through parts of Europe on a tour – just the two of them – and being onstage together was a rich reminder of what they had.

“It was just us trading songs back and forth. We have a strong chemistry musically and creatively, and it was like we reached a point where we could read each other’s minds onstage,” she recalls. “We knew it was time to take the band idea and run with it.”

Writing songs for the project wasn’t too tough – after all, McClelland and Doucet are each gifted and prolific songwriters.

“We had new songs, older tunes and all these songs that had evolved into duets.”

Recording the project stretched over a couple of years, as they would find bits of time to lay down the tracks while touring. At last it was a wrap and it’s been a delight sharing the results with audiences ever since.

In fact, so much material was produced for the debut disc that another CD is slated for release this fall.

As to the name Whitehorse, she recalls her and Doucet tossing various names of communities across Canada.

“We thought Whitehorse had a nice ring to it, plus we liked the idea of this isolated, beautiful city. We liked the remoteness of it.”

They performed at a festival there a couple of months ago and were thrilled with how well they were received.

“It was incredible. The people are so amazing, and the community is really a well-kept secret.”

As mentioned earlier, both McClelland and Doucet are exceptional artists. McClelland’s last solo disc Victoria Day was released in the spring of 2009.

A love for music came early, spurred on by supportive parents.

But she wasn’t one to jump up and perform for the relatives and clamour for attention. McClelland recalls singing and making up songs for hours on end as a child, but it was a solitary thing for her. But her flourishing talents would ultimately surface and in their own magical way demand attention.

For his part, Doucet has one of those sleek, compelling voices that melds perfectly with his chosen genre of music. His latest disc was Steel City Trawler.

Prior to that, Blood’s Too Rich featured his band The White Falcon.

There is no question Doucet is a master of stories, and it’s obvious he’s not just repeating them. The lyrics come from a deeper place of experience.

He’s also a master on the guitar, an instrument he got serious about when he was about 13.

Practicing six hours or so per day clearly helped hone those flourishing skills. His gift for singing was sparked early on as he had belonged to a choir during his early years as well.

As his own talents took shape, others were quick to notice and tap into the man’s artistic finesse, including Sarah McLachlan (who he recorded and played with for several years) and Chantal Kreviazuk.

Blood’s Too Rich marked the seventh disc from Doucet. Other releases include 2005’s Broken (and other rogue states), The Embattled Hearts (2003), Aloha Manitoba (2001) and Tilt O’Whirl (1999).

Meanwhile, there are no plans for further solo projects – at this point anyways, said McClelland. Whitehorse is the couple’s focus.

“I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. My two passions are music and travel, and I get to do both,” she says. “And the fact that we get to do this together helps to make the road our home.”