FAIRBANKS — British singer-songwriter Paul Thompson has never been to Alaska. But unlike many musicians who travel north for the first time, Thompson plans to develop a more intimate relationship with the state and its people, hitching between gigs and crashing on people’s couches and floors.
“When you travel, you put yourself into situations slightly out of the ordinary and I find you make the best friends this way,” he said from Anchorage during his second day in the state. “I’m interested in learning about new cultures and places and spreading my music to other parts of the world.”
Thompson, 40, conceived of his northern tour — including stops in Dawson City and other Canadian cities — during a dream inspired in part by migrating Alaska and Canada geese that land near his Sheringham, England studio, combined with a desire to do something unusual to promote “A Leap of Faith,” his latest CD.
“I think that (migration) initially got me wondering about the journey the geese made and these (Alaska and Canada) parts of the world,” he explained. “I woke up in the middle of the night with this idea in my head to go do a tour of Alaska.
You know how dreams are, so I went back to sleep. But when I woke up the next day I thought I’d really fancy doing that. That set the idea in motion I suppose.”
Thompson arrived in Anchorage May 29 after months of research, planning and booking 25 concerts from 5,000 miles away. With him was a guitar, a backpack filled with camping gear and a suitcase on wheels holding his amplifier and a few basic necessities such as a computer to keep up with his blog (Buskalaska).
Accommodations have been (and are being) arranged via social networking sites and he has (and will) secure rides in similar fashion. When that fails, Thompson plans to hitchhike and camp, though he’s concerned about getting stuck in inhospitable places.
“(Alaska’s) not the kind of place you want to get stranded out in the middle of nowhere. You know, bears and things are not really something I’m kind of used to in England,” he said.
So far, Thompson’s journey has proceeded without issue, at least according to his blog entries. Besides enjoying the scenery (noted in every entry), he’s hitched plenty of rides, done some hiking and boating, taken in some rifle practice, taught a songwriting workshop, been invited into homes for dinner and, of course, performed his individual brand of wellcrafted pop-folk at festivals, bars, coffee shops and street fairs.
He also noted in one entry that he’s been inspired to write new songs.
“What you write is only an experience of what you are and what you’ve seen in life,” he said during the phone interview. “I need new things to keep the old brain ticking over. I think this tour will be good for that.”
And though seeing Alaska is a major part of the draw, Thompson — who works a day job as a live-in homecare assistant — admitted music is his guiding force.
“I’d say it’s a serious hobby. If the opportunity came along to do it full time, I suppose I would, but it’s my all-consuming obsession and passion in life,” he said. “I think of myself first and foremost a singer and writer, but it’s tough to make that into a full-time living.”
But it does get him out of the house. “I guess besides the music, it’s the adventure, a chance to see something new and meet new people and experience new things,” he said, pausing a moment.