Gideon Irving has spent the past several years taking his offbeat brand of musical theater to people’s homes and crashing on their couches in between gigs.
By his own estimation, he's performed and stayed in about 600 homes across four continents, playing his twangy, genre-defying music on the banjo, ankle chimes and the jaw harp. He's performed at house concerts in New Zealand, numerous states, all five boroughs of New York City, Los Angeles and during multiple visits to Boulder, handling his booking through the social-networking app CouchSurfing.
The native New Yorker is taking a different tack on his tour set to begin in early September. He'll still be playing house shows, but instead of taking a car, an airplane or a train, he'll be traveling by horseback across the western states for about a year.
The Horse Tour is expected to depart from Creede, Colorado, in early September and hit New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming. Irving will be traveling alone with two horses through public lands, national and state parks, Native American reservations and large sections of the Continental Divide Trail as well as the Pacific Crest Trail, according to a release.
Irving admits that traveling via horse won’t be the easiest task in terms of planning.
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“Some people know folks that have horses in the area and have some space, or some barn space,” Irving says. “It's a combination of every possible scenario. Most of the time in between shows, I'll be camping with the horses for kind of up to ten days at the top, in between towns for either resupply or to play a show.”
Irving adds that because of the nature of horse travel, he won’t be giving exact dates to the people who have agreed to host his shows.
“There can really only be a tentative window for when I'd arrive in that town several weeks or months beforehand," he explains. "As I get closer, I can give them a smaller and smaller window, because the nature of horse travel is that basically everything is always not going exactly as planned.”
To prepare for his new gig as an equestrian troubadour, Irving moved to Boulder — that’s Boulder, Utah, population 200 — last year to learn how to manage the two horses he plans to take with him: six-year-old Troubador and his twelve-year-old cousin, Augustus. He considers the horses to be his “bandmates.” If all goes well, he might bring a third horse along later in the tour.
“Bought my horses out of here, and have been working with them for the last several months, kind of in preparation for this,” he says. “These last several weeks, I've been doing my first solo packing trips with the horses.”
While it’s a novel approach to touring, Irving says that part of his vision for the experience is to spend a significant amount of time living out of civilization on the trail with the horses and measuring the effect on himself and his art.
“I'm open to kind of meeting characters along the way and keeping an open mind to what kind of connection can emerge,” he says. “What’s nice about the plan and the tour being so long — you know, hopefully a year — is that even if little moments like that happen, the majority of it would be a solo experience.”
He adds that as a person who grew up in the urban environment of New York City, he has felt disconnected from nature, and he sees the trip as a way to challenge himself to unplug from the modern world, so to speak.
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Caring for the horses during the journey is one way to do that, as is the challenge of paring down his increasingly complicated stage shows — which sometimes involve hundreds of pounds of gear — into something that can fit on two pack horses.
“I'm a person who always criticized and looked at people addicted to their computers and their phones kind of with a general disdain, thinking I wasn't like that — that couldn't touch me,” he says. “And then I found myself falling deeper and deeper into that chasm where my phone and all my technology is like an extension of my body, almost, and feeling like there's no escape from that.”
Perhaps he's found one.
For information on how to book a show, email Irving at firstname.lastname@example.org.