Tim Easton’s first tour of Alaska covered the basics — a jaunt that included stops at a few coffee shop locations in Anchorage, Palmer and Kenai.
In the succeeding two decades, the Nashville-based troubadour has returned nearly every year, 2020′s pandemic year being the only exception. Those tours have taken him deeper into the state: Homer, Fairbanks, McCarthy, Juneau, Kodiak and, this year, into Western Alaska along the Mulchatna River.
Those trips and other northerly excursions are the subject of “Northbound Heart,” his recently released book. Easton will share some of his songs as well as poems, essays and stories from the book at 6 p.m. Thursday at The Writer’s Block Bookstore & Cafe in Anchorage.
While a bulk of the book is based on Easton’s 20 years traveling to Alaska to play, he’s also toured Scandinavia and the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.
“I looked through my essays and things I’ve written, and I compiled a book with the focus on Alaska and northern travels,” he said. “It became a theme I started to work on in my mind and I wanted to create something new.”
Easton also put together a 16-song album as a companion to the book. He’s a prodigious traveler and touring musician, but Alaska has become his retreat, the place he comes to play every year and often for nearly a month of the summer.
“Alaska has been the most consistent touring location for me throughout my career,” he said. “We’re talking 21 years in a row, minus one pandemic year where I didn’t come up. And it’s not just about touring as much as it is about experiencing Alaska and experiencing the fishing and the friends and the walks and the hikes.”
Mike McCormick of Whistling Swan Productions initially brought Easton to the state. Since then, Easton has played solo, performed with groups including Easton Stagger Phillips and the Thunderwolves, and even brought his daughter along on a tour.
Over the years, he’s also written some 49th state-centric songs, such as “Alaska Bars, Pt. 1.″ At times, he has hitchhiked through the state to make his shows.
“It’s very big-state, small-town vibe,” he said. “A lot of people see that guitar or they might already know what I’m up to. ... I wouldn’t get very far without the extended hand of many great Alaskans. I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Easton has already been in Alaska for a week and will continue touring the state, with shows in Girdwood, Homer and Fairbanks as well as at Salmonfest, where he has performed each year the festival has been held.
He has continued to expand his ambitions, including an idea to team up with his friend and drummer James Dommek Jr. to bring music education to areas around Dommek’s hometown of Kotzebue.
“I try to do something new every time, whether it’s go to Kodiak or McCarthy,” he said. “I now have branched out to even teaching songwriting workshops in places like Nome and Ketchikan. I’d love to just continue my explorations and hopefully get up into the Brooks Range eventually.
“I love it. I love the unknown. And I love the spirit of the people here.”