PORT ANGELES — When it comes to learning something the hard way — as in jumping in and doing it — Kim Trenerry is fearless.
She’s the fiery-tressed singer in Deadwood Revival, Port Angeles’ old-time-music-with-modern-sparks outfit. Known for her bluebird’s voice, Trenerry has sung her way through a great variety of venues over the past 20 years — and is about to embark on yet another chapter in her musical life.
Watch Trenerry with her bandmates Jason Mogi, Julie Campbell and Ches Ferguson, and you might not guess where she came from. You might not guess she was a musical theater performer in Atlanta, dancing and singing in shows from “Annie” to “South Pacific” with Robert Goulet. You might not picture her dancing at Six Flags Over Georgia, the amusement park just west of Atlanta.
But nearby Marietta, Ga., is where Trenerry grew up. It was where her father owned a glass shop, and where she and her best friend, Heather Buehner, started singing together.
The two young women performed in the shows at Six Flags — but at first, Trenerry wasn’t allowed to so much as hold a microphone. She was strictly a dancer, though she yearned to do more.
Curled up in an easy chair in the Port Angeles living room she has shared with bandmate Mogi for some 13 years, Trenerry thinks back to those days.
“I was so envious” of the singers at Six Flags, she says. So “I started listening and really paying attention.”
She did become a singer — “learned by doing”— and stayed into the late 1990s, until she married and had her daughter, Madison. When she returned to performing, she got all kinds of work, from productions of “Will Rogers’ Follies” and “42nd Street” to television commercials, including one where she portrayed a zany Lucille Ball-type character for the Kroger’s grocery chain.
In the midst of her busy musical theater career, Trenerry went through a divorce. She also considered taking the logical next step: moving to New York City. Theater companies had already flown her up for auditions.
Then came a twist of fate: Trenerry met Mogi, an Atlanta drummer and songwriter whose voice fit hers.
Singing together, they wove a sound sweeter than either one had heard before.
“We fell in love,” Trenerry summarizes.
She also trusted him — completely — as a musician. Mogi wrote music and lyrics that felt entirely natural to them both.
“I could harmonize with anything he sang,” she says, smiling at the memory. There was no question in her mind about the rightness of this new collaboration.
By now, it’s the mid-1990s. Trenerry’s mother had met and married a man from Port Angeles, and the couple invited Trenerry and Mogi for a visit to their Eden Valley home.
On Fourth of July weekend 1997, they arrived here — to sunshine, a town filled with festivities and even an Emmylou Harris concert at Civic Field.
“My mother,” then Judith Vanderhoof, “made us an offer we couldn’t refuse,” Trenerry recalls.
It went like this: Remodel the rooms over our garage into an apartment, and you can come live here; your apartment can be both love nest and music studio.
Trenerry and Mogi said yes, and drove across the country, with young Madison, to start their new life.
Trenerry, with no experience in remodeling, again learned by doing: wiring, flooring, everything the apartment needed. She and Mogi worked side by side, handing each other tongue and groove planks, through the fall of 1997.
At the same time, she adds, “we began developing our duo,” musically. As they sang together, Mogi put a guitar in her hands.
She learned to play, one song at a time, and then Trenerry and Mogi made their debut at the Coffee House Gallery in downtown Port Angeles, where Bella Italia is now. One Friday night in 1998, they introduced themselves as Kim and Jason during the open-mic portion of the evening.
“We played one song,” Trenerry remembers, “and people went nuts.”
Trenerry, still relatively new on the guitar, still felt terrified much of the time. “My hands would sweat and shake, I was so nervous. I went through it anyway,” she says.
After their short Coffee House set, they kept practicing, polishing and, Trenerry says, learning by doing. The pair renamed themselves Tongue and Groove, after those planks that fit together to make a smooth surface. As they added songs to their repertoire and gigs to their calendar, they won fans.
Flocks of them.
Trenerry remembers riding a wave of popularity straight into the new century, as she and Mogi crisscrossed the North Olympic Peninsula.
Mogi and Trenerry married in August 2002; Trenerry’s mother and stepfather, however, split up, and all four left the Eden Valley house behind. Tongue and Groove found another place in Port Angeles proper.
The duo added more musicians — bassist Ferguson and a series of drummers, and played their own brand of funky folk rock, with some Grateful Dead-style jam-band improvisation.
By 2003, though, Ferguson had gone off on his own, and the band was without a drummer. So Mogi, ever resourceful, decided to add a different piece.
“He bought a cheap, good-time banjo at Strait Music,” recalls Trenerry. She, meantime, grew stronger on rhythm guitar.
By 2005, Ferguson had come back on board, and Trenerry and Mogi met Campbell at the Wintergrass festival in Tacoma. Smitten with her fiddle-playing, they invited her to join their band.
They named the outfit Deadwood Revival, for their delight in reinvigorating an old-time sound — and the foursome took off, expanding their following far beyond the confines of Clallam County. Then as now, they played what they call “old-time string band music meets acoustic Grateful Dead,” Trenerry says.
At the 2011 Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts in May, Deadwood Revival packed the Chamber Stage, in an evening Trenerry says reminded her of what matters in music.
As the audience sang along with songs they knew by heart, as they rose for a standing ovation, the place felt awash in joy.
“The people are our fuel. If we give a little, and then a little more, it becomes this ball of energy,” Trenerry says. For her, the point of making music is to help people forget their troubles, even if it’s just for one night.
And in keeping with Deadwood Revival’s Port Angeles roots, these four aren’t about to get too full of themselves.
“We’re always going to be humble. We could be playing the Grand Ole Opry, and we’d still be humble. That’s just who we are,” Trenerry says.
The band has a busy calendar through summer and into fall. Then, on Oct. 29, Deadwood Revival will do one last public, all-ages concert before taking an extended hiatus. At the Vern Burton Community Center in Port Angeles, Deadwood Revival will share the stage with Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys, another old-time music foursome.
After that, Trenerry says, the four will go their separate ways, at least for a time.
Trenerry, 45, recently moved out of the house she shared with Mogi, to share a place with her friend, Katie Page.
Page is another performer well-known on the Olympic Peninsula; in the late 1990s she and Gail Saxonis were the duo Cookin’ with Katie; then Page joined Acoustic News and nowadays she sings jazz with the Stardust big band.
Page and Trenerry are big fans of each other; always have been. “Katie was my complete inspiration, when I moved here,” Trenerry says. “I wanted to be her.”
Fortunately Trenerry continued to be herself. And her next project, she announced last week, is a collaboration with Page.
They will start out as Kim and Katie, mixing country blues and other acoustic flavors. Both sing and play guitar, and Page also knows her way around a mandolin.
“We started playing together, just messing around,” says Trenerry. “And we are absolutely stoked.”
Page, for her part, marvels at Trenerry’s energy and high spirits.
“We’re in total infancy,” as a duo, Page adds. “There’s that chrysalis of potential,” for a pair of musicians to take flight.
Trenerry, meantime, is still packing and unpacking for Deadwood Revival gigs all over the Pacific Northwest. She and the band — plus a posse of friends — also started painting an old bus for their trip to California next month. They’ll play the Dead on the Creek festival, a Grateful Dead celebration Aug. 5-8 at Uncle John’s Camp near Willits.
Whatever happens to Deadwood Revival, Trenerry adds, she and Mogi’s bond will be unbroken.
“Jason is my best friend,” she says. “We are best friends, and musical partners, forever.”