MAGNET Exclusive: Tenlons Fort’s “Northwest Is Never Leaving” Video

In a small cabin on a lake in rural Texas, songwriter/screenwriter Jack Gibson has been hunkering down, writing screenplays and preparing for the release of his sixth Tenlons Fort album, Sober October.

Due October 25 on all streaming services via LaunchLeft, the LP might be stripped down in its instrumentation, but it’s emotionally immense thanks to Gibson’s comforting voice and knack for penning whimsical, storytelling earworms. Beyond that, Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, Decemberists) was behind the board, adding a lingering haze of sparkly magic across all 11 songs.       

While “Hey Dan,” the album’s first single, recalled his time working alongside Daniel Johnston a couple years ago, the latest single, “Northwest Is Never Leaving,” digs back farther into Gibson’s life: the year 1993. That era saw the Austin-area native leaving home and heading toward Portland. It’s a first-person, stream-of-consciousness narrative that charmingly recounts the day he left his old life behind.

“I’ve never written a song in this fashion,” says Gibson. “During an improv session, while playing simple chords with my friend Atom, I sang the lyrics as they appear in the final version. Making them up in the moment. I listened to the recording and transcribed them word for word. The lyrics are a recollection of moving to Oregon and then looking back on that experience 25 years later.”

Gibson says being fresh out of high school and far away from home was a magical experience in more than one way—and it’s all documented on “Northwest Is Never Leaving.”

“I first visited Oregon in 1993, took mushrooms and hiked the Horsetail Falls trail in the Columbia Gorge,” he says. “It was life changing. The lyrics are pretty straightforward but come from a deep subconscious place about how the Northwest changed my life forever. I didn’t write the song. I just sang it.”

As for the video, Gibson, whose film resume includes jobs on many Gus Van Sant sets, self-produced the dreamlike footage. 

“I made the video alone in my kitchen workspace, but the elements were contributed by many people over the last 26 years,” he says. “The backdrops are photographs of the Northwest taken by my friend Morgan.  All the actors are paper-doll cutouts, attached to a toothpick, and stuck into a toothbrush that I held in front of the iPhone screen. They are all dear to my heart and have made an impact on me directly, as well as the emotional landscape of the region.”

Personal tales aside, there are also some easter eggs scattered about on Sober October. For the cinephiles, particularly fans of Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, a shot in the “Northwest Is Never Leaving” video (an image of a long, desolate road) might look familiar. And, if you listen closely, that reverb you hear is Elliott Smith’s reverb pedal.

“Michael Parker, from My Own Private Idaho, is a dear friend of mine and a frequent collaborator,” says Gibson. “I wanted to see him on that road. My Own Private Idaho and Elliott Smith’s Either/Or are both hall-of-fame works of art from the Pacific Northwest.”

We’re proud to premiere “Northwest Is Never Leaving” today at MAGNET. Check it out right here, right now, and also read our conversation with Gibson from earlier this year below.

—Rich Tupica