Ahead of his performance at the second annual Iceberg Alley Performance Tent on September 15th with Shanneyganock and Celtic Connection, Alan Doyle sits down with The Herald, first detailing his immediate impressions of the impressive circus-inspired venue that has taken Quidi Vidi by storm
“I could not believe what an incredible concert venue they made,” Doyle said after first viewing the setup last September. “I played in tents around the world at festivals, but not like that. They do it up real, with the real floor and bleachers. It’s a real incredible concert experience You get the full vibe of the tent and the circus nature of it, but then you get all the modern conveniences. It’s really amazing.”
That Doyle and his Beautiful Band have been tirelessly touring throughout 2018 should come as no shock. Doyle, as ever, is the consummate troubadour artist, who, if not busy acting, producing, writing or dabbling in entrepreneurial or philanthropic endeavours, has well earned his status as a road warrior.
“It’s been great fun,” he admits. “The first five or six months of this year were kind of cracked because we really went hard to come out with a new tour. We started in Seattle and rolled down through the southwest and across the bottom of the United States. We came home for about a week and then went back and started in Ontario, in Peterborough I think and went west as far as Vancouver. We went back for another block and started in New York and Boston and came into Atlantic Canada. Now the summer stuff, the leg of the tour took us back to Ontario, Victoria, east of St. John’s. We start up again in November and do a bunch of Ontario places we haven’t played yet like London and Sarnia and Belleville. We cross over and do Phili, Pittsburgh and a bunch of places we haven’t done so far.”
In finding a foothold in the United States, which Doyle has seemingly accomplished in recent years, the seasoned artist shares that, despite a band reaching peak status in Canada or abroad, the red white and blue is an entirely different animal.
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“The United States is a huge population, so by definition, it’s a huge market,” he shares. “That means there’s a lot of audiences there, but a lot of bands there too. Every English-speaking band in the world wants the U.S. If you’re wondering why some Canadian band didn’t make it on The Rolling Stone in the U.S., for every one of them there’s 450 from the U.S. that didn’t either. There’s 200 from England, and so on. It’s so big that it’s tough to just eventually end up at the top. The big media opportunities, like in Canada for example, eventually Q radio will play you. There’s not that many of us. Eventually, you can possibly earn your way onto the national show in Canada. You can’t earn your way onto The Tonight Show. It has to be given to you or gotten for you. It’s just a different scale altogether.”
Asking Alan Doyle ‘what’s next?’ usually results in thread-splitting sidebars on numerous ventures. He has many hats on many rungs in many avenues, as ever.
“I took a gig producing a kids record for a group called Splash’N Boots. They’re like a Canadian kind of Wiggles, quite successful. They wanted me to produce a record, and I went to them and kind of confessed right up front that I didn’t know how to do it, but I’d love to give it a go. We’re working on that now. I’m also recording new songs for a new project for me, and then I’m starting a new book, while still touring.”
Never failing to raise fan expectations, and pulses, Doyle and Great Big Sea members Bob Hallett and Sean McCann sent folks into a fine frenzy in recent months by posting photos together, leading to rumour and innuendo of reunions and the like. We’d be negligent not to at least ask the status of the iconic trad trio.
“Nothing new, really, other than we had a couple of gatherings in the last few months,” Doyle admits. We’re musing about what we’ll be able to get up to in the coming years. Nothing more than that. We’ve talked about under what scenarios we’d be able to mount a reunion or anniversary gig or short-run or something that fits in everybody’s lives. Luckily, everyone is quite happy doing what they’re doing.
“My notion, since Sean left the band, is I don’t want to fight about it,” he adds. “When everybody wants to do it again, let’s do it. I didn’t want the last thing that me and Sean and Bob did together be a fight over the spoils of it. I got so much respect for those two guys. I literally owe my career to those two guys and Daryl Power. In truth, it was mostly their idea. They were doing it before I joined. My notion is that if we can find a happy way that we can do it and happily great, but if not that’s fine.
“I’m not one bit surprised about Sean and Bob,” he says of the continued individual success of the trio. “They’re two of the smartest, most hard-working people I’ve ever met in my life. Not to mention, incredibly talented. They both have skill sets that were so enormous outside the band that we benefited from. It’s good times, is the short answer, and I’m grateful for it.”
As for what fans can expect under the big top this Saturday? A kitchen party in a circus setting, says Doyle.
“We’ll be doing songs from the most recent record, a few of my records and a bunch of Great Big Sea songs and a bunch of Newfoundland traditional songs. All of the things we always do to make a great kitchen party night out.”