Adopting a dual role as author and musician, Alan Doyle releases his newest album A Week at the Warehouse and second published work A Newfoundlander in Canada
From the boy on the bridge to the travelling troubadour, the life and career of Alan Doyle has been one filled with choice. The idea of choice, the necessity and the ability to control it have dictated the latter part of the career of the fabled Great Big Sea frontman turned solo success story. There’s choice in which career path to take on – frontman, actor, author, philanthropist and business owner. All of these things require a keen hand and the patience to balance dozens of spinning plates.
Doyle jokes that he wishes “every job I took didn’t start with an airplane.” True, his time abroad cuts into family-life and leisure, without question, but it is also those critical early touring years that serve as the backbone for his second foray into the literary world A Newfoundlander in Canada.
“It really tells the story of my first trip across the country, having grown up in a place that wasn’t sure what country it was in,” Doyle says. “Apparently, I was born a Canadian, but I didn’t know anything about Canada. It might as well have been Malta. I saw it on TV every now and then and my favourite hockey team was from there, but that’s really all I knew about it. I didn’t know what the prairies looked like, didn’t know what kind of people lived in Saskatchewan, or what a mountain looked like or what the Pacific Ocean looked like. I certainly hadn’t been to a big city or had any idea what a skyscraper looked like. Even as a teenager and really until Great Big Sea started I had never been to Canada.”
In recollecting the band’s first tour in the fall of 1993, Doyle confirms that preconceived notions he had of what Canada was, and wasn’t, fell by the wayside.
“I wanted to give people the notion of what it was like, what Canada looked like from a guy at the edge of it, from a very, tiny specific, isolated place and what the country looked like out the van window,” he recalls. “As we make our way across the country I sort of explain the different things, how travelling across Canada made me think about Newfoundland differently, and make me realize stuff that I thought was unique to here actually isn’t and stuff that I had no idea that was really unique to here actually is. Any expectations I had about certain places were usually wrong. Everything from geography to music to people was all this great discovery and a journey just to see what Canada looks like.”
Nothing if not adaptable, Doyle readies for his sophomore literary offering just days after the release of his latest solo album, A Week at the Warehouse.
Recruiting Bob Rock
“It came to my mind that I wanted to do the record like the live concert was – I wanted Cory singing on it and Kendel singing on it, I wanted that rhythm section and for it to sound like a concert with our band,” Doyle says. “I started thinking about the A-list producers left in the world who record music that way. It’s very thin, not many guys still do it.”
Doyle enlisted the help of friend and Canadian music icon Jann Arden to recruit legendary producer Bob Rock, whose credits include the likes of Motley Crue, Cher, The Tragically Hip and Metallica. At the behest of Arden, Rock visited Doyle and The Beautiful Gypsies at a concert in British Columbia and was so blown away by the band and their radiating chemistry he agreed to produce the record. The raw and back-to-basics A Week at the Warehouse was born.
“The So Let’s Go record was very much a pop way to make music with songwriters who are also producers, with a computer and a bunch of virtual instruments. You and him or her probably put the whole thing together as you’re writing it and it’s done. It’s all sort of live and virtual instruments all mixed together, where as this one was totally old school” Doyle says. “Get a band, put it together, learn the songs and rehearse them, go in put up mics and try to capture a live performance of them from beginning to end. That energy and excitement is in every song. It’s so cool.”
It would seem that, for Alan Doyle, there’s plenty to be optimistic about these days. A flourishing career, loving family, that pre-mentioned ability for choice. He’s got it made, as our salty adage goes, a reality he never takes for granted.
“As a kid I only had one goal. I wanted to have a lifetime in the music business, that’s all I wanted,” Doyle explains.“I didn’t want a weekend in the music business, I wanted to be the guy who could play concerts for a lifetime. I didn’t want to have the biggest single in the world and move to Spain on the money, I didn’t want to have concerts so big that I didn’t have to play anymore concerts. I want to play concerts and make records.
Still in the Game
“I would love for the next year and a half for there to be visible momentum and for it to keep growing. It’s amazing that it’s still growing. 2018 will be my 25th year as an exclusively professional musician. As my buddy Hawksley Workmen says ‘you still have heat around you.’ I was never sure what that meant, but that’s what he said. To still be in the game at all is a blessing. I’d just love for it to constantly grow a little bit so there is somewhere else that will have us the next week that didn’t have us the week before. Hopefully whoever had us last week when we show up there in a couple of years they’ll have us back with just as many or maybe a few more. Momentum is the most intoxicating thing in the entertainment business. To feel like whatever you’re doing is growing or moving a tiny bit quicker than it used to. That’s pretty awesome.”
A Week at the Warehouse is available digitally and in physical formats now. A Newfoundlander in Canada is available wherever local books are sold.