Armed with a newfound truth and passion to enact change, she returns with her raw and real album Liquor Store Flowers
For Damhnait Doyle, a lifetime has passed in the 16 years since her latest solo album of original material; the formation and quiet dissolution of Shaye, the highs and lows of The Heartbroken, the bonds forged of family and unbreakable love of her children.
Yes, much has happened since the Lab City native released her third album, Davnet, with the standout cut Another California Song dominating televisions and radio across Canada.
To the surprise of many, and perhaps mostly to Doyle herself, finding a central truth – or if you will, a voice – was perhaps the biggest change of all in 16 years of highs and heartaches.
“It’s some kind of controlled chaos. That’s the formula, knock on wood, some kind of controlled chaos right now,” Doyle tells The Herald ahead of the release of Liquor Store Flowers on April 12th.
A love gone cold is the subject of her gutting yet emotionally poignant lead single, That’s What You Get. The smoky vocals and cutting yet relatable lyrics have resonated with listeners far beyond what this seasoned songstress could have fathomed.
“It’s shocking how much people are responding to it. I wasn’t anticipating that. I think when you make something you kind of have to focus on creating the thing itself, and not worrying about what people are going to think about it when it’s done, because that will kind of affect what you create. I wanted me to be happy with the music when it was over. I’m a bit hard on myself. I was happy with it, but I didn’t expect other people to like it so much. It’s such a nice feeling.”
For Doyle, there was catharsis in the process of assembling the tracks of what would be Liquor Store Flowers. A purge of emotions built up over the years, for the most revealing and stripped-to-the-bone collection of cuts in a career full of honest anthems.
Like an exorcism
“This was something I had to get out of my body,” Doyle shared. “These songs literally had to heal my body in order for me to move through some stage and get through to this other place where I was really just healed in a way. I don’t know if you’ve heard other songwriters say this, but writing songs is really like going to therapy. It’s an incredibly therapeutic process to write songs if you’re telling them authentically.
“With this record I told the truth with every single line. I didn’t parse words, I didn’t try to make it pretty, I just wanted it to be painful really. I wanted it to be raw and truthful. It felt a bit like an exorcism to be honest. I had to do it, I really had no endgame about releasing it.
“I think I really just wanted to get to the heart of who I am as an artist, which I believe is a storyteller,” she adds. “I believe this album is representative of everything that I’ve done throughout my career and the culmination of everything I’ve learned and all my artistic endeavours up to this point. I just kind of wanted to go out and say all the things I never would have said before, but all the things that are real and need to be said. It was painful, but it feels good now.”
Doyle will release the album here at home at The Ship on May 11th, the very venue she played her first gig before signing her first record deal at the age of 17.
“I’m just intentionally choosing things that are going to give me joy,” Doyle admits. “The thought of (performing at The Ship) gave me so much joy. I’m just listening to what my intuition had to say on this ride and I’m going to go with it.”
From her humanitarian efforts that have seen her travel to Kabul, Kenya and Kandahar, to serving as a VP of the Songwriters Association of Canada and director of SOCAN, Damhnait Doyle has gone above and beyond for what is ‘expected’ of the artist and songwriter.
“I found that when I turned 40 as a woman, and it was around when the Me Too movement happened, I just kind of activated,” she explains.
“It’s been so incredible to get in there and try to make change on that executive board level. There needs to be women in those positions if women’s rights are going to be protected. I find that most human beings want to protect everyone’s rights, but they’re just not aware of them, or haven’t been open to that point of view. Once you can get in there with a different point of view I think most people are really open and mailable to doing the right thing.”
With her finger on the pulse of change in the industry, and with boots on the ground as a songwriter fighting with something to say, Damhnait Doyle is living and breathing with a newfound truth, one that is primed to lay the groundwork for a career with no share of surprises in store.
“I used to walk into any room and make sure everyone was comfortable and kind of put my needs second. I didn’t want there to be any discomfort in any room. I was just a natural born people pleaser. Now I’m an unnaturally born truth teller, and that makes me really effective in these organizations in speaking about gender equality and diversity and the music industry. Something has happened where a switching flipped and you can’t stop me from telling the truth.”
Doyle releases Liquor Store Flowers on March 11th at The Ship with Mick Davis. Advance tickets are $15 (show day $20) and available now at Fred’s Records and The Ship Pub. For more on the album and artist visit damhnaitdoyle.com