We talk summer festival fun, singing with Splash N’ Boots and headlining under the big top at Iceberg Alley with the versatile Alan Doyle
The summer festival season is winding down, and as usual you’ve been flat out with your touring schedule. What’s your take on the makeup of the summer festival season?
So it was great because we started doing summer festivals in the mid ’90s. Summer has been usually a lot of airplanes, where you get on an airplane Friday morning and you fly somewhere to do a festival and then you get off terribly early Saturday morning and you fly from that festival to another festival and you pass every Canadian band at Pearson Airport. They’re running around to do the same thing you’re doing and then you do another one on Sunday and you usually go all Monday morning and just like a weekend. I call it the summer weekend dash.
Comparing that to the grind of touring nationally or internationally for soft seaters or club tours, how does that compare to these type of atmospheres that come with bigger, often outdoor events?
First of all you get to see your pals that play in other bands. In the wintertime usually we’re doing our own self directed tours, whether it’s in Canada or in the States or Europe or whatever. You fly somewhere, get on a tour bus and you sort of live in your own bubble for three weeks or whatever. Then a short time later you find yourself back home again and you turn around and do it all again. You almost never get the chance to interact much less see your friends perform or see how the other bands are doing that stuff. So yeah it’s really fun to go through the summer festival for sure.
When you do get those turnarounds home, what’s on the itinerary? Obviously you’re a family man and your love of the island is no secret. What’s on the summer to-do list?
Well we recently got a little trailer, myself and my wife and our little fella, and we’ve been bombing around Newfoundland a lot the last couple of summers and sort of sometimes connecting it with festivals and other times just gone out to camp in different spots and I just love it. So awesome.
I just enjoy the summer around Newfoundland I think the way most people do. You try to mix it up and go to a few different places and discover a few places you haven’t been before, which is always easy to do on an island as big as ours. When it combines with festivals that’s the most fun thing. I just did a festival in the come home year in Corner Brook (with Trent McClellan) and it was the one of the greatest nights out in Corner Brook I’ve ever had in my life. The rink was jammed and then downtown was rammed after. It was all awesome.
Take me through the idea of incorporating a comedic set like Trent’s with your performance. That’s outside of the box somewhat.
Yeah I mean it’s old school entertainment. The combination of music and comedy used to be really common. I mean Elvis always carried a comedian for example, always. Then when Eddie Murphy and those guys were doing hockey rinks they always had a band.
So that kind of combination of a bit more of a varied night out for people is not a new idea. We just haven’t seen it in a long time. It’s new to our generation, but a generation ago that combination was really common.
Take me through your recent collaboration with Splash‘N Boots and the photo shoot you did down Quidi Vidi and the Nevaeh Denine tribute song.
It’s super fun to get the call from Splash ‘N boots. I knew about them and they’re a really successful Canadian kids entertainment act. We met up over a year ago now and they asked if I would consider producing the record for them. They wanted to do kind of a Celtic kind of Newfoundland based kids’ record and I said I’ll give it a go. Shortly thereafter we got at it and we wrote about a dozen songs and we made the record.
While they were in Newfoundland last summer they heard all about Nevaeh and they said they wanted to write a song about Nevaeh and I thought that’s a great idea. We very quickly came up with the notion of when life gives you lemons you make lemonade.
It so applied to her and her optimism and her good attitude and her kind of infectious spirit. I really was moved by it myself. So we wrote the song and then when we were doing that project my son Henry sang on a couple of the tracks and they came and they shot a video for Jack Was Every Inch A Sailor that myself and Henry performed in and I did another one with them in Toronto called I’ll Be The Captain and they did the one for Nevaeh on the same day. It’s great, it’s a great tribute to her.
Looking ahead to September and you’re back headlining Iceberg Alley on September 14th. Take me through that experience last year and the entire vibe the experience offers.
Before anybody plays a note in there you quickly realize that it’s a very special environment and it’s worth it to go see what they construct down there because it’s like a big top like no other and they really do it up.
It’s not just a tent plopped in the middle of a field, it’s a serious manifestation of a visionary’s dream concert venue. That’s the honest to god truth, it’s just an incredible place to stand and dance and sit and hear music and very carefully curated so that you can have whatever concert experience you want.
You wanna go sit in the VIP section and eat and drink in a comfy chair you can do that. If you want to have a bleacher seat you can do that or if you want to go dance in the mosh pit you can do that. So the venue itself is fantastic.
Anytime you get a chance to play home it’s special, because we play so often somewhere else. I just love the idea of leaving the house and walking to a gig. That only happens once a year max.
A classic question anytime we speak, but what’s on the docket? From books to albums, acting, producing and philanthropy, you usually have so much on your plate.
The Iceberg Alley festival is one of my last summer touring gigs for the year and then I’m going to finish a new record. I’m about a third of the way through it now. So I’ll spend most of the time in the fall doing a new record. And then in 2020, the middle of February, the new tour starts and we do a whole cycle again. So we start I believe it’s the 15th or 16th of February out in western Canada and roll all over.
Though I’d imagine you’re in the early stages of the record, how do you envision it looking?
I don’t know. I mean I’ve sort of been on the fringes of the Canadian country music world for the last couple of records. And I’m thinking about just supplying a couple of real fun honest to God country songs, with an Atlantic Canadian feel of course. I can’t help that.
I’m thinking about doing that and then I have some really, really, really Celtic folk songs and I’ve been writing them and I’m really loving it. I’m actually wondering if we can almost do like a two sided thing, one that’s really country and one that’s really folk. Maybe call it country folk, who knows?
For more on Alan Doyle visit alandoyle.ca. Tickets for the Iceberg Alley Performance Tent available at icebergalleyconcerts.com and at select Orange Store etix kiosks.