Being on tour is a lifestyle that Canadian musician Alan Doyle knows all too well. From his two-plus decades as a member of multi-platinum band Great Big Sea to the release of his second solo effort, So Let’s Go, as well as his best-selling first book, Where I Belong, Doyle is always happy to stop and smell the roses.
Calling The MusicNerd Chronicles from a tour stop in Annapolis, Maryland last week, Doyle is seemingly taken back by the architecture and beauty of his surroundings.
With the long-running Great Big Sea currently on hiatus, the beauty of Doyle’s surroundings couldn’t be more appropriate for the musician.
In late 2013, Sean McCann, one of Great Big Sea’s founding members, announced his departure from the group. The last show they played as a band was right here in Moncton, at Casino New Brunswick on New Year’s Eve 2013.
While some musicians may have a chip on their shoulder from being dealt such a blow, Doyle insists McCann’s departure is being taken in stride as he and his Great Big Sea bandmate Bob Hallett plot their next move.
“Great Big Sea are not done as much as we are simply on hiatus,” Doyle remarks. “Bob and I have to figure out how we move forward without Sean, who had decided that he wanted to move on. It is something that we are working our way through, albeit not quickly but not poorly, either.
“It is great to be back on the road performing with my band, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss playing with Great Big Sea as well. That band has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I’m looking forward to the band’s future, whenever that happens to materialize.”
Fans not familiar with Doyle’s solo work will undoubtedly find a common thread that is inextricably linked to Great Big Sea. So Let’s Go bears many of the same hallmarks which helped endear the music of Great Big Sea to millions across the country.
He admits that of his two solo releases, it was 2012’s Boy On A Bridge that was a bit of a musical left turn.
“Boy On A Bridge was intended to be more like a travel log than anything else. That was the whole point of that record, to leave what I had learned behind and go out and make music with my friends in the environments in which they made music.
“With So Let’s Go, I took all of the tricks I learning growing up in a fishing town, incorporated the Celtic music that Great Big Sea was known for and made a big-sounding pop record, where the songs are the centre of attention,” Doyle says.
Helping Doyle achieve his vision of making a pop record that harkened back to some of his earliest influences was an impressive list of songwriters with whom he collaborated: Thomas “Tawgs” Salter (Lights, Walk Off The Earth), Jerrod Bettis (Serena Ryder), Joe Zook (OneRepublic, Katy Perry) and fellow Atlantic Canadian Gordie Sampson (Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban) were just some of those Doyle recruited to help shape So Let’s Go.
“Most of the songs on the record were written and recorded in the matter of a day, which leant an overall spontaneous feel to the record.”
Asked if it was freeing or nerve-wracking to not be getting bogged down in the fine details of each song, Doyle says it was definitely the former. That confidence can be found in virtually every note of So Let’s Go.
“The way that I went about making this record, I couldn’t overthink where any particular song was going to fit into the bigger scheme of the album or how I would make it work in the live show. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the many years I have been in the music business is that if you are working on a song for a number of days in a row, chances are you are trying too hard to make it something special.”
Despite having lived through a rather hectic touring schedule thus far, Doyle anticipates spending many more days on the road before the year is out. In addition to a number of summer music festival appearances, Doyle was recently announced as the support act for the Barenaked Ladies upcoming Canadian tour, due to start in October in B.C. Having performed alongside the band with Great Big Sea in the past, Doyle is very much looking forward to hitting the Trans-Canada with his long-time friends in Barenaked Ladies.
“I have a long history with those guys. It was 1995 that Great Big Sea first performed with them, but we were also fortunate enough to be invited to take part in their Ships & Dip cruises as well. They have always been great friends and great supporters; I am looking forward to having the chance to see them night after night, but also to play for an audience that might not know my work. That in itself is an exciting prospect,” Doyle says.
What: Alan Doyle
When: Tuesday May 5, 8:00 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $42 (plus service charges). Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca