We caught up with Alan Doyle while he was in Toronto last week for his So Let’s Go Tour that is headed coast to coast. Here is how it shook down…
Sound Check: You’re on tour in support of your latest album So Let’s Go which hit stores January 20th can you tell us how this album came together?
Alan: It was kind of a focused idea about making a pop record that was centered around some really folky things from Newfoundland. I wanted to go and have these big pop songs be wrapped around some dude from Petty Harbour, whistling and playing the mandolin. And it was kinda born out of listening to pop music over the last couple years. Stuff like Avicii and Phillip Philips and a few others. It just feels like there are these huge pop songs that are really wrapped around one dude and his guitar or some guy playing his ukulele or somethin’. And I thought what a cool experiment it might be to have a pop record centered around somethin’ really traditional in Newfoundland.
Sound Check: Well you have some good stories on this album as you’re a great storyteller. Was there anyone new that you worked with on putting this album together?
Alan: A ton, the only guy that I had really worked with before was Gordie Sampson we did the songs Sins of Saturday Night that’s on there, the Nashville kinda sounding song. All the rest were new to me. But there were guys I sought out a guy by the name of Tawgs Salter who does all the Walk Off The Earth stuff and the Lights stuff. And I always loved the way, especially on the Walk Off The Earth stuff he made these big pop songs centered around 5 guys on a guitar or a mandolin or something. I loved the way he kinda fearlessly made really big productions out of something really small.
Sound Check: The sound of this record is unique from the song 1,2,3,4 to Laying Down to Perish the album is different and like you said you have added a bigger sound to it.
Alan: Compared to anything we ever did in the past with the band. This record is a real attention to making a sonic difference, maybe that’s the best way of saying. ‘Cause I wanted it to sound like something people haven’t heard before.
Sound Check: Was there a particular writing session that you thought “ya that one’s that felt good”
Alan: Ya I did really like the first one I wrote with Tawgs called Take Us Home, It’s the last one on the record. It’s a really simple kinda wedding song. With really simple elements that when you combine them all it makes this great pop sounding kind of joyous thing. That’s one of the ones that I thought – that’s exactly what I am going for. There is not a single unfamiliar element in of itself on that song but when you combine it all together with some studio pop sounding drums it just sounds completely different than anything I have ever done some how.
Sound Check: It’s a different depth, throughout the music.
Alan: Ya, I think that’s a good way to say it.
Sound Check: You have had a chance to work with a lot of people in all your different people from your musical, acting and now writing endeavors is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you would really love to get that opportunity?
Alan: Tons, literally tons, hundred’s like people I have been fans of for a long time. I have always been thrilled by what record Steve Lillywhite is producing. Right from the early U2 and The Pogues. He is just one of many that I would love to work with. We got to work with a guy on this record that I always wanted to work with his name is Joe Zueg, Joe is a real A-Lister mix engineer in Los Angeles that does everything from U2 to Katy Perry. Its kinda hard to get on his calendar. He is one of the guys that makes music sound new and fresh and I thought he would be the final brush stroke that would be awesome and away we went.
Sound Check: So looking at the tour schedule you have over 40 dates in just under 4 months on this So Let’s Go Tour maybe tell us about setting up this tour.
Alan: Ya, I usually do it in three week chunks, and then take at least 2 weeks off. So to do almost 50 dates will take me about 3 months to do it. I think we are going right till the middle of May with one big break in the later part of March and early April. Then we have a few weeks off in May and then head over to Europe.
Sound Check: The Canadian dates of the tour make a lot of sense but what about the US dates such as New York, Philly, and Cleveland what brings you to part of the country?
Alan: With Great Big Sea we always played those places. Always had a good following there. They are great music markets, great places to play and great music fans there and great gigs. Philly and Cleveland to name a few and Washington are great music town and great places to play.
Sound Check: The video “So Let’s Go” with Scott Grimes can you tell us how that call came together?
Alan: With Scotty, I have known him for years of course and wanted to go to LA to work with this lady by the name of Margaret Malandruccolo who is from Canada but lives in LA. I really wanted to get her to shoot stills cause she is a still photographer as well. So we kinda brushed this idea of a video with a very loose homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where one guy leads two of his friends on the greatest day of their life. I needed a guy to play the guy that gets the girl and I needed a girl to play the girl that was trying to be got. So I have known Scotty for over a decade or more and I have also known Jess the lady in the video. Jess is a friend of Scott’s and mine she is married to a good Canadian actor by the name of Jason Gray Stanford who is a friend of Scott’s as well and we have all known each other for a long time.
Sound Check: And that was shot down in the piers LA?
Alan: Ya, in LA some of it was in the desert, it was only 2 days we shot in the desert and then in the hills there and then down on Santa Monica pier and Scotty’s back yard. Laughing yup that’s Scotty’s back yard. Good times.
Sound Check: Well, I was on the website and read all your famous supporters quotes, can you shed some light on those quotes and who’s idea that was? (Asking with a chuckle)
Alan: (Big Smirk on his face) That was my stupid idea I couldn’t help it. I always write a blog for the site and I had written two or three things about how excited I was about the record and how this was a special thing and how everyone should really pay close attention. So all this earnest stuff but just said F#*k that I’m out. And wrote down a bullshit quotes from famous people. They all loved it, Alan, are you sure that Eddie Van Halen learned to play guitar listening to your album? Yup, pretty sure he says with a chuckle.
Sound Check: After 20 plus years of traveling Canada have you run into any GREAT places to eat?
Alan: Just today actually, I ate at a great Portuguese place just up the road. I think it was called Christina’s. It’s just around the corner here and it was one of the best places to have one of those over the coals chicken with spicy sauce on it. I had one of those today and it was one of the best ones I have ever eaten.
Sound Check: I have been out to St. Johns on a few occasions and the restaurant that I have to say I loved was Get Stuffed. Unreal menu.
Alan: Ya, that’s actually my friends that own that Rob and David, The culinary world of St. Johns has leapt in the last half decade and the bar has been raised and the local food is amazing.
Sound Check: Social Media, how do you find interacting with that side of things compared to what you did say 20 years ago?
Alan: 20 years ago every Christmas we would mail out 1000 post card and mail them out to fans and stuff. We have always just tried to keep up with whatever means possible, whatever the most current way it is to keep people in the loop about what we are doing. To give them every opportunity to get access to whatever they wanted to have access to. And to sort of reward people who came to the shows a lot and bought records a lot and joined the fan club or group or whatever you want to call it. I’ve always seen since the dawn of social media, twitter, Facebook and message boards on our sites and all that stuff. I just see it as an interesting and cool way to keep people engaged and even for a little bit to see what’s going on in my eyes and to see what it looks like from this side.
Sound Check: Have you ever seen a CMT Crossroads or our Canadian version CMT Hit Exchange if so who would you like to work with on a special like that?
Alan: Ya, I know of it. I have always been charmed about the idea of doing a Celtic or Newfoundland version of Canadian hits like a Newfoundland version of an Our Lady Peace song. I think it would be cool. I have also been charmed by the one thing we have in Newfoundland of course is we have our own brand of instrumental music. It might be really fun or interesting to work with some of the urban remix dudes and use a Newfoundland piece of fiddle or accordion music as the center of some big dance thing or club mix. It’s been done with Bluegrass, Irish, Latin, German and Folk music. I don’t know if it’s ever been done with Newfoundland music but think that would be interesting. We also have the historical songwriting thing, that use to be very prevalent in country music. But doesn’t seem to be as prevalent any more. You know where history of towns and places is recorded in song and any of those guys would be cool to mix with to. Or even selfishly for me, I would be so geeked to work with any of the 80’s metal gods like Kim Mitchell. That would be so amazing. I would love to do that, it would be so wicked.
Sound Check: So talking of collaborations you worked on Its Friday with Dean Brody how did that project come about?
Alan: Dean’s awesome, and I was aware of him because he had just recently moved to Atlantic Canada. I believe he is from out west and had been working in Nashville for a while but then moved back to Nova Scotia and I had just heard he was on the scene there. Then out of the blue, through our management company we got a note that Dean had this song and he was a big fan of the band and wanted us to play and sing on it. He sent me the track that he had so far and I loved the song. We chatted on the phone for like 10 min. I said look, he was in Nashville at the time. I said leave it with me and I will get the guys over and will record some stuff and send you down the tracks and tell me what you think. It took us about an hour max just because it was just so perfect for it, beer drinking kinda song. So it was just a great little collaboration so it was done mixed and mastered and still hadn’t met.
Sound Check: So what, was it the video shoot that you guys finally hooked up?
Alan: Yup, it was the video shoot, we met for the first time when we shot the video. Super guy!
Sound Check: *Generic Interview question Warning* So Alan, if we took a look on you IPod today what would you be listening to?
Alan: (Quick to respond) Taylor Swift, 1989 awesome record, Matthew Byrne Newfoundland folk singer, Fantastic. The Once a Newfoundland folk band, Wicked. And I bought one the other day that was really bubblegum but was great… ummm Katy Perry, love Katy Perry.
Sound Check: We talked about Social Media a bit but do you think Staggering Home would have made it if social media was around.
Alan: If social media had been around when I was in Staggering Home my career would have ended a long long time ago. I would quite likely be in jail. It was a time when your nights in the pubs in the late 80’s were like chalk drawings on the sidewalk man, you did them. They went well or badly or extremely well or disastrous. But the next morning it was over, you got in there and you learned from what you learned the night before and you went on again. It was such a tremendous freedom to be able to make awful, awful mistakes and not have them haunt you for the rest of your life. There is no such liberty anymore, I feel so bad for young guys trying to learn what they are good at and what they are not good at and what they like and don’t like. You’re totally shagged, every brushstroke of your life is recorded for all time and the only ones people are really excited to see are the bad ones. Its like singing the National Anthem man, you can do the greatest job in the world and nobody cares, won’t even get off the couch to turn it up. You shag up the National Anthem there will be a YouTube channel dedicated to you shagging up the National Anthem. But you’re right though I did benefit tremendously from my time there.
Sound Check: What would you have to say your best fan experience would be over the last 20 years of being in a band and interacting with audience?
Alan: That’s a good question, don’t think I have ever been asked that. The ones that are the most rewarding are when you meet somebody that for whatever reason explains that a night out, a record or a song kind of rescued them from something. That happens a lot being with Great Big Sea and the music being uplifting and positive. So that’s very rewarding and that has happened more than once. It’s also really rewarding to talk to people for a number of years who have had our music or my music be the soundtrack of their summer or trip. Such as we drove out East and listened to your music the whole drive out. It’s a collective thing I suppose, where it’s so cool to be not just a band but to be a part of somebody’s thing, time, summer, wedding, party, and trip. To be a soundtrack for someone’s time is really cool. It sounds like a humbling thing I suppose but you kinda wanna know it’s bigger than you right, and you kinda wanna know that it goes on without you. And it’s not a very big leap to think that it goes on after you. And that’s thrilling. That’s the deep satisfaction I think that most people get that make music for a living that it will be there long after you’re here.
Sound Check: Well, tonight you’re going to get up on stage and you’re going to sing some new stuff some of the classics but when the crowd is singing back to you. That tells you that it resonates for long after you step off stage. It’s when they get in the car, get home and play it to their kids and their kids listen to it and pass it on.
Alan: After the rush of doing concerts for a living which is still my favorite thing to do. That’s the most satisfying part that it goes on. And that it’s bigger than you.
I want to thank Alan for taking the time to chat with us. When you get to interview such amazing talent and get to pick their brain if only for 20 min it sometimes brings out new found respect for the artist. I have been a Great Big Sea / Alan Doyle fan for 15 years and look forward to the next 15.
For more info on Alan Doyle and the So Let’s Go Tour visit his website here.