Three Decades of Doyle

What does the passage of time feel like?

Is it a glacial pace? Or more of a blink and you’d miss it whisper in the wind? Surely it’s different for the individual and strongly guided by circumstance. For Newfoundland and Labrador’s travelling troubadour Alan Doyle, three decades have passed since he chose to dedicate his life to that of a globe-trotting musician. And while much has changed for the consummate entertainer, his gratitude for his lot in life – and love of the good times – remains firmly intact. 

“It just all adds up to gratitude, really, for me,” the affable Alan shares in a sit-down with Downhome, reflecting on 30-plus years in the music business and the release of his latest studio album, Welcome Home. “I mean, even more than nostalgia, I literally can’t believe I still get to do this. I just did the biggest Canadian tour of my life. That would be incredible in year six. Year 31, that’s almost impossible. That’s very satisfying, but also it’s still fun. I don’t spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder, partly because I’m having fun doing what I’m doing, but also because I’m always afraid. I’m always afraid that if I look back, I’ll go ah well, that’s enough. And then what will I do? (laughs).”

Singer-songwriter, author and actor of stage and screen, Alan’s fourth solo album and 20th overall studio effort Welcome Home sees the Petty Harbour native at perhaps his most raw and vulnerable, tackling hefty ballads and weighty topics that somewhat stray outside the colour pallet of the longtime Great Big Sea frontman. 

“It’s just a few things I would have never written about years ago, like having a son who’s about to leave home. All those things that happen to you when you’re 55, if you’re lucky. I think I finally became kind of con-fident or comfortable enough to let people see a few different faces. I’ve become well known for doing up-tempo party songs, and uptempo party beer garden songs are still my favourite thing to do. And in all honesty, it’s kind of my knee-jerk reaction. When I don’t try to write something different, that’s what I write and that’s what I come up with and that’s where my head is,” he admits.

“Over the years I have written lots of songs that are a bit more inward-looking, certainly in Great Big Sea and even with my own band in the last 10 or 12 years. There’s not a lot of room for those songs at the George Street Festival. People come with their fists ready to pump. I’m always too eager to please them, take a moment to interject a song about growing up in Petty Harbour or something, you know? I don’t say that like it’s necessarily a good thing either. Maybe one of my biggest shortcomings is that I’m a sucker to please the crowd, and so be it.”

Co-writes with the likes of celebrated Canadian scribes Jimmy Rankin and Donovan Woods, and reimagined takes on personal favourites (including GBS staple “How Did We Get from Saying I Love You” and the decade-old track he penned with A-list actor Oscar Isaac, “Best I Never Had”) reinforce Alan’s long-standing desire for collaboration.

“I don’t want to do it by myself,” he jokes. “And again, I don’t say that like it’s a good thing. It’s probably a bad thing. I’m one of the only people I know who would rather co-write a song than write a song. I didn’t get into the arts, or certainly didn’t get into band for a living to sit down here by myself. I’d much rather sit in a room with a couple of buds, bang something out, go get tacos and then try to do it tomorrow. I’m just such a collaborative person that I always want company.”

Now in his mid-50s, Alan has mastered the tricks of navigating the life of a road warrior. The past year has seen Alan and his Beautiful Band tackle their biggest national tour to date, with an upcoming local engagement alongside Shania Twain at August’s Churchill Park Music Festival on his native island. 

“I still love the night as much as I ever loved it. Probably more, because I can’t believe I still get to do it, you know? But undeniably, it’s physically harder than when you’re 25,” he says of the art of live performance. “It’s undeniably harder on the body, but a little easier on the head. You’re a little bit more aware of what the actual stakes are. When you’re 30, you don’t know. How are you going to know? If you do it long enough, you know what to worry about and what not to worry about. It becomes a little easier on the head, I think, especially if you got great company, and my band is great company. 

“As I’ve always said, and it’s more true now than ever, if it’s not fun, it’s not worth it. You never get paid enough money to do it if you don’t like it. Don’t do it, just do something else. If the work is not enough, then go find other work.”

Looking at the big picture, of two dozen albums, countless tours and three decades and counting punched in a career with expectations long surpassed by its architect, Alan Doyle doubles down on his gratitude to have lived a life that keeps on giving. 

“I don’t have a different answer than I would have 10, 15, 20 years ago. I just like doing this for a living. I didn’t get into the music business to have the greatest summer of my life and then moved to a villa in Greece, you know? I got into a band for a living because I wanted to play music for a living,” he says warmly.

“There’s big luck and collaborations that have led me to a few different things, like writing books and plays and musicals and acting in musicals and television shows and movies and all that stuff. I have no idea why I would stop doing any of that. As long as it’s there to do and people will have me, I’m eager to do it.”

Visit for a complete list of tour dates. Welcome Home is available now in physical and digital formats.  

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Downhome Magazine

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