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Gig Pick: Alan Doyle at Dragon Boat Festival—06.21.19

By Stephane Dubord on June 21, 2019

Some of Ottawa’s best events are when the many East Coast expats get together for a kitchen party in their adoptive city—especially when they feature an artist with a repertoire like Alan Doyle. Host that party outdoors, for free, and if Mother Nature can cooperate you have all the ingredients for a truly memorable night.

Kicking off the night is Basic White at 6:30pm. While London-based, the rock band features Smith Falls’s own Riley White. Toronto’s Jane’s Party will then transition the atmosphere with their pop-rock sound. With six albums to their name so far, they’ve earned a reputation as an exceptional opening act, having toured with a who’s who list of Canadian artists (Arkells, Blue Rodeo, Stars, Sam Roberts Band, Lights, etc.)

“Generally the greatest kitchen party vibe is for the festivals.”

Then the kitchen party will get into full swing at 9:30pm with Newfoundland’s favourite son, Alan Doyle. Former frontman of Great Big Sea, Doyle has built a significant solo career since the group disbanded in 2013. His three albums have all made the Top 30 on the Canadian charts, and each spawned memorable singles. Beyond that, he’s stayed busy with a number of other projects, including work with Russell Crowe, both on screen and in music.

Despite his busy schedule, APT613 managed to have a quick chat with him before he embarked on the trip west from his coastal home.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


APT613: I was looking at your tour dates, and you seem to be playing quite a few festivals again this summer. In terms of your playlist for those shows, you’ve already toured the 2017 album, so what kind of mix are you doing? Pulling from your entire catalogue?

Alan Doyle: I find in the summer I tend to do more of the upbeat songs from my catalogue, the Great Big Sea catalogue, and from the Newfoundland traditional catalogue. Usually they’re big beer garden kind of festivals, for fun nights out with a few thousand people or whatever looking for a chance to dance in the grass. So it tends to be more upbeat, more singalong kind of stuff, which is great fun. As opposed to sometimes in the winter, if you are doing the theatres, you can add a ballad or two or a song that has a bit more of a longer story to tell, but generally the greatest kitchen party vibe is for the festivals.

You released your last album in 2017, so you are kind of due for a new one soon. Have you been working on one?

I have! I have a new single that we are just finishing that will come out later in the year. I’m going to try to finish a whole new record by the end of this year, so it should come out in early 2020 and will kick start a whole new tour in the month of February 2020.

One thing that is pretty obvious is you don’t stay still for long. You’ve got so many collaborations and projects happening. Have you got any tv and movie projects on the go?

There’s a tv show that is been filmed here in Newfoundland called Hudson and Rex. They just got me in for a day to play a character that could end up being a returning character in this show. So every now and again I get a call to be an actor in a show. It still befuddles me. I do enjoy it—it’s great fun!

I’m heading over to Europe this week to work with Russell Crowe and the gang on a new record for one of his projects over there, and then I come home and we kick start the summer stuff in Ottawa, and then I’ll work on my own record, and then I have to get a book down as well somewhere in the next little while. There are always a few things. It’s always super fun.

Speaking of befuddled, congratulations on your Juno Award win for Children’s Album of the Year. Did you ever imagine that when you started working on this project?

Thank you so much. Well it’s one of those things. I always say the same thing, forever. I play concerts for a living and I’m very happy to do that. And I make records, and my own records. But every now and then, something comes knocking on my door, and I do it, because I’m interested and curious. It might be an acting gig, or writing a book, or some sort of music. In that case, Nick and Tess from Splash n’ Boots came to me at a festival we played together in Ontario last year and said they wanted to do a Celtic-based kids’ record. They wanted me to work on it with them, write the songs and produce the record and all that stuff.

So I thought about it for a day or so and I chatted with them. I said, I think it would be a fun thing to do, but I always say the same thing: the only reason why I want to do it is because I don’t know how. So we kind of broke all the rules for a kids’ record, we wrote songs that we loved and thought were fun, and tried to figure a way to frame them that would be a big part of their concert and their touring life. So a super fun project and they’re serious pros. Once or twice a year I produce a record for another artist and I dearly love doing that too.

“The only reason why I want to do it is because I don’t know how.”

You are very active with A Dollar A Day foundation. I was wondering if you could talk about that a little more?

Well, A Dollar A Day foundation started very organically. Great Big Sea had our studio on one end of Water Street, in downtown St. John’s and I lived on the other. As I walked to the studio every morning during a recording project, I used to give a guy on the street a dollar every day. I chatted with him every day about his mental health and addiction issues. And about a month later when the band went on the road, I wondered about him, because I wondered how I could give him a dollar a day without actually being there to hand it to him myself.

I decided that I would give a dollar a day to a local hospice and then I told my friends Andrew and Branden about this idea and they were immediately sparked into the notion of starting a foundation where we could pool people’s one dollar a day and distribute it across the country to mental health and addiction programs and facilities. And that’s exactly how A Dollar A Day was born just over 14 or 15 months ago.

We just completed our first cycle and we donated $15,000 to each of our first four programs and initiatives. One in St. John’s, one in Ontario, one in Calgary and one in Vancouver. And we’re growing ever since. We just did a little birthday celebration for my 50th birthday and we asked people showing up to give a dollar a day and over one hundred people in the last 25 days have signed up to give a dollar a day.

It’s really growing in a crazy kind of way and people are really interested in being part of the solution for mental health and addictions, but I think they are also very engaged in this new way of giving. Instead of trying to find $125 to go to the big fancy ball or something, or to try to find tickets for this or that, this is just a simple little thing we do. To participate you just need to ask yourself two things: Would I like to help with mental health and addictions today and do I have a dollar? That’s it. And if the answer to those two things is yes, then go to adollaraday.ca.


The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival continues Friday June 21 at Mooney’s Bay Park and runs through to Sunday June 23. Be sure to check back on apt613.ca for daily previews and interviews with headliners.