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A three-hour layover in Toronto Pearson Airport allows a moment to reflect on the past 10 days or so and the incredible experience it has been.

On Wednesday, June 24th I brought the Prince to his last day of Grade 3. After a hug I told him I had to go on a plane for a while, but would be back to sing Happy Birthday at his party. Deal made. I boarded a plane for Toronto to take part in the Luminato Festival. A festival of art and creativity where myself and a few other musicians and music journalists discussed our recent foray into writing novels. Got to meet some new friends, Eric Siblin and Lynn Crosbie, who’s books are both inspiring in their own unique way. I highly recommend Studio Grace and Where did you Sleep Last Night respectively.

I also got reacquainted with an old friend David Usher. David, as many of you may know, was and is the lead singer of the band Moist who had huge success in the early 90’s in Canada and abroad. GBS caught a break and got to open for Moist on Toronto Island in 1994 (I think) at an afternoon bash for Ryerson University (I think). They were a big band at the time and we were just starting out on the College circuit. David and the gents were quite nice and encouraging to us and after the gig David politely turned down a trip to the pub as they had to drive to Cleveland for a gig that same night. (I think)

‘You can drive to Cleveland?’ I asked.

‘Yeah, its about 6 hours and we gotta hop to it.’

I remember it being the first time I ever you could actually drive to more than one major North American city in a day. Until that point I’d only travelled in Newfoundland and a little in the Maritimes and with St. John’s as a starting point, it is really two full travel days by car to get to the next big hub of Halifax. The thoughts of playing a daytime gig in Toronto and a late night gig in Cleveland was other-worldy to me. It was great to chat and compare war stories with David and a social gathering to follow with the amazing with the moderator Denise Donlan was a real treat for sure.

On Thursday I had a lunch with my literary agent.

Wow. Just taking a moment to realize I just typed, ‘On Thursday I had a lunch with my literary agent.’, in a sentence. Certainly never saw that coming, but such is my lucky life these days. We chatted about plans for the paperback and audio book of Where I Belong, due out in the Fall of 2015 and the follow up book to come out in 2017. Now I just have to write it.

I nipped across downtown to the Toronto Island Airport and got a short flight to Montreal. Departing flights from this gem of an airport get an amazing view of the ever-expanding skyline of Toronto. The very downtown the city has been condo-ized in recent years and I, for one, think it has made the city all the better for it. I love the fact that the waterfront has become more walking friendly and inhabited. I love that the very heart of downtown is filled with people who live their and enjoy the bustle of the city, not unlike New York or London. I just think it makes for a much more vibrant and welcoming downtown.

After a quick dash across Montreal airport I got a flight to Frankfurt, Germany where I met some of the band and crew and we were driven to a lovely little town about an hour South called Bad Wimpen. Myself and The Beautiful Gypsies were to play the BalckSheep Festival, a gig that would mark my first time playing in Germany in over a decade. I was thrilled with the hospitality we received from Barb, our lovely tour guide and translator who was as eager to show off her town as we were to see it.

We even got a special tour of the town’s tower and the most charming apartment it held aloft. The Tower mistress welcomed us with champagne and tales of the centuries, and as there was a old but amazing piano up there, we offered a song as thanks. You should have heard Todd play while Cory sang Amazing Grace. Every note hanging in heights. Pretty special, I must say.

The Festival was great, as most of them are in that part of the world. Great staging, sound and lighting. Incredible hospitality backstage and an awesome variety of acts from all over the world. I hung in a bit on Friday night and watched a bit of Bob Geldof, but surrendered to the jet lag before midnight as I wanted to have a great set ourselves on Saturday. And have a great set, we did. A huge crowd and ovation took us on and off the stage and I was reminded how gracious German audiences can be.

I ran from our set to the other stage to watch The Hooters, one of my fav bands as a kid. They were one of the first acts I saw on TV that used folk instruments in Rock and Roll and I loved them for it. The melodica and mandolin hook in “So We Danced” remains one of my fav bits of music ever. I even got to meet the gents back stage. 14 year old me would not have believed it. Thanks BlackSheep Festival. Ask us back, please.

After a grand night of carousing and a whisky stand discovery that took us far too late into the late night I got back to our hotel in time for a three hour power nap. The 5:30 am alarm hurt. I’m not going to lie.

I was up so early to catch a ride to Manheim, Germany where I caught a train to Paris. I confess I slept a fair bit of the journey, but as we rolled out of Manheim and into Paris, I pinched myself a few times. Nipping across Europe from gig to gig. How lucky am, at all?

I had about an hour in Paris and caught a train North to Amiens, France, a beautiful town on the Sommes River. I was there to join Allan Hawco and Mark Critch as they were making a film about the triumphant and tragic journey of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment in WW1. I am to write some music for their documentary and they were kind enough to ask me along for some of the locations and to help with the commentary and give an interview. After a stroll around the town, (which is spectacular and has a cathedral that would humbly many in larger Eurpoean centers) I met the gents after they finished their day of filming in various locations.

Hard to quickly describe the pilgrimage that followed over the next three days. I think of myself as a student of Newfoundland history and I thought I had an understanding of our country’s involvement in the Great War, and the ripple effects of our victories and losses there. But until I walked in the trenches at Beaumont Hamel, knelt at the gravestones of hundreds of Newfoundlanders buried in a foreign country, and received a grateful handshake from the descendants of a century held Belgian family farm that was saved from occupation and destruction by a single Newfoundlander, I really had no understanding at all.

We were a proud and determined country at the time of WW1, eager to contribute and make our mark no matter how small our numbers compared to the larger allied forces. But we were also very vulnerable as a nation with a tiny population, and the loss of hundreds of our finest changed the course of history for us forever. I look forward to a time when I have thought about this trip more, so I can better relate to you mix strange mix of emotions about it all. Reverence. Anger. Frustration. Pride. All culminating in the singing of the Ode to Newfoundland on Wednesday, July 1st at a ceremony on the very ground where the promise of the country my parents were born in, was killed in a matter of minutes.

I’ll be forever grateful to Allan, and Mark and all the documentary film crew for having me along. I’ll never forget it.
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Mark Critch, Allan Hawco, and me at dawn over the Valley of the Sommes.

An early rise on Thursday and I was headed back to Paris and Charles de Gaulle Airport. I caught a flight London, Heathrow and met up with Fiddle Goddess and most Beautiful Gypsy Kendel. We both jumped a plane to Nova Scotia, and just like that, were back on Canadian soil enjoying Thai food in Halifax. As with a week previous in Germany I succumbed to the time changes and got in bed embarrassingly early. The Alan from the GBS days at the Lower Deck in the early 90’s would be ashamed of me, but I had to crash as we had two big gigs to come.

An early rise on Friday found me on a bus with all the Gypsies rolling up to Canso, Nova Scotia for a do-over appearance at StanFest. You see, I’d been offered a slot there a year go and was delighted because I’d heard nothing but glowing reports of this festival. Like everyone else involved in 2014, I was so disappointed when a storm forced the organizers to cancel the festival for safety reasons. It was a total drag so I was doubly excited to finally get to play. StanFest did not disappoint. What cool place and eclectic mix of local, regional and international players. We had a great set there and I wanted to stay for the whole weekend, but as this crazy week of travel so often dictated, we had to bolt.

We bolted back to Halifax airport and caught the first flight Toronto and then onto Thunder Bay for the big blues festival. Readers of this blog might recall a tale of when GBS played there a couple of summers ago and I got to sing with another hero of mine, Kim Mitchell. This festival is awesome all around and the me and the Beautiful Gypsies had a wicked set. There was even a cool caricature artist on site. What a time. Please ask this fella back to the festival any time.

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An early flight found me back at the gates at YYZ. Six countries and more kilometers than I can count later, I am catching my last flight of this grand adventure of music, history and song.

Back to Home and to sing my end of a bargain.

Happy Birthday to The Prince.

Cheers,
Alan

Home

Here in my favourite early Saturday perch at the head of Placentia Bay while the Fairest One of All enjoys a much-deserved sleep in and the Prince assembles a Lego creature as fearsome as the morning is peaceful. A lull in the Daddying and Husbanding allows a moment to note what has recently past and what is quickly to come.

The three main legs of the North American SO LET’S GO tour are behind us and I could not be more thrilled with the reception me and The Beautiful Gypsies were given. Way too many highlights to mention them all but I am compelled to tell you that the finale captured by Joel Stewart and his gang at CMT should make for a very cool TV.

Looking forward to a few things that lie ahead. The biggest news of recent weeks is the announcement of the Barenaked Ladies Tour coming in October. Me and the Gypsies will be the support band for the whole deal. I have been a BNL fan since, well, since the very beginning. When Sean and Bob and Darrell and I went into Dermot Oreilly’s basement studio in the spring of 1993, we brought a few tapes with us for inspiration and guidance. They contained music that we figured was close to if not exactly in the spirit of what we hoped to make. Cassettes by bands that would demonstrate to us that maybe, just, maybe if we did it as good as them we might make a go of this music biz. This was the leader of the pack.

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I pulled this pic off the net, but I own at least three copies of this cassette back in St. John’s. I was literally an inspiration to us, and the success of BNL with an acoustic brand of very popular music served as a bar for us to jump for. I am thrilled to be on the road with Ed, Jim, Kev, and Ty in the Fall. The tour went on sale a couple of weeks ago and many gigs are approaching sellouts already. I’d love to see you at the gigs. Come early. I’ll be up there at 8 pm sharp.

All the dates and info are here.

Also very excited for you all to see the new Shehab Illyas video for ‘The Night Loves Us’. Many of you will recognize Shehab as the stoic bass player in the Beautiful Gypsies. A man of many extensive talents, Shehab is an incredibly gifted filmmaker who happens to sleep a few bunks back from me on the bus. Again, who’s luckier than me. Two versions of the video are up here, one for Canada and one for International. Check it out. The video is already added to a few video stations and in heavy rotation on at least one. Well done, Shehab.

On the book front, I’ve started recording the audio book. Should be fun to bring the pages to life, or at least to voice, anyway. It will probably take a week or so to get it all. Much sympathy for my long suffering Engineer friend Mark, who’s going to have to sit with me for days on end as I stumble through dialogue, mispronunciations, coughs, and ever failing attempts to stay still. Good Luck with all that.

Really excited about the summer dates for me and the Beautiful Gypsies as the SO LET’S GO Tour rolls along. So far there’s gigs in Germany, America, and home in Canada, and there may be another one or two to come. Check out the tour page for all the details and come on down if you find yourself close to a gig.

I’d like to take this chance to thank the folks on the Beautiful Gypsy Bus who’ve accompanied me for almost 12 weeks on the road already this calendar year. They are both pro’s at their gig and incredible folks to hang with.

Andy Robicheau has been my or GBS’s tour manager for the best part of a decade and remains the brains of the operation on the road. Can’t tell you how often one of us aboard the bus calls his name in the run of a day. He answers the call every time.

Mark Vreeken could very well be the best live audio engineer in the world. I’m serious. He tours with us while getting calls from Prince. I’m serious. On top of that he is incredibly patient and giving of his extensive know-how with the amateur audio recording novices like myself when we pester him daily with problems that he solved for himself over a decade ago.

Freddy Skogheim is the most unexpectedly delightful addition to the crew in a long time. Many of you will recognize Freddy as the fella selling shirts and hats and all that. He is incredibly efficient and organized. Especially for a crazy person. And I say that with as much love as I can muster. Easily one of the most gracious and interesting people I’ve ever met, Freddy is the King of bus morale. You miss him five minutes after the tour is over.

Kris MacFarlane has had the most unenviable job of trying to keep me from going too fast for over a decade. Somehow, he sticks with it. Not sure how I’d do it without him, now as his kick and snare are the heartbeat of the band. On top of that, he knows all the chords on guitar, piano, accordion, and bass, and cans sing anyone’s vocal part when their voice is tired (including mine). He also shares my Habs obsession, which makes the long nights shorter, somehow.

Shehab Illyas, as noted above, is wicked at five or six things in the arts. And still a gentle and humble soul. If I was as good at as many things as Shehab, I’d definitely be a total dick.

Todd Lumley is simply a genius. A wicked pianist who became a wicked accordion player in just a few weeks because that’s what the gig asked of him. I am envious of his musicianship almost as much as his calm zen-like philosophy and demeanor, which an emotional reactionary like me is very much in need of.

Cory Tetford was one of the most gifted singers and guitar players I’d ever stumbled upon when I first stumbled upon him (literally) in a club in Clarenville in the very early 90’s. I’ve followed his every step since then honestly think he gets better every hour. I can’t wait for his next solo CD. It is going to be amazing. He very kindly waits for me on our runs on the road, even though I know it must be incredibly boring for him to fast walk at his resting heart rate while I stumble behind him gasping for breath in a near state of constant cardiac arrest.

Kendel Carson, the Lady of the House, is as awesome in person as she is impressive and beautiful on stage. If you can believe it, and I wouldn’t blame you if you can’t, she’s every bit a pleasure to travel, eat, drink, and talk with as she is to make music with. I know I speak for the rest of the dudes when I tell you I regularly look across the stage to her and honestly can’t believe my luck.

I hoped to get together with the people mentioned above and make a really good touring band. Knowing how great they all are as professionals, I honestly figured we could do it. But I could never have imagined how quickly the folks above have become an incredible new touring family for an old dog like myself.

My brother Bernie, who is much smarter than me, joined us for a few days on the West Coast swing and met most of the new gang for the first time. He had this or something just like it to say,

‘What a cast, Al. What a cast. You’d be some lucky to get a bunk on this bus’

And he is right.

Looking forward to the next run with The Beautiful Gypsies. Hope to see you out there, too.

Cheers,
Alan

Q&A, Barenaked Ladies tour

Hey all, just letting you know that I’ll be fielding questions on Facebook & Twitter as special Q&A events in the coming weeks. I’ve enjoyed hosting these at impromptu times in airports, cafes, etc., but this time I’m dedicating a solid hour to it, right in the midst of the So Let’s Go tour.

Facebook Q&A
Tuesday, April 28th @ 6pm ET
Visit my Facebook Page and comment on the Q&A post to participate.

Twitter Q&A
Tuesday, May 5th @ 6pm ET
Follow and tweet @alanthomasdoyle with the hashtag #SoLetsGo to participate.

Also, this just in — me & the band join Barenaked Ladies on a Canadian tour this Fall, in support of their new album. Tickets go on sale Saturday, but you can have a look to see if we’re playing near you here.

In The Sun

I am in the last few deep breaths of a sunny vacation with the Fairest One of All, The Prince and a few awesome friends and their very awesome kids. I even got a far to rare hang with my little Sister Michelle as she has taken up residence and singing up a storm for people far from the winter. Feeling very grateful for this time away from the madness, but rested and eager to get back on the road with The Beautiful Gypsies.

A quick note about the last tour. Thanks to all for braving the snow in Denver, and coming out in Durango. Special thanks for the Sold Out show in Phoenix. What a laugh in LA with Russell, Scott , Sam and Carl and the Indoor Garden Party gang joining in the fun. Got to hear some of the tunes from a Crowe/Doyle CD that we recorded in Aus and LA last year. Grand songs. Looks like you’ll get to hear them later this year. So cool to play in Oakland and Napa for the first time. Sold out shows in Seattle, Vancouver, and Chilliwack rolled us up North. Calgary was a blast and Edmonton was ‘Band Friday’ or ‘Crew Years Eve’ (when the touring party has the next day off) so we rolled to the Black Dog after the show and had my 6 millionth great night in that pub. What a spot. We had a bonus day in Saskatoon, which remains the best-kept secret in Canada. What a great city it has become. After triumphant returns to the West End Cultural Center in Winnipeg and the Cedar theatre in Minneapolis, we wrapped up in the midst of the most boisterous St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago. I loved it all. Thanks so much.

Gearing up for the start of SO LET’S GO Leg Three next week. Some shows Sold Out already. Thanks to the folks in Natick, Fredericton, and Halifax for getting the tix so quickly. A few others are on the verge of filling the house too, so grab your tix as I’d love to see you. For those wondering about the show, myself and a band of Beautiful Gypsies play tunes from my two solo CD’s, some GBS fav’s, a Newfoundland Traditional song or two, and a few guest and surprises here and there.

Speaking of surprises, here’s a very poorly kept secret; my pal Scott Grimes is jumping on the bus for a few days around NYC, Philly, and Boston. Scott has been a great friend and supporter of mine for almost a decade. I would not have hit my mark a single time in the Robin Hood Movie if not for the constant advice and pointers from Scott and a few others. He remains one of my favourite collaborators as a songwriter, singer, and actor. Had a million laughs over the years playing Wolf to his Jimmy on Republic of Doyle and what a solid he did me in agreeing to play Bobbie in the SO LET’S GO video. His final scene is even shot in his backyard. What a Gent. Check out him and the lovely Jes in the vid:


Or if you’re reading this from outside of Canada, watch here.

A few other pals may join the madness as we roll along. So grateful to them all.

As I type, the Fairest One is enjoying a much deserved sleep in while The Prince, still in pj’s, waves his new Harry Potter wand with one hand while eating toast with the other. Over his head I can see a swimming pool with a waterslide, a perfect beach that falls away to a flat, blue, welcoming sea. I am a Lucky Bastard.

See you out there on the road in a week.

Cheers,
A