Glen Allen Virginia Hotel Room

Any frequent readers of this blog know I am not usually a fan of a day off in a lonely hotel room. Most often I find it kind of isolating and depressing. It is the very time when you count how many hours and days you spend away from your family. It is the time you are neither Home nor on the bus with your pals prepping for a concert. You are just, alone. And normally it is, by far, my least favorite of days.

But I am enjoying this day off in the hotel room more than usual. I have sang a concert 9 of the last 10 nights, so I really need to rest body, voice and mind. Also, I have a major book deadline looming and am grateful for these 24 hours or so with almost no distractions so I can catch up on it all.

Very briefly here, a note of thanks to everyone who’s joined us on this trip so far. Great shows all around with Sell Outs in Ann Arbor, Pawling, and Sellersville. A look ahead sees a few more Sold Out shows in Brownfield, Lindsay, and Parry Sound. I know that Belleville, Kitchener, Northampton, and Derry have very few tix left, so grab them quick if you want to join us. Love to see you.

Have to say, my day in NYC was one of the best of my adult life. Got to see Come From Away, the now Broadway smash about Newfoundland’s hospitality during the 9/11 crisis. It is as heartwarming as it gets and a reminder that even on the darkest of days, there is a light to show the way. So proud of GBS’s Bob Hallet for placing the traditional music of Newfoundland in the show and of our own Petrina and Romano and all the cast for telling such a true and much needed story. Made me proud to be a human being, a Canadian, and especially a Newfoundlander.

Thankfully, all of the above joined us at BB Kings for a great concert and jam. It’s tough to make a splash of any kind in the big city. There is so much happening and making big waves, it would be easy to go unnoticed in the wash of it all. But I really feel like Newfoundland had a big slice of the Big Apple on Thursday, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

Go see Come From Away. And go see it in NYC. The lovely story of a small town and how it shone on such a dark day being told and staged in the very city that suffered it the worst is quite honestly the chance of a lifetime.

More touring news to come as the Summer shows roll out soon.

In album News, the mastering date is Thursday. The single has been picked and should be released soon as the days get longer.

I am working away on the last brush stroke of the new book. It should be out of my hands before the tour is over. Fun stuff.

The sun is shining on some very tall deciduous trees just outside this hotel room. Through the window I can see the light catch on brown branches pushing tiny green needles and cones through the fading husk used to ward off winter.

Though I dare to say it, I think Spring has Sprung.

Cheers,
Alan

Home

Ottawa gig at Centrepointe Theatre is Sold Out. This is a big deal. Thank you so much. More about this later.

I am sitting in my St. John’s Kitchen in between storm three and four of this week. I’m serious. Pretty much all I have done lately is shovel snow or get ready to shovel snow. And I could not be happier.

2016 turned out to be a much busier year than I expected, with The Beautiful Gypsies and me on the road for about 100 days. I enjoyed every single one of them, but I am a little weary after so many miles on busses, trains, and airplanes. Happy to be Home for the Holidays.

Much to look forward to in 2017. If all goes well, you’ll see a new book and CD in the Fall. I have submitted about 75% of the book to the editing team and we hope to finish the last bits early in the new year. I hope you enjoy the tales of my first journey across the country in the GBS van and how all the new found land compared to the only Newfoundland I knew.

I am humbled and excited to get a chance to work with one of the most successful music producers in history. Early in 2017 me and the BG’s will roll West to the famous Warehouse studio in Vancouver to record a new album with Mr. Bob Rock. I can’t fit all his credits in one blog, so I’ll just politely ask you to look up his incredible resume if you are interested. It is not a brush stroke of an exaggeration to say that this is the chance of a lifetime. I cannot wait to see what comes of it all.

Lots of tour dates over on the tour page. Many of the March shows are close to selling out so grab some tix quick as I’d love to see you out there. Stoked to have the wonderful Mr. Donovan Woods along for the ride on a bunch of those shows. Donovan is an incredible songwriter and has helped me with a bunch of tunes including The Nights Loves Us and I Can’t Dance Without You from the SO LET’S GO album as well as a few for the upcoming recording, including Come Out with Me and Ready to Go, that many of you may have heard in concert recently. Not sure how he makes time for me in between writing tunes for artists like Tim McGraw and the gang from Lady Antebellum, but I’m glad he does. He’s an amazing performer and singer as well. So grateful he agreed to come along for a bunch of the shows.

Also on that tour, subbing in for the most awesome Shehab Illyas, will be my old friend and GBS stage mate, Murray Foster. Many of you know Murray from GBS or Moxy Fruvous, or The Cocksure Lads band and film. He’s an incredible player and singer and an equally awesome travel companion, so I look forward to spending a few weeks on the bus with Murray. Shehab will be back with us right after the March Tour.

Stoked be heading back to The Black Sheep Festival in Germany in June. Will be sharing the weekend with The Hooters, Saga, and Nazareth just to name a few. Hoping to add a few other gigs in UK and/or Europe while we are over that way. For all the festival info, go here.

Thanks to all for the tremendous support for Cory Tetford’s new CD In the Morning. Me and a bunch of the BG’s helped Cory with these tunes, but trust me when I say Cory did all the heavy lifting. Great songs. Great Singing. Great Guitar Playing. Grab the CD here or here.

For folks in the St. John’s area, you get a chance to see Cory live and in concert on March 8th. He’ll be joined by Chris Ledrew and a gang of awesome players at Holy Heart Auditorium. Grab tix here.

Back to the Sold Out show in Ottawa in January. Here’s a confession. Like everyone, I have moments of self-doubt and worry if the momentum of it all has ceased to move forward. Sometimes I pick a gig and focus on it as it goes on sale and use it as a marker, a litmus test if you will, for how it is all going. The Centrepointe Theatre is a big capacity at around a thousand seats. The gig came up fairly last minute and would go on sale at an odd time of year, when people may have already spent their pockets empty with gifts for the holidays. So I said to myself, ‘if this one does ok, we are still in the game.’ Then the show Sold Out clean in about a week after being put on sale and a month before the date. When I got the news I looked up and said ‘Home Run’, to no one and everyone and mostly to myself.

I have to tell you how grateful I am for this sell-out so quickly and so far in advance when I know folks are spending a pile on just about everything. It means more to me than I can say. Get ready, Centrepointe Theatre. You are getting… well, you are getting everything I got.

Happy Holidays to All from The Luckiest Man in the World.

Much Love to Ye for an incredible 2017.

Cheers,
Alan

Wilkes Barre, PA Hotel Room

A funny thing happened on the way to the gig. A most stressful and bizarre day yesterday left us scrambling to honour ticket holders in Ithaca.

After a grand Saturday night in Burlington, Ontario, we rolled our tour bus and trailer of equipment to the Canada US Border, as we have done hundreds of times. We stopped at Immigration and showed our work Visas with no issue as we have done hundreds of times. The trouble started when we were asked about our equipment. The same equipment we have crossed with hundreds of times.

Now, I should note that what is to follow is not a critique of US or Canada Customs. Nor is it meant to persuade anyone that I know better than anyone working or administering the borders, because I don’t. I can only imagine how complicated it must be to safely and fairly immigrate and emigrate people and import and export goods and commercial property on that scale. Much Respect to US and Canada Customs.

Easiest way I can think to describe the conversation that went on for nearly 8 hours would be like this.

ME: Hello, we’d like to enter the US and play some concerts, please. Here are our work Visas and paperwork.

THEM: Hello, I see you’ve played here many times. Good luck with it… oh wait, one second. Do you have your blue sheet of paper for the equipment?

ME: No, we were told many years back we did not need the blue sheet because this is a bunch of personal tools not commercial equipment. And we have crossed dozens of times without having the blue sheet. See, here on the passport, we crossed last Friday into Denver where we they were clearly fine with us being non blue sheet people.

THEM: Well, today, you need a blue sheet. No problem, just go get one and you’ll be on your way.

ME: Ok. But it is Sunday. All the blue sheet people are off today.

THEM: Oh. That is going to cause a problem for you. Sorry about that. Again, you are all free to enter and perform, but your equipment, bus and trailer must stay till you get the blue sheet. Have a great day.

ME: Thanks. We’ll get a blue sheet and try to figure how we can still do the concert with no gear.

THEM: How are you going to do that?

ME: I really have no idea.

THEM: Good Luck.

ME: Thank you.

So, we retreat to the parking lots of purgatory. Those are the places where you can stop and be in neither the US nor Canada. We scrambled to make some kind of plan. We tried everything we could to get a blue sheet person to work on a Sunday, but it proved impossible.

By now it was 2 in the afternoon. We’d been there for 6 hours and the first suggestions arose that we’d have to cancel the show in Ithaca. Long time readers of this blog will know my policy on cancelling shows. I wrote once about an ill fated trip to Alberta which took 24 hours instead of 7 and had me get on stage 3 hours late, to a jubilant gang who so patiently waited for me. I wrote something like this;

‘I got in the music business to play concerts. I did not get in the music business to find good excuses not to play concerts.’

So, when the suggestion came up that we might have to call the promoter in Ithaca and tell him to send people home, my response was simple (pardon my language)

‘No f—king way.’

We brainstormed how we could do it and almost every proposed solution met a road block.

We’ll get a hire car to drive us there…nope, takes three hours to get one here from TO.

We’ll rent a car in Fort Erie and drive our selves…nope, we drove the bus and trailer to the Rental Car Company, but it was closed on Sunday.

Again the suggestion that we might have to cancel.

‘No f—king way.’

It went on.

We’ll rent local gear and gut it out…nope, the rental store is closed on Sunday.

Andy, our tour manager got on the phone with the club owner and explained the predicament.

‘He can borrow an acoustic guitar and electric guitar and an amplifier.’ He said.

‘We’ll take it.’ I said.

Andy turned and explained that we’d try to make it happen in some form but we might be late getting there.

‘No f—king way.’ I was admittedly over doing at this point. ‘We’re starting on time.’

It was explained to me that it was now approaching 3pm and Ithaca was 3 hours away and our show time was 7. No problem, except we still did not have any way to get there.

Someone on the bus knew someone in St Catherine’s who had a pal in Fort Erie who owned a van. A few texts later and some gent agreed to leave his family supper for a very modest fee and drive us to Ithaca.

I won’t say too much about him because he may or may not want to be identified in this story. I can say that he showed up on time and drove us with perfect professional accuracy. I can say he was an extremely pleasant man. I will be forever grateful to him.

In truth, I was so pumped on adrenaline, that I barely looked at the guy. I shook his hand and jumped in. He did, in retrospect look a bit like the loveable ‘Shaggy’ in Scooby Doo, so lets call him Shaggy.

Our plan was to take me, Cory and Kendel, along with our sound guy Johnny and bolt for the club. I would use the acoustic guitar for the whole show, (I usually use three, as well as bouzouki, mandolin, and electric guitar). Cory would use the borrowed electric guitar and amp, (he ususally uses two electrics, a very specific modified amp, acoustic guitar and mandolin). Kendel would play her own fiddle (which we would beg exception for at the border as it is a very fragile antique that cannot be left in a warehouse overnight to wait for the blue sheet.)

We rolled back to the border and were held for a brief incarceration. I honestly think they admired our tenacity. A few of them even joked they bet it would be an excellent gig if we got there as we seemed so determined to put it off. It was unsettling, but it seemed to be going well enough.

I do confess however to having a moment at Customs as we sat there in the holding area while they searched Shaggy’s car. And it was not a pleasant moment. I looked across at Shaggy as he smiled nonchalantly and I realized something quite unsettling.

I have absolutely no idea who this person is.

I am crossing an international border with someone who does not have, to my knowledge, a professional limo or taxi license, so we are with him personally. And I have no idea who he is, where he comes from, what he does for a living.

He did have a NEXUS card as trusted traveller, so that was reassuring. But I wondered if I was the unknowing patsy in a grand plot in a 1980’s Bruce Willis movie, and soon SWAT teams would blast through the window arms raised, shouting, “Agent Orange, please surrender!!” or something like that.

After searching the cart and finding nothing untoward, other than the aforementioned fiddle, they agreed to let us proceed. I remain grateful to them. But just as we were leaving they stopped us short.

‘One moment. Ah…Mr Shaggy. What do you do for a living?’

I literally froze in my steps and involuntarily clenched my bum. What had they found? Who was this mystery man?

Mr Shaggy turned without a skipped breath.

‘I work for a food bank in Fort Erie.’

The customs officers all smiled and almost said ‘Ahh’

I could have kissed Shaggy on the spot. A food bank?!?! Who says no to a fella who works for a food bank. Spectacular.

So, we were in.

It was now almost 4pm and Ithaca was at least 2 ½ hours drive away, so we’d have to bolt to make the 7 pm start.

‘Won’t matter if we are a few minutes late.’ Someone suggested.

‘No f—king way’. I was being overzealous now, but I wanted to gun for on time for some latent professional reason.

It was a beautiful drive through what I believe is called the Finger Lakes. The Fall colours made the stress of the day a bit more bearable, for sure.

We pulled into the parking lot of The Dock in Ithaca at 6:35. We were greeted by the local promoter who could not believe we’d made it. We opened the side door and walked right onto the stage to thunderous applause of the audience who’s been following us on Twitter the whole day.

Kendel plugged in her fiddle. I plugged in the borrowed acoustic. Cory plugged in the borrowed electric guitar and amp. It was awkward, but they all worked.

At 6:50, we ran offstage and changed into our stage clothes.

‘You need a few extra minutes?’ the promoter stuck his head into the wee side stage dressing room.

‘No f—king…ah…no, sir. We don’t.’ I smiled at Cory and Kendel.

At 6:59 Cory kissed mine and Kendel’s faces.

At 7 pm the Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Gypsies show started on schedule.

We were supposed to take a break at 8, but we played straight for about 2 ½ hours and left to a standing ovation.

The promoter said it was the best show he’s ever seen in there.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the people at the club for letting us play with whatever we had. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to Shaggy for his efforts. I could never tell you how grateful I am to Kendel and Cory and Johnny for performing at the highest standards no matter what obstacles the day threw at them. They are serious professionals, all of them. And I’m lucky to have them with me, for sure.

Happy to announce that the Blue Sheet office opened yesterday and we got the documents to satisfy all hands. The bus carrying the rest of the band and crew rolled into the US yesterday without incident. We be celebrating the reunion and drummer Kris MacFarlane’s birthday tonight at the gig in Wilkes Barre.

All together again. Thankfully.

Tonight, and onwards, it is business as usual.

Or as usual as it gets in the music business.

Cheers,
Alan

In The Sun

Currently enjoying the last few breaths of a grand vacation with family and friends. Just wanted to drop a quick note on a couple of things.

First of all, this weekend, one of the most influential bands of my life are playing their last show. And they are going out with such grace, class and style, that we should all give them a standing O. Spirit of the West were the first Nationally successful band that I ever saw on TV or in person that made me feel like I could just be myself, and play music on instruments that came from my backyard and sing songs about stuff that happened to me. Being from Newfoundland, I was lucky to have local heroes of mine like Ron Hynes and the Wonderful Grand Band and Figgy Duff, but the first band I ever saw play folky celtic music on the National Music Video stations alongside all the hair metal and rock in the 80’s was Spirit of the West. As soon as I saw John Mann strum an acoustic guitar solo in Save this House, or Geoffrey Kelly play a ripping flute tune in the rowdy Home for a Rest , I felt like the path to a life in music for me got a little clearer. Perhaps I didn’t need to look or sound like Whitesnake and pretend to be from LA afterall.

I got to see them live a few times and in the fall of 1995 (I think), Great Big Sea got to open for the Gents across Ontario and even a wondrous homecoming at the old Memorial Stadium in St. John’s. Over the years, we became and remained great friends and have toured and recorded together many times. I have not the words to tell you how many life and musical lessons I’ve learned from them.

This weekend they wrap up an amazing run that would be a fantasy for just about every one I ever met who picked up a guitar and dreamed a big dream. A few health issues including John’s well publicized Alzheimer’s condition has taken the band off the road earlier than many of us fans would have hoped, but the songs will be sung and resung for as far and long as any of us will see. So stoked to have a couple of the Beautiful Gypsies, Kendel and Kris, helping the Gents out in the final few shows.

Serious congrats to John, Geoffrey, Hugh, Vince, and Tobin and all the other past and present members of the band.

Whoever said ‘Don’t meet your heroes’, never met Spirit of the West.

Also, big shout out to Beautiful Gypsy Cory Tetford out with the most awesome Matt Andersen this week.

As for me and all Beautiful Gypsies, we hit the road starting Thursday in Buffalo. Some of the shows are Sold Out and more are very, very close so grab a tic quick if you can make it. All the details on the tour page here.

I’m back to the palm trees and that for a few more hours. (have I mentioned here that I might be the luckiest fella on earth?)

These so called vacations will soon be my death.

See you back out on the road soon.

Cheers,
Alan

YYT-YYZ

I have been home for over a month. For someone who flies about 100 times a year, a near five-week stint sleeping in your own bed is a rare occurrence. I’ve heard it said that the longer you are home, the harder it is to leave, and I can feel it this morning. Creatures of habit, we humans get used to things, don’t we? Used to the routine of getting up and ready for Grade Four, walking the dog that hill or around that lake. Used to the familiar smiles on Water Street and the wink from the old Skipper who’ s Irish Setter, I swear does the same. Used to a kiss on the face from the fairest one of all in the morning or evening, or better yet, for no reason at all.

There’s a sting that comes with leaving home after you have been there long enough to get used to it, and long enough for home to get used to you. A sting that does not come when you are at the airport six or eight times a month. The early rises don’t help either. Can’t risk waking up the Prince for a final peek before tiptoeing into the cold morning air to an airport cab. Can’t drop into Mom’s and stand in her kitchen ripping handfuls of warm bread off a fresh loaf and refusing sit and eat a proper slice because you ‘don’t really want any.’

But sting or no, early or no, off we go. And I suspect the sting will fade with coffee and the site of the top of the clouds as we roll off again for another tour. A smile will come with the undeniable realization that I’m still in the game. Excitement will come when I see the Beautiful Gypsies at YYZ. And maybe even a fist pump will come when our tour bus rolls across Texas and the South US for the first time in WAY too long.

Truth be told, I cannot wait to bring this whole new thing to Texas, Nashville, Atlanta and beyond. Even typing those words eases the sting a little and I suspect chord number one will be just what the doctor ordered.

This trip includes a couple of private functions this week in TO, as well as a big day to push towards the skeleton of Book 2 before flying South to start the Tour proper. It also includes a trip to the Bahamas and the Junos, where a nomination and a gig at the songwriter’s circle should kill any lingering sting, for sure.

All the dates are on the tour page. Got a few pals in the South US? I’d be grateful if you sent them our way.

Yeah, it stings a bit this morning, no doubt. But I am reassured by the same question as ever.

Is there anyone luckier than me?

Cheers,
Alan