Flying Home

December 29th, 2015

Splitting the Holidays between sand and snow, this year. Or at least, I thought. Looks like very little, if any snow has fallen in my absence. Merry Christmas either way, I figure.

In these last few hours of 2015, perhaps its time for a year in review.

Early in January I gathered with the Beautiful Gypsies to learn some new tunes from the soon to be Released SO LET’S GO CD and prep for the upcoming tour. It would be a quick dance as the CD dropped on the 20th and off we went on tour starting in Kitchener the next day. The first leg of the tour plowed through the heaviest wintertime in Southern Ontario I’ve ever rolled in. Our tour bus was snowed in on a couple of occasions and actually frozen stiff outside one theatre. But the warm reception made up for it all, which was especially welcomed, as one is never sure how a new CD or band or both would be received. Highlights on that first leg included a triumphant gig at home at Holy Heart and a Sold Out show at the legendary Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.

I recall the following weekend having a most adventurous trip to Whitecourt, Alberta. What should have been an 8 hour travel day turned into a 24 hour travel day thanks to some inclement weather. But with an ambitious driver and a very patient and eager Whitecourt crowd, I went on a couple of hours late to a hero’s welcome. Turned out to be a wicked night, that led us to an amazing day in Prince George at the Winter Games.

The second leg of the tour started in snow as well. Night one in Denver was a stormy affair as we rolled West though Phoenix and into LA for an awesome mini Indoor Garden Party with Russell, Scott, Sam, Carl and a few more. What a laugh. A Sold Out gig in Vancouver really made us feel like the momentum of the CD and tour was picking up. Same reception in Saskatoon and Winnipeg and we were in full swing.

We played Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. That was interesting. Saw a lot of strange stuff down the back alleys of the club district as folks obviously started celebrating LONG before me and The BG’s hit the stage. In retrospect, we probably should have played at noon!

The third leg of the SO LET’S GO Tour was a series of absolute home runs with sell out shows in New York, New England, and all through Atlantic Canada. I have to note that it was really cool to get back to the Ram’s Head in Annapolis as it has always been one of my fav venues in the US. But the Home away from Home gig in Halifax was the highlight for a few reasons. The Sold Out show might be one of the best shows I’ve ever played in my life. I was just so grateful to be there and honestly felt like everyone in the room felt the same.

But more than just a good show, that evening announced a special arrival of Spring for me, as I felt that the rebirth of my life in a band was for real. If the whole tour hinted people might still want to hear me sing and play outside the GBS Mothership, this night in Halifax confirmed it. I never really confessed to anyone how terrified I was at the thought of GBS retiring after Sean’s departure. Touring in a band in a van or bus with a gang of fellow fools is not just a musical passion of mine. It has become my way of life. I still love the rolling cavalcade as much as I did when I dreamt of it as a 10 year old. And when GBS finally rolled with a crew and side players on a bus all over the place, I took a knee and thanked my lucky stars, and have thanked them every night from the bus bunk since. As it became more and more evident that the GBS Mothership would be tied up, I wondered if that treasured way of life for me was over.

On that night in Halifax, the very city that gave me and the boys our first Canadian applause, I sat in the dressing room after the show and let myself believe that I might actually get a second chance. Alan Doyle and The Beautiful Gypsies it is. I’m ever grateful to Kendel, Cory, Shehab, Kris, Todd and Paul for sharing their time and talents with me. Off we Go.

We bolted back to Toronto to record a cool TV show with CMT and shoot a wicked video for 1,2,3,4 ft. Ed Robertson. Check it out here.

Thanks to Ed and the CMT gang, especially Joel and Melissa for their constant support and amazing talents.

The early part of the Summer, saw another rebirth as I finally got to play in Germany again after more than a decade away. Me and the Beautiful Gypsies not only rocked The Black Sheep festival, I got to see one of my all time fav bands, The Hooters. Can’t tell you what it meant to me in the 80’s to see a band on MTV playing instruments I was familiar with like, mandolins, melodicas, accordions and the like. Following the German triumph with the Beautiful Gypsies, I jumped a train to France and joined Allan Hawco and Mark Critch to help them with a documentary about the Newfoundland Regiment in WW1. It was incredible to walk in the footsteps of history and getting to sing the Ode to Newfoundland at Beaumont Hamel will no doubt be one of the professional highlights of my life.

Finally got to play Stanfest, and Cavendish in early July. Both festivals have been on my wish list for a long time and they served as a great launch point into a great summer of festivals all around. The CNE in Toronto was one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever played for. Amazing to me that after two decades it still feels like momentum is building. Thanks so much.

To kick off the Fall, I loved hangin with the country crowd in Halifax at the CCMA’s, but of course any excuse to go to Halifax is grand with me. Especially loved the gig Kendel and I did with Cory at the Lower Deck. So cool to sing on that legendary stage. How many smiles and laughs and good times have been had in that room, I wonder?

Next up was the thrill of a lifetime, really, with a 5-week opening slot on the Barenaked Ladies Tour. I had not done an opening tour since GBS opened for Runrig in 2002, I think. I forgot how much fun it can be to try and win over some folks who weren’t quite sure what they were in for. These runs are especially awesome if the headliner treats you well. And that would not begin to describe the way we were hosted by Ed and the BNL guys. We were guest of the who camp. They asked us on stage to play with them every night. They invited us into their homes and made us all feel like partners in crime. Thanks to the whole cast and crew for showing us such a grand time.

I’ve been off the road a for a few weeks and just wrapped up a radio show for CBC and submitted an early chapter for Book 2 and heading home for the snowy part of Christmas vacation. The plan was to be off the stage for the better part of a month and hitting the road later in January, but the phone rang a week or so ago with a last minute request to come to Niagara Falls for New Year’s Eve.

A flurry of emails rounded up The Beautiful Gypsies and as quick as that, we’ve got one of the premiere NYE gigs in North America. I’ve played this gig before with GBS and loved it every time. There’s something about being so close to the iconic Falls that gives a sense of occasion that I imagine is similar to being in Times Square or historically on the St. John’s Waterfront. (sadly, in recent years, there has been no city sponsored waterfront party in St. John’s…don’t get me started…nice fence though) So, I’m grateful the Gypsies for dropping their plans at the last minute to come rock the Falls with Down with Webster, Dennis de Young, and Tom Cochrane.

As I type, I’m sitting on a plane flying north from Fort Lauderdale to Halifax on my way to Home after a fun beach week with mine and my sister’s families. I spent most of Christmas Day in the pool or in the ocean with The Prince, when we weren’t building Lego, chasing a BB8 robot, or riding bikes and scooters in sunny 25C weather. It was a super fun and active day without much down time. But there was one moment of perfect peace. I sat on the sand and watched my wife and son, along with my sister and brother in law, and my perfect 6 month-old niece wading in the warm water kissing the white beach. And it was then, as they were silhouetted by the sun setting on the evening ocean, that once again, a question came to me, as it has so wonderfully often.

Is there anyone, anywhere as Lucky as Me?

Thank You All.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.