marco polo ship Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle goes back to roots
Doyle from Petty Harbour, grew up rich in his rural, rustic and remote Newfoundland small town.
Not in the literal sense.
In actual fact, the Great Big Sea frontman whose family of six headed up by his psychiatric hospital orderly musician father and piano teacher mother had very little material wise.
Doyle, his three siblings and parents lived in a two bedroom home without plumbing (they used a beef bucket) or running water on the Catholic side of Petty Harbour pop: 500 separated by a small bridge from the Protestant neighbourhood.
There was no family car, lots of hand me down clothes and Doyle went to work at a mere ten years old cutting out cod tongues before he would join his first working band with his uncle Ronnie at barely age 16. He eventually formed Great Big Sea at Memorial University in St John while working at the Newfoundland Museum.
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But the 48 year old musician, whose book tour in support of his new early memoirs, Where I Belong, is currently making its way across Canada, says life was with food always on the table even if the heating oil did sometimes run out. (That, by the way, just led to a Doyle tradition of what was referred to as out of oil party in the kitchen with people, alcohol and an oven with its doors off providing heat.)
had more than the crowd up the road, shrugged Doyle. was before the Internet age. All I could watch on TV was The Beachcombers and Tommy Hunter and Hockey Night in Canada. It only in retrospect I look back on it and think, was kind of odd for a 5 year old to be sleeping in a kitchen with no bathroom. But when you five are five year olds jealous? It was like, is there any more bread? lots of bread! caught up with Doyle during his book tour stop in Toronto trip to speak about his colourful young life which included at the age of 10 a death defying climb down Old Woman Gulch with a friend and a plank one early Sunday night to retrieve thrown out mags in plastic bags.
His mother didn know about the stunt until she read it in Where I Belong.
went), Mary and Joseph, or something like that and then drew her blouse closer together and blessed herself probably, joked Doyle with a laugh. not true at all. seemed so happy in Petty Harbour with so little. Is that true?
There a little moment in the book where I had a glimpse of what other kids might have lived like in the city (of St. John and I think if I had been more exposed to it, I would have been more pissed off. But I wasn so I wasn I had a ball! My first inkling of discontent in Petty Harbour happened when I was in high school really I just wanted to be somewhere where girls weren my first cousins, stuff like that. By the time my wanderlust had really kicked in, I just knew that Petty Harbour wasn going to be enough for me. In my young 20s was really probably the first time I ever even had any indication that I was probably poor.
I think people will be surprised your book stops just after you officially meet Sean McCann to form Great Big Sea? How come?
I thought from the very beginning I make it to Great Big Sea but we had so much fun stuff and I kind of discovered half way through, without ever knowing before, my young life in this really specific little town, these really specific weird little jobs like cutting out cod tongues, and that kind of stuff, perfectly prepared me for the greatest job offer when it finally came.
When I first meet up with Sean and we talked about making the band, he said, need to know, do you know much about traditional Newfoundland music, and I was like, yeah. we want to do it kind of more rock and roll. I did that. you know you not going to make much money. I don really need much money. going to be hard work. might have to share a room on the road. a room? F ing eh! could there be a sequel book telling the second half of your life?
I would love (that). I mean, we see how this one goes. That be great, I think. Many people, the first thing they say is, so glad it not what I expected. And now I can wait for you to write what I expected. you not a planner?
Stuff falls (on my lap). Seriously. (I very lucky. Very. I find every good blessing in my life just kind of walked up to me and shook my hand. There no one as lucky as me that I ever met anyway. I would love to do (another one). I enjoyed doing it.
And were your Great Big Sea bandmates also cool with being mostly left out?
I kind of told them what my idea was, towards the end of it and they were like, do you need us to do? And I was like, don even think I going to get to us. They were like, cool. the great stories you tell, has anyone optioned Where I Belong as a TV show or film?
That be fantastic. My buddy Perry (Chafe) of course, writes on Republic on Doyle. We joked about it. We haven talked about it seriously yet. But I mean, I be thrilled. It be awesome.
Have you got any more TV film roles coming up after most recently playing bad guy in 2014 Winter Tale opposite Colin Farrell?
An episode of Republic of Doyle we filmed in the summer we did episode seven. Episode one was the other night so, whatever, six weeks from now I guess. I still scheduled to do a film in Winnipeg when it comes around, it a musical called Strike. It a musical about the great general strike in Winnipeg right after the First World War.
What next for Great Big Sea given McCann announced his departure in 2013 after the 20th anniversary tour?
We taking a break now. I got a new solo record that coming out on Universal Records in January (called) So Let Go. I have a single. (The title track) is mixed and done and the video comes next week. It kind of folk poppy. Very poppy. All of 2015 will be me and (touring) music.