Be ready, Great Big Sea front man says - Alan Doyle shares with Board of Trade lessons learned from the

Daniel MacEachern
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Alan Doyle

By Daniel MacEachern

The Telegram

Alan Doyle works for nobody, and nobody works for Alan Doyle.

That was one of the Lessons Learned — the theme for a talk given by the Great Big Sea front man to the St. John’s Board of Trade luncheon on Friday afternoon at the Delta Hotel.

Doyle said early on in the band’s career, the father of band mate Sean McCann helped organize the band’s operations.

“We went and we sat in Ed McCann’s basement,” said Doyle, explaining that the elder McCann had advice on financial operations, and how to prepare for the eventuality of needing staff to carry gear and setting up sound and lights.

“I happened to say it will be cool when we have people who work for us,” Doyle told the audience of a couple hundred people. “He stopped me and said, ‘Stop right there. Nobody works for you. And you don’t work for anybody. You only work with people, that’s it.’ I’ve never forgotten it.”

Find another job if you’re employed by someone who thinks you work for him, advised Doyle, and, similarly, don’t hire anyone to work for you instead of with you. That mentality, said Doyle — working as a team, where everyone knows what everyone is supposed to do, and even the CEO pitches in to wash dishes if that’s what’s required at that moment — is what’s enabled the group to last for two decades and counting.

“My job description, for example, in Great Big Sea, changes about 14 times a day. Sometimes I’m the guy carrying a speaker,” he said. “And then four minutes after that, I’m the guy who’s helping the sound guy.


“Then I gotta go be on a magazine photo shoot,” Doyle said.

The outgoing singer/songwriter/actor  sang songs, told jokes — noting his speech’s sponsor was Newfoundland Screech’s new variety, Screech Honey, which he said “sounds more like an instruction, from the Petty Harbour hockey dance in 1984” — and told stories from his two decades in Great Big Sea, as well from his acting credits, including a role in 2010’s “Robin Hood” film.

Recounting that he, on his own, elected to write songs for every scene he was in for “Robin Hood” — some of which wound up in the movie — Doyle also advised the crowd to “be ready.”

“Be ready, and you’ll be all right,” he said. “It’s one of the only things you control, as well. You can be ready. I don’t care what line of business you’re in; you know when someone’s ready. And if they’re on your team, there’s nothing better than standing next to somebody who’s ready, and there’s nothing scarier than looking across the table at someone who’s more ready than you.”

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

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Recent comments

  • Diane King
    May 08, 2013 - 06:21

    Love Great Big Sea. They are so down to earth and the music I can listen to every day and not get tired of it. Have seen them twice. Last time, I was in the second row. Saw Alan pre-concert on the bus with headphones on. They are coming back to The Kent Stage in July but I don't have the funds to go :(

  • Vera Leblanc
    May 07, 2013 - 20:01

    seen great big sea once in my life..they came to play in our little town on Cape Breton Island, at our annual granville on the green outdoor concert series. I was so happy to see how they literally made people get up and dance on the grass..I had such a great time that evening, never forgot the genuine magic.. From one Islander to another (well, newfie and cb are cousins anyway) lol.. Thank you for the music that's filled with pure heart~

  • Jim
    May 07, 2013 - 18:49

    I love GBS also- I'm very impressed by their friendliness and fun loving personalities- not to mention their music (which is awesome) I wish I could move to Newfoundland!!!

  • J. Williams
    May 07, 2013 - 15:44

    Imagine how wonderful it is to be living in Northern Ontario and having GBS come to Casinorama..and Alan Doyle playing the Algonquin Theater in Huntsville on Thursday night! I can't wait!!....Everybody loves them!! These guys are wonderful, hard working, down to earth nice guys and they're GREAT ambassadors for Newfoundland. Come back soon!! :)

  • Sue Cooper
    May 07, 2013 - 15:33

    Love you Great Big Sea! See you in Toronto at the Molson Amhphitheater in July! Just saw you last month in Chicago, IL. I'm not stalking I promise. Toronto will be the last for the summer unfortunately as I have too many other vacations booked as well. Well, maybe I can get to Stevensville, Ont. at the end of August, I'll see! Keep up the great music! Oh, also, can I still submit pictures of Great People for the Toronto Concert on July 13? And if so, how again?

  • Sabrina
    May 04, 2013 - 23:54

    I will always love Great Big Sea, not only for their music and charm, but also because they open their hearts (and arms) to fans. They are very gracious and kind, they never treat people like they are above them and are awesome representatives of Newfoundland and Canada.