“A photograph of what goes on in a 42-year-old’s mind,” is how Alan Doyle describes his latest project.
The Great Big Sea frontman began a cross-continent tour Tuesday in support of “Boy on Bridge,” his first solo album.
Released last week, the record — named for the way he was credited for his role as an extra in the 1981 TV movie “A Whale for the Killing,” filmed in his hometown of Petty Harbour — was written in bits and pieces, and recorded that way, too, everywhere from Nashville’s most high-tech recording studio to Ron Hynes’ kitchen.
A sort of travel log, the record is a look at what Doyle says is the most sobering part of his life so far.
“It’s a weird time in your life when you just crack 40,” says Doyle, who turned 43 a few days ago. “You think that when you’re in your 30s, you get your first real taste of adulthood, but I honestly don’t think it happens until your 40s. You spend a lot of your 30s going to weddings; weddings and christenings. I reached my 40s, and there were more friends of mine getting divorced. It’s probably the first time in most people’s lives when more stuff starts getting broken than getting fixed. Grown-up realizations, I suppose.”
This solo project is a lifetime in the making, Doyle says. It’s something he’d always wanted to do, and now that Great Big Sea is on a little break, preparing for its 20th anniversary box set to be released in 2013 — and the year-long tour that will celebrate it — the timing seemed perfect.
Doyle recruited some newer friends to collaborate on the record, including Colin James, TV composer Mike Post of Los Angeles, and Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy. Others on the record are more expected, like longtime pals Maureen Ennis, Gordie Sampson, Hawksley Workman and Russell Crowe.
Last summer, Doyle and Crowe released “The Doyle/Crowe Songbook, Vol. III” (there is no Volume I or II in any record store) together, featuring a collection of original tunes penned by the pair and sung as a trio with Crowe’s wife, Danielle Spencer. Crowe and Spencer visited Doyle in St. John’s, where they promoted the record with two sold-out shows at the LSPU Hall along with actors Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand.
Doyle and actor Crowe have been friends since 2004, when they met at the NHL Awards in Toronto, and Doyle produced Crowe’s album “My Hand, My Heart.”
There are three more Crowe/Doyle songs on “Boy on Bridge,” including the last track on the record, the acappella “Where I Belong.”
“It’s the first song Russell and I ever wrote after his first visit to Newfoundland,” Doyle explains. “I’d always wanted to write a song about people leaving Newfoundland, I’d told him, but I’d never really done it because it’s been done so often and so well.”
Crowe, even after having been here just once, understood the feeling, Doyle says. The song was born, and was recorded in a studio in Vancouver — James on guitar — while Crowe was filming the new “Superman” movie.
Doyle’s favourite tune on the album may be “Sorry,” done with Workman.
“It’s musically probably the most complicated thing I’ve been involved in— it’s in a wacky time signature and has piles of crazy loops and is very hard to sing. It’s just a very cool musical accomplishment,” Doyle says.
“The Rules Will All be Broken,” a Tom Waits-ish, piano-driven torch song is the type Doyle has been waiting years to do, he says.
Great Big Sea fans won’t feel out of place listening to the record, despite its trappings in modern country and southern blues.
“It’s not free-form jazz or anything — it’s still me singing songs, most of which are up-tempo,” Doyle says, laughing. “It’s just maybe a place people haven’t heard me before.”
“Boy on Bridge” is available in stores, as well as on iTunes, where it made the Top 5 records in Canada shortly after its release. Doyle’s tour in support of the album will bring him home to St. John’s for a show at Club One June 10. Tickets are $29.50 plus tax and surcharge, and are available online at alandoyle.ca.
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