Musical men at work

Tara Bradbury
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Alan Doyle, Russell Crowe appear on ‘Republic,’ will perform in concert tonight and Thursday

It was never a matter of whether or not actor Russell Crowe and Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle would release another record together — it was simply an issue of when.

Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle (left) and Academy Award-winning actor Russell Crowe pose on the set of CBC TV’s “Republic of Doyle” Tuesday morning. The pair, along with Crowe’s wife Danielle Spencer, actors Kevin Durand and Scott Grimes and Irish pop/folk duo Size2shoes, will perform two sold-out musical shows at the LSPU Hall tonight and Thursday. — Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

Crowe and Doyle have been penning songs together since meeting in Toronto in 2004, releasing “My Hand, My Heart” a year later.

The pair’s newest album, “The Crowe/Doyle Songbook, Volume III,” was released on iTunes Tuesday morning and by evening, had hit the No. 9 spot in Canada.

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“The title comes from a delusion we have that we are more prolific songwriters than the reality. We’re working on Volume 7 as we speak,” joked Doyle.

Doyle and the New Zealand-born Crowe were preparing to release some music when the perfect opportunity to do so arose.

Doyle guest-starred in an episode of CBC-TV’s “Republic of Doyle” last season, and arranged with show creator/producer Allan Hawco to offer Crowe a part, along with actors Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand. Doyle, Grimes and Durand had played merry men to Crowe’s Robin Hood in the 2010 Ridley Scott movie of the same name, and had been looking for an excuse to get back together on screen.

“It was something that each of us wanted to happen since we walked off the ‘Robin Hood’ set,” Doyle explained. “I told Allan, if you guys can come up with an amazing story, the guys will probably be interested in doing it. They came up with a story the boys just couldn’t resist.”

Crowe, Doyle, Grimes and Durand were on the “Doyle” set on the southside of St. John’s harbour Tuesday, but neither was giving any hints about the episode’s storyline.

Doyle is reprising his role as Wolf Redmond, an ex-con, while the others play his old comrades. Crowe, dressed in a hoodie and jeans, would only say he plays a thug.

“If I told you what the characters really were, then the reveal of the episode gets destroyed,” Crowe told The Telegram, smiling as he lit up a cigarette.

“Republic of Doyle,” starring Hawco and Sean McGinley as a father-son team of private eyes, is currently taping its third season on location in St. John’s.

The show has attracted some high-profile guest stars in the past, most recently taping an episode with Shannon Tweed as a kidnapper.

Academy Award winner Crowe, whose films include “A Beautiful Mind” and “Gladiator,” has been giving the “Republic of Doyle” crew tips, helping with the narrative of the story. He’s not surprised the show is doing well, he said, adding he’s in awe of the effort put into it, particularly by Hawco.

“The thing about this show is the energy of all the individuals on the show. Everyone on the crew and everyone on the production side is fantastic. Godspeed to them and I hope their success keeps going because it’s got to be one of the best current imports that Newfoundland has, and it brings a lot of attention to you.”

“It’s a joy whenever you get an opportunity to work with the best of the best,” added Hawco. “I just feel grateful that I’m even on the set and that it’s my show.”

Once they knew they’d be together for the “Republic of Doyle” gig, Crowe and Doyle — who had planned a tour of the States together last year that had to be scrapped when Doyle injured his back and needed surgery — made plans to release their album online and with two shows at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s.

With Grimes and Durand, Crowe’s wife Danielle Spencer and Irish pop/folk duo Size2shoes also on the ticket, the shows, happening tonight and Thursday, sold out in 36 minutes.

People have complained about the lack of tickets for the shows, which are fundraisers for the Hall, but it was an intimate concert in a small venue that they were looking for, Crowe explained.

“That’s part of the beauty of it. We could have sold quite a few thousand tickets, but that’s not the point. We didn’t want to be putting a band together or stuff like that; we just wanted to be our own band and keep the songs on that level. In a venue of that size, we’re hoping that we’re going to make those shows really special and that the people there will remember them for a long time.”

Four of the tunes on “The Crowe/Doyle Songbook” are influenced by Australian writer Tim Winton and his book “Dirt Music,” and written for a film adaptation which is currently in the works, Doyle said, with Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz expected to star.

The acoustic demos on the record are Crowe and Doyle’s interpretation of what a family band in the book might sound like, including two guitars, a mandolin, two male voices and one female one.

The female singer? Spencer, a singer/songwriter in her own right, marking the first time she and Crowe have recorded together.

While it may be strange to have three voices singing a love song together, not in harmony but all on the same note, the result is haunting, with a Peter, Paul and Mary feel.

“You could say that about all the songs, that there’s a certain strangeness to them, but it’s the sound we’re going for,” Crowe said.

The songs also have Doyle’s musical stamp all over them, with an obvious Celtic vibe — something Crowe is also fond of.

“The things that he likes are the things that I like,” he said of Doyle. “I like a good story and I like a good tune. I like to know that the songwriter has spent more than a little time crafting what I’m listening to.”

When “Republic of Doyle” filming wraps up this week, Crowe, Spencer and their two boys — Charlie, 7, and Tennyson, 5 — will spend some time playing tourists around St. John’s.

While Crowe was here once before, in 2005, it’s the first time for the rest of his family, and he’s looking forward to sightseeing with them. He loves this province, and it’s clear it’s not just a polite interest, since he’s able to recite historical tidbits about Joseph R. Smallwood and the construction of local churches that show he’s done at least a bit of research. Doyle’s former job as a museum tour guide has also proved helpful, he said, smiling.

While he reckons a recurring role on “Republic of Doyle” won’t be an option for a while, since he’s got five consecutive projects awaiting him once he leaves, a trip back to St. John’s is something he’s looking forward. The release of future records with Doyle is, too, especially since the digital age makes it easier to release albums without disrupting other work schedules.

As long as he’s acting, he’ll have a foot in the door of the music industry, Crowe said.

“Some people don’t understand this, but creativity sources from the same place. To me, it doesn’t really matter what the creative pursuit is, as long as in my life I have something,” he said. “There’s something fantastic about doing gigs and getting that immediate response from people, but there’s also something fantastic about sitting and planning out the arc of a character and then 18 months later watching it with 1,000 people.”

“The Crowe/Doyle Songbook, Volume II” is a digital-only release. It’s available on iTunes now, and will be released on Amazon and other digital outlets Aug. 9.

The third season of “Republic of Doyle” will premiere in January.

Organizations: Great Big Sea, CBC, Amazon

Geographic location: Toronto, Canada, New Zealand Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Susan
    August 04, 2011 - 11:58

    The issue with an intimate concert in a small venue is that there while it was undoubtably "really special for the people there" It takes away from people like myself - who were unsuccessful - despite doing everything possible to get a ticket from the second the tickets went on sale 'til after the show started". It's not like we can get to travel elsewhere to take in the show (although I think this combo has feet & will be around a long time)" So, many people with a special connection who really wanted to be there - I think mainly because they are so proud of what Russell Crowe does for this province (through publicity & expressing his love for it) were shut out - as well as those who are huge fans of each of the performers as actors or musicians & those who support the arts & attend pretty well everything at the Hall & young aspiring actors & musicians, to whom the show would have made a world of difference, people who have played the hall, etc. So - there were a small number of those who had tickets & those who didn't. In all of this, I certainly hope Chris Brookes was offered a ticket because he & some others are the reason for the hall's existance. This would still be the issue to some extent regardless of the venue - but many more of the people who really, really wanted to see the show would have had a chance. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that a single person on that stage would have wanted to see so many people who really really wanted to get a ticket unable to do so. A venue like Molsum Canadian Club at Mile One is amazingly intimate & Holy Heart is intimate too (& could have also used the cash infusion to fix up their seats) & how altruistic would that have been for a partnership between a smaller & a larger venue - for the benefit of both & what a tribute that would have been to the promoter to do that for the greater benefit. I look at the Hall as a cultural institution - & that those involved with it are like caretakers of this amazing institution - that so many of us have supported over the years. (& I still encourage those who haven't been to a show there to do so - it's a wonderful experience). The reason I wanted to be there was just as Russell Crowe said I just wanted to see exactkly what the concert was delivering "the group of friends being their own band and keeping the songs on that level." - to keep it real & not be a big production - that's what many of us are like here - real & straightforward & respectful & appreciative. Even though I still have not managed to get a ticket, even if i had, I would have been very happy - seeing the show(s) or even tonight's show moved to Holy Heart or elsewhere - for the greater good of all. The sound at Holy Heart is often quite good - it was the only venue Leonard Cohen wanted when he played here - because of it's intimacy. While I would love this combo of people to play here again, (& I would gladly buy a ticket to a show where any of them were playing), I realize that this may be the only time that that show is here in NL. You have to understand that for many, many years, we got very few shows from visiting artists here & there was even a time when there was not much local live music here & we are very appreciative of music & of those who come to our shores to play. For all the people who performed, enjoy St. John's (& all of Newfoundland - it is truly amazing) - the people, the culture, how we do things - bask in it all. & nothing wrong with Alan Doyle inviting people here every year & having a big time - maybe the week after the folk festival would be good & a lot of good could come from this & isn't that what life is all about.

  • abreathoffreshair
    August 03, 2011 - 16:11

    Russel Crow is a great actor and talented musician. I hope he and his family are having a nice visit regardless of the weather. He and Alan look like they could be be brothers in that picture.

  • Abbey
    August 03, 2011 - 14:14

    Crowe, Doyle, and Hawco are tremendous actors / musicians individually. Put them together in any venue and they are truly AWESOME. Here's hoping they can do many more projects together in the future.

  • Jeremiah
    August 03, 2011 - 08:31

    Great publicity for NL.

    • Cindy
      August 03, 2011 - 21:35

      Good interview.

    • Margaret
      August 03, 2011 - 22:14

      OH my! I'm soooo proud of this little province of ours! For such a sparsely populated piece of property, we sure do have an abundance of special talents! Although, I have to admit... it's gets confusing with two Doyle's.. and two Allan's!!! LOL! I'd wish you good luck, boys... but obviously, you don't need luck! Your talents speak for themselves!