Alan Doyle: Optimism, because I think with my advancing age, I'm more aware that we're lucky to have every single day that we have. And I wanted to sing about it.
CL: And that's what the album title So Let's Go represents? The idea that we're lucky to be here, so let's make the most of it?
AD: Absolutely. I used to feel like that a little bit when I was younger. And as I get older, I'm like tick tock goes the clock. Don't tell me you wasted a day. My God, you can't waste a minute; you can't waste an hour. It's too precious.
CL: Does that function as your mantra for life?
AD: It sort of bleeds into everything I do. I want to be the guy that lives the most. That means opening more doors, taking more phone calls, or trying things I haven't tried before and going places I haven't gone. I don't want to give over a single day to second-guessing myself and wondering. I'd rather regret the things I've done than the things I did not do, a wise man once said.
CL: How has tradition influenced your music?
AD: The things that are dearest to me from my young life centre around my family and my house, which was a musical place. My earliest memories were hearing my mom play the piano accordion, and hearing my father and my uncles play traditional music. That's always stuck with me. It's where I find the most comfort. And no matter where I go, I seem to bring that with me. This record is a really good example. I made a lot of music with some of the most contemporary writers and producers in Canada right now, yet I brought with me all these influences from Petty Harbour.
CL: So music and family really intersect for you?
AD: They do. When I was writing my book (Where I Belong), I asked my mom and dad how they got together, what they saw in one another. My father's answer was a great one. After he shrugged his shoulders, he said, "Well b'y, she could play and I could sing."
CL: What kind of traditions do you share with your family?
AD: I have a cabin just a couple hours away from St. John's. That's sort of become my mecca for new traditions. It's where people gather, where big meals are prepared and big projects are taken on by me and my father that we don't know how to do. People gather and there's always a song or two.
CL: Is there a different feeling when you hear the music you grew up with than when you hear the music on the radio today?
AD: Yes, there's joy in both, though. There's something homey and comforting in hearing a song that you haven't heard in a long time but you heard your grandfather sing. I get a whole new thrill about hearing a new song that speaks to me. I think I've benefitted from the fact that I don't categorize them that much. In kitchen parties of my childhood, the music was never categorized either. The guitar would get passed around and someone might sing an Irish Clancy Brothers song form the turn of the last century, then somebody might sing a Buddy Holly song from the '50s, then somebody might sing a song they wrote the day before. It was always just, songs are songs; sing the one you like.
CL: On the new album, you've done some collaborations that have brought the two worlds together a bit.
AD: Yeah, it's a real marriage of traditional music and modern-contemporary pop music. I worked with a guy named Tawgs Salter who works a lot with the band Walk Off the Earth, and I was in love with how they make huge-sounding pop music that's driven by three ukuleles. I was charmed by that, the way they make something huge out of something so personal and small.
CL: Is your son a musician?
AD: He is. It's funny. He just decided two weeks ago that he wants to do a record. There was some kind of Lego thing he wanted that was expensive, so me and my wife told him that he had to make his own money for that. And he looked over at me and said, "Well, I guess we got to do a record." I said, "That's your first instinct of how to pay for things?" And he said, "Well, that's how we make money, isn't it?" I couldn't argue with him. So now we're doing a record. He's eight.
CL: Why do you think Newfoundlanders have such a rich sense of family and tradition?
AD: In a hard-living kind of life that happens on the rocky coast of the North Atlantic, you need each other a little more. Sometimes I think our sense of family is a really practical thing. People stick together because they need to. Certainly a century ago in coastal Newfoundland, there was no doing it on your own; it was impossible. It's not completely unique to Newfoundland, though. The traditions of Newfoundland are just different. I notice such a kinship with people who live in the Prairies, because I think their upbringing is the same, in that they live in an environment that requires constant maintenance. I love that about Prairie people—their survivalist mentality.
CL: Do you have a favourite Newfoundland tradition?
AD: I love the postcard kitchen party, that people still gather in the kitchen and eat and drink and sing. It just keeps it so informal. You party where you live. Don't overthink it.
CL: Do you have a good song for people to play at a kitchen party?
AD: There is one I wrote specifically for a kitchen party. It's called "1,2,3,4." It's all about the relationship between the guy who's been singing all night long, and the people who have been enjoying it in the kitchen. It's him saying, "OK, if you want me to sing another one, you've got to sing along with me." The chorus goes, "When I say 'one, two,' you say 'three, four.'"
Alan Doyle recently wrote a book, Where I Belong, about growing up in Petty Harbour. Read about Doyle's childhood in small-town Newfoundland.