The Beautiful Beautiful Band Shehab Illyas photo

I first became aware of Alan Doyle when my wife and I were on honeymoon on Prince Edward Island back in the late ’90s. We went into a record store and asked about local bands that they would recommend, they handed us two CDs by a band called Great Big Sea and we were hooked! Flash forward to the early 2000s, and I was on the phone with Doyle because he and his other band mates were coming to the State Theatre in Portland for a show. Now, with the band no longer in existence, the singer-songwriter has developed a solo performance with his backing group, The Beautiful Beautiful Band, and is heading to the Aura in Portland on Feb. 21. To that end, I figured another chat with the guy was in order. Back several months ago, when he was off the road, he called from his home in St. John’s, Newfoundland, to fill me in on how this new career is going.

Q: I must confess that I’m not overly familiar with your solo, post Great Big Sea career, so when your publicist sent a link to your new live album, “Here, Tonight,” it brought back a lot of great memories. How long have you been doing this solo work?
Doyle: Oh, since 2012, really. The last couple of years that Great Big Sea was rolling, I put out a record. Then, when Great Big Sea stopped playing I just rolled into this, so I’ve been doing solo stuff for over 10 years now. And I’ve been playing and traveling with the same Beautiful Beautiful Band and crew, many of whom worked with Great Big Sea, like Kris MacFarlane, our drummer, and a few other people. It’s been great fun.

Q: Well, the sound and style of the songs on your new album remind me so much of our honeymoon trip to Prince Edward Island where my wife and I picked up two CDs of Great Big Sea: “Play” and “Up.” Both of (the albums) were in heavy rotation in the car while we were there, and after we returned home to Pittsfield, truth be told.

Doyle: (Chuckle) Yeah, those are two of my favorite Great Big Sea records, of the early ones. The “Up” and the “Play” records were both the No. 1 and No. 2 records that we did for a major label. We did our first indie record (self-titled in 1993) before that, but I have fond memories of all that music.

Q: I would imagine you’ve been down to play in Maine as a solo act before this, right?
Doyle: I definitely have. I’ve played in Portland a few times and a few other places. … Boothbay Harbor, I remember off the top of my head, and a few others.

Q: Well, I think you’re at the Aura this time.
Doyle: That’s right. It’s a great little club, fantastic. I’ve played there once before, and I’ve played at the State Theatre before. And, oh my God, I remember going there the first time with Great Big Sea in what must have been the early 2000s.


Q: That was the first time I had interviewed you, as a matter of fact, so it’s been over 20 years since last we spoke.
Doyle: Yeah, I remembered your name when setting up this interview. So, yeah, I’ve been going to Portland for 20 years now, I guess. And I always have a great night there and always have a great laugh.

Q: Now, your “Here, Tonight” album is killer, man. I mean, 18 tracks, that’s a full-length concert, for sure.
Doyle: Oh, thank you. Yeah, it’s a collection of recordings from live concerts over the year or so before the pandemic, really. It’s a reflection of what a night out with Alan Doyle kind of looks and sounds like, with some music from my solo records and some music from Great Big Sea records, and some traditional Newfoundland music, all the fun stuff.

Q: Well, speaking of the pandemic, it must have hit you hard on several levels.
Doyle: It was really, really isolating and hard on people like me who like to get in front of large groups of people (chuckle). But I made the most of it. I got to work on that live record you mentioned, and then we had a little window during the pandemic when the Atlantic Provinces of Canada were very kind of COVID-free and were opened up, so we traveled about Atlantic Canada. We did a little record, and I wrote a book and … a bunch of stuff. I kept myself busy, but I desperately missed being onstage.

Q: Did you do any livestreaming during that time?
Doyle: Yeah, I did a whole bunch. We have a charitable foundation up here in Canada called “Dollar A Day Foundation,” and I started doing this thing called “Suppertime Sing-along’s.” Over the course of the pandemic we raised a couple of million dollars for mental health and addiction facilities across the country just by singing on the internet (laughter).

Q: Wow, that’s probably more of an impact than you would’ve had if you were out touring, too.
Doyle: Without question, yeah.

Q: Now, are you working on something new?
Doyle: I just finished a run of a new project in Prince Edward Island, actually. I wrote and performed in a musical called “Telltale Harbor,” which was great fun. So I spent a lot of the time in the pandemic preparing that musical, as well, and as we speak, I am in my home studio working on a new release for 2024. We’re going to record it in the spring, and it’ll come out late 2023 or early 2024 on Alan Doyle Records.


Q: (Chuckle) Well, you certainly have been busy since I ‘discovered’ you in 1997, that’s for sure.
Doyle: (Laughter) Yeah, it’s great fun.

Q: Is there anything, Alan that you would like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Doyle: Oh, just that I’m looking forward to continuing my streak of excellent nights out in Portland, Maine, and giving people a great night out with tunes from myself and from the Great Big Sea catalogue and Atlantic Canadian traditional music. All the songs that people have been used to having with me over the years.

Q: Is there anything we haven’t discussed that you think we should, this is your forum, after all.
Doyle: No, no, I’m grateful for all of it. I’m looking forward to coming back to Portland, and I’m looking forward to singing a few songs live onstage again, it’s been too long!


Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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