Alan Doyle chalks up a lot of where is he right now—with both his third solo album and his second book released in October 2017—to luck. “I’m the luckiest guy I’ve ever even heard of,” he says. “This was all I ever wanted, a life in the music business, singing concerts. I was lucky to be born in the family I was, in Petty Harbour. I was lucky that Sean, Bob and Darrell found me and asked me to join their band. I was lucky the Canadian music fans were into it.”
And yet, one listen to A Week at The Warehouse makes it plainly clear that there’s a lot more than luck at play in this decades long, awards-studded career. This album, recorded live off the floor with Doyle’s “beautiful band,” as he calls them, with producer Bob Rock at the helm, is chock-a-block with country-tinged, radio ready tunes that bring with them the flavour of some of Doyle’s favourite artists, from John Mellencamp to Rock’s own band, Payolas (In fact, Doyle covers a Payolas tune on this album, Forever Light Will Shine, with that band’s singer, Paul Hyde appearing as a guest vocalist.)
In addition to Rock’s work with Payolas, Doyle loved the metal albums Rock produced in the eighties, and his more recent work with the Tragically Hip, Jann Arden, and others. “It’s a real treat to get to meet your heroes and they turn out to be nicer than you ever imagined,” Doyle says. “A couple things about Bob, he’s first of all, still a massive fan of a good song, for a man who’s seen hundreds and thousands of them, he’s still thrilled to get a chance to work on a good song with a good band in a good studio, that’s still a perfect day for him. And secondly he’s just a wonderful motivator to get great players to play at their best.”
That kind of ease and experience—plus the incredible talents of Doyle’s touring band—made recording A Week at The Warehouse a relative breeze. Of the band, Doyle says, “I am so by far the worst person. I wish I was being modest. They’re an incredible band to sing with every night. I look around the stage and I can’t believe my luck.”
Doyle’s desire was to have an album that sounded and felt like the live show, and A Week at The Warehouse does just that. Lead single Summer, Summer Night is a co- write with long time collaborator Thomas “Tawgs” Salter. Doyle had it in mind to write a Celtic country song about summer nights in Petty Harbour when he was a young adult, playing guitar and singing with his friends around a bonfire on the beach—and teaching his friend Jimmy to play “one song, he figured he could get that one girl to go out with him. I showed him how to play Dirty Old Town and if memory
serves correctly it was very successful. It’s a fun song about letting yourself go the way you could when you were that age.”
Then there’s the ukulele and whistling ditty Beautiful to Me, also co-written with Tawgs Salter. This one, Doyle says, is a response to an attempt in North Carolina to limit the access trans people have to bathrooms in schools. “I was drawn to write a song that told people on the outside that they were certainly welcome in my place,” Doyle says. “If you’ve got love in your heart, that’s all that matters to me. It’s such a simple little song. It’s gentle. I just want everyone to know that if you feel like you’re on the outside, you’re not on the outside in this group—my arms and doors are open wide.”
In effort to balance the sound of album with something more rooted in Doyle’s own history, he dug out an older tune, one he’d written for the Robin Hood film in 2010. Doyle remembered the film had used the chorus and parts of two different verses ofBully Boys, but he couldn’t remember which. So he took to YouTube, hoping to find the scene. “I found dozens if not hundreds of versions of that song, from Spain, Croatia, China, the UK,” he says, astonished. “People have written their own verses in the old traditional way, it has made its way around the world as a sea shanty. It’s the old way of spreading a folk song, but using the Internet.” Doyle knew he had to finally record the song himself.
And there’s more of Doyle’s history in Somewhere in a Song, a tribute to his parents, who “made us feel like we could handle anything life gave to us,” Doyle says, adding he didn’t realize till he was an adult that his family had been poor. The song’s opening line is one Doyle heard his father say, when someone asked how the elder Doyles had gotten together. “My father said, ‘that’s simple I suppose, she could play and I could sing.’ It’s a simple homage, a celebration of my mom and dad’s attitude that you spend exactly none of your time worrying about the stuff you don’t have and exactly all your time making the most of what you do have.”
It’s an ethos Doyle has adopted whole-heartedly.
“I still think of myself as a person that has one job, a guy who plays in a band for a living, that’s me. If someone asks me to write songs, I guess I’m a songwriter too. If someone asks me to produce a record for them, then I guess I’m a record producer too. I never looked for an acting job in my life—they come to me. Someone calls who needs a hairy, Irish-looking fellow to bully someone or play the lute, come throw rocks at Colin Farrell, okay, sounds fun. It’s a laugh. Books came to me the same way, Random House said, we’ve been reading your blog, why not write a book, so I thought okay!” There’s more to it than all of that, for certain, but Doyle parries it off, in his usual way. “I’m grateful to do all of it. It’s a wonderful life and I’m very lucky to have it.”
World-traveling Austin-based artist enlists Raul Malo (Mavericks) as producer, Niko Bolas as co-producer.
Paul Deakin (Mavericks), Jen Gunderman (Jayhawks, Sheryl Crow), Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart, Lucinda Williams), Chris Scruggs and Aaron Till (Asleep at the Wheel) form Rose’s own hot studio band.
"Even the chief architect, standing in the ruins of her dream, could laugh at herself — and that is the very acme of humility.” —Tradition Four, AA
AUSTIN, Texas – There are many useful rules to live by, but for Whitney Rose, there’s one that stands alone as a guiding principle for life as she knows it: Rule 62. The origin of the rule is best summed up by the poignant, pronoun-adjusted excerpt from Alcoholics Anonymous’ Tradition Four cited above, a treatise on how to find harmony between ambition and self-awareness, and how to learn one’s lessons with humor and humility. This truism, officially worded as “Don’t Take Yourself Too Damn Seriously,” is the origin of both the title and ethos of Whitney Rose’s forthcoming album, Rule 62.
The album is due out on October 6, 2017 on Six Shooter Records through Thirty Tigers.
Rewind to January 2017. Six months ago, Rose was primed to release South Texas Suite, a countrypolitan valentine to Austin, Texas. (Rolling Stone noted that it “bristles with local flavor.”) Days before the EP hit the streets and Rose kicked off a four-month worldwide tour, the burgeoning songwriting force (and “country hair” disciple) packed her boots for Nashville, where she entered BlackBird Studio A to reconvene with the Mavericks’ Raul Malo. In one short week, Rose, Malo and co-producer Niko Bolas channeled the tumult, turbulence and tension outside of the studio into Rose’s sophomore worldwide release, which includes nine self-penned songs. Playful yet uncompromising, Whitney Rose reminds us of popular music’s rich history of strong female voices and perspectives, and on Rule 62, she channels her inner Nancy Sinatra, Bobbie Gentry and Françoise Hardy. Rule 62 finds Rose “breaking up with patriarchy,” a breakup evidenced by new songs that show verve, swagger and self-assurance in Rose’s instinctive sense of tone, broadened scope and attention to detail.
Consider “Can’t Stop Shakin’” in the context of the day it was recorded: January 20, 2017. With Malo on harmonies and rhythm guitars, Kenny Vaughan on lead guitar, and saxophones and organ in the mix, “Can’t Stop Shakin’” was originally written as an anti-anxiety treatment in Memphis soul dance party form. Against an ominous political backdrop, the song now reverberates with an undercurrent of uncertainty and anger that reframes the self-calming shimmy as an act of protest. “’Can't Stop Shakin’ started out as something I would sing to calm myself down.” Rose says. “We recorded that song on Inauguration day and you could physically feel the divide between the public and the unrest in the air. I was in the studio that week every day for twelve hours on average, so realized my contribution was going to have to take place within the walls of Blackbird. So the song that started as a personal anthem got a rewrite that day.”
Rule 62’s “breakup” theme can be felt in songs like “Arizona” and “Time to Cry,” two fiery, merciless tunes that show Rose at the end of her rope with the manipulation and discrimination of women in the music business and beyond. “For reasons unbeknownst to me at the time, I started writing all these “breakup” songs that were mostly angry. I wasn’t sure where all these feelings were coming from until one day it hit me like a ton of bricks that I was penning these songs to society,” she observes. These sharp-tongued send-offs come with a good dose of humor, and the result is a reassuring sense that Rose isn’t letting anything grind her down.
Rose’s rising resilience underpins the message of “Better to My Baby,” a standout song that puts into practice the spirit and the letter of the album title. A tuneful take on moving on, the song is a measured spin on the traditional volatility of regret and jealousy that accompanies the end of a relationship. “Better To My Baby” also showcases Rose’s adept handling of ’60s pop conventions in its proud girl group nods: tinkling piano, buoyant harmonies and rueful romanticism.
Rule 62 is Rose’s second release of 2017, and sees the songwriter’s increased output matched by increased distinction. With so much touring now under the tires, it’s no surprise that Rose’s best work yet often explores her journeywoman’s experience. “Meet Me in Wyoming” and “Trucker’s Funeral” are emblematic of Rose’s clever study of the musician-as-trucker analogy. “Trucker’s Funeral,” a Dolly-caliber yarn with a stranger-than-fiction twist, is in fact a true story: “I had a meeting at Bank of America here in Austin last year and when the meeting was over the teller told me about going to his grandfather’s funeral here in Texas,” Rose recounts. “He found out he had a full second family on the West Coast. His grandfather was a trucker and always on the road, so neither family had any idea. As he was telling me this story, I was jotting down lyrics on my banking papers because it was just too intriguing an experience not be made into a song.”
Rule 62 boasts the first-class musicianship and studio instincts of collaborator and producer Raul Malo. The comfort and familiarity between the two made for a seamless return to the studio, this time with the added ear of Niko Bolas as co-producer. “Niko brought a lot to the table in the studio (when he wasn't sitting at his table at Waffle House). It allowed Raul to step down from the producer role from time to time and be a part of the band. That man can play and sing. One of my favorite parts of the album is the guitar solo on ‘You Never Cross My Mind’ — that's all Raul,” Rose observes appreciatively. Other musicians in the studio included Paul Deakin (The Mavericks) on drums, Jay Weaver (Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, The Mavericks) on bass; Jen Gunderman (Sheryl Crow) on piano; Chris Scruggs (Marty Stuart) on steel; Aaron Till (Asleep at the Wheel) on the fiddle; and Kenny Vaughn (Marty Stuart, Lucinda Williams) on lead guitar.
Rule 62. Don’t Take Yourself Too Damn Seriously. It’s the only rule that Whitney Rose needs to keep going.