The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Alan Doyle has a deep fondness for certain Newfoundland slang words and phrases

The St. John's musician and author takes The Next Chapter's version of the Proust Questionnaire. 
Alan Thomas Doyle is a Canadian musician and actor. (Dave Howells)

Alan Doyle is a musician, writer and actor best known as being the lead singer of Great Big Sea. He is also the author of the memoir Where I Belong.

Doyle is used to spending a lot of time on the road playing and performing. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, he spent most of the last year at his home in St. John's.

He misses the crowds and the easy sociability and storytelling at pubs, places where Doyle himself has told many great stories over the years. He's gathered some of those into a new book called All Together Now.

All Together Now was on the Canada Reads 2021 longlist.

Doyle stopped by The Next Chapter to take its version of the Proust Questionnaire. 

What phrase do you most overuse?

I probably use Newfoundland terms and phrases too much. My default dialect goes to 1985 Petty Harbour, where we said phrases like "Yes b'y" and "Loves it." I say phrases that I know people will never understand. I'll happily, in Toronto, comment on the weather and say, "Yes b'y, it's a grand day on clothes" and then watch as people look with a question in their face as to what I'm talking about. It means a nice, warm, windy day to dry clothes on a clothesline, by the way.

Name your favourite writers? 

I love Michael Crummey's books. He's a Newfoundland writer. I love his imagination for what kind of worldly stories come out of small places. I also love Ed Riche. He's a novelist from Newfoundland. I love his use of language and in the way he can make saucy funny. 

East Coast legend and Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle returns to q to talk about his new book, All Together Now: A Newfoundlander's Light Tales for Heavy Times. Speaking with fellow Newfoundlander Tom Power, Doyle reaches into his life and plucks out some stories that he hopes might make you laugh in 2020. 19:29

What is your greatest extravagance? 

My greatest extravagance is very easy to know — it's good times with my friends. 

I don't have fancy clothes or any cars or any of that stuff, but I will blow the wad on a good night out with my buds. A good night out lasts a lifetime. I spare no expense. This is a moment in time we may never get again. So let's live it up!

Who are your favourite heroes in real life? 

I'm very lucky to have parents that made, not just something out of nothing, but made everything out of nothing. It was just a simple thing. My mom and dad did that, and they did that in the most clever way when I was a kid because we didn't even know they were doing it.

I was in my 20s when my girlfriend at the time — my wife now — came up to Petty Harbour to my childhood house. She said, "Alan, I didn't know. You never told me that you were poor when you grew up." I was like, "What are you talking about? What do you mean?"

She said, "You didn't have a fully functioning bathroom until you were like eight." I was like, "But we had a piano!" Of course, she's right: my mom and dad are heroes of mine because they managed to make a happy, healthy, fed, clothed, warm house. In retrospect, we didn't have a lot of food or a lot of money, but we didn't even know it. They would be the two biggest heroes of my life, for sure.

Alan Doyle's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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