Where I Belong
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From the lead singer of the band Great Big Sea comes a lyrical and captivating musical memoir about growing up in the tiny fishing village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, and then taking to the world stage.
Singer-songwriter and front man of the great Canadian band Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle is also a lyrical storyteller and a creative force. In Where I Belong, Alan paints a vivid, raucous and heartwarming portrait of a curious young lad born into the small coastal fishing community of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, and destined to become a renowned musician who carried the musical tradition of generations before him and brought his signature sound to the world. He tells of a childhood surrounded by larger-than-life characters who made an indelible impression on his music and work; of his first job on the wharf cutting out cod tongues for fishermen; of growing up in a family of five in a two-bedroom house with a beef-bucket as a toilet, yet lacking nothing; of learning at his father's knee how to sing the story of a song and learning from his mother how to simply "be good"; and finally, of how everything he ever learned as a kid prepared him for that pivotal moment when he became part of Great Big Sea and sailed away on what would be the greatest musical adventure of his life.
Filled with the lore and traditions of the East Coast and told in a voice that is at once captivating and refreshingly candid, this is a narrative journey about small-town life, curiosity and creative fulfillment, and finally, about leaving everything you know behind only to learn that no matter where you go, home will always be with you.
about any time at all … or so I heard Wade say on the wharf. I remember watching them on the other side of the bridge on Sunday mornings as they walked to church in their Sunday best. They always wore pretty dresses and sometimes hats. “Who’s that one, Bern?” I’d ask as I spied. “That’s Mandi. Way above your skill set. Wade says she goes out with a fella from town who’s gonna play pro hockey in Quebec.” “How do you get Protestant girls to go out with you, I wonder.” “Like anything else hard,
his older sisters. Donnie had the family freckles and red hair. In Petty Harbour, it was not difficult to pick out which family anyone was from. To this day, faces are handed down from generation to generation. I regularly visit Petty Harbour and can actually tell just by looking what family a young kid comes from. It is both odd and comforting to go there today and see a kid who’s the spitting image of Wade or Donnie and who’s riding his bike across the bridge just as we did a generation before.
for its musical abilities. Perhaps that family, generation after generation, became more musically accomplished. There was probably a favourite musical family or group at the centre of most towns. In Petty Harbour, that family was the Doyles. It still is. Hamming it up at Mom’s piano in 1986. In my mind, I can sit at a piano and play sheet music on command. In reality, I cannot. Even as recently as my parents’ generation, little radio or television was available anywhere in Newfoundland, so
Have fun playing. That’s the main thing, man.” He winked. Easily the coolest person I’d ever met in my life. I took The Pop Song Book home, and I’m pretty sure I learned every song in it. The Eagles, Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Joni Mitchell, John Denver. In the weeks and months to follow, I was given used copies of songbooks by the Beatles, Cat Stevens and Kris Kristofferson. For almost two years, I learned a song a day. By the time I was thirteen, I could sit at a party with adults and play
on All Around the Circle, a show he’d watched as a kid. He insisted I listen to some other traditional music with him. Séan must have played me thirty albums I’d never heard of—amazing British and Irish bands like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Planxty. I’d never heard traditional music played that way before and I wanted to try it. I played my electric guitar and did one of the Staggerin’ Home tricks of wandering from eighties metal to Irish traditional in one medley. I thought it was