Doyle gets hyperdramatic

By Kevin Rothbauer

For many musicians, talking with a student newspaper is a chore. Student papers don’t get the same circulation as dailies, so the chance to pump yourself up isn’t there. Even up-and-coming bands who need the exposure often send the drummer or bassist to the interview, while the vocalist goes where the big headlines are.

For Newfoundland siren Damhnait (dav-ven-net) Doyle, talking with a student newspaper offered the chance to reflect on her own education as a musician. Her second album, Hyperdramatic was just released, and she compared the process of putting the album together to pursuing higher education.

"The first record [1996’s Shadows Wake Me] is like my first year of university, trying to find my way; doing it because everyone else is doing it. And [Hyperdramatic] is like deciding to do a graduate degree–specializing in something you really care about that involves your heart and soul."

Oddly enough, Doyle’s music career interrupted her original education path. She was discovered while attending Memorial University in Newfoundland, and her singing career hasn’t left her with much time to study. She says, however, she has learned as much from the music business as she would have at Memorial.

"It was just a different avenue of learning. My father is a university professor and my mother is a teacher and it’s definitely something I want to go back and do soon," she says. "I think how I approach learning now is way different from the way it was when I was in university."

Being a female singer-songwriter in Canada should be pushing Doyle’s career along smoothly, with Sarah McLachlan and Chantal Kreviazuk among the country’s most popular artists right now, but she prefers to distance herself from them.

"I think my record is more akin to a male rock band than to a female singer-songwriter, just in terms of the production," she says. "I kind of look at my album as a cross between Ben Harper and Massive Attack, but not like either of them, really. I’m really interested to see who will be my audience."

When asked to describe her musical style, Doyle balks, as most listeners probably would.

"Generally I wouldn’t [describe it], I wouldn’t be able to. It’s quite a hybrid of all sorts of different music. There’s some bass-and-drum-oriented stuff in there, there’s some reggae, there’s some folk, there’s some pop, there’s some rock…"

Growing up on the rock, Doyle was exposed to many different musical genres. The evolution of her listening tastes is reflected in the eclectic feel of Hyperdramatic.

"I grew up listening to a lot of Newfoundland artists–music that’s indigenous to that province. I listened to a lot of classical music, because that’s what I was studying at the time. And some Raffi–Baby Beluga," she says. "When I was in high school I was introduced to Sarah McLachlan, Depeche Mode and The Cure. In the last six or seven years I’ve really gotten into Ben Harper, Jeff Buckley, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holliday; kind of more roots-based music like Steve Earle and Sheryl Crow. I listen to it all, I love it all."

Newfoundland has affected more than just the style of Doyle’s music. The attitude she carries–holding back nothing, wearing her heart on her sleeve–comes from her home province as well.

"I think I’m very honest on this record, very wide-open. There’s something about Newfoundland people that’s just, ‘Here I am; if you don’t like it, I don’t care, but I’ll embrace you and I’ll try to make you feel welcome.’ That’s kind of the Newfoundland philosophy."

Doyle’s openness is clear when she reveals many of her lyrics came from diary entries.

"They all ended up, in the end, being taken in some form or another, from my journal. Very frightening," she says shuddering. "My journal’s out there for people to read–or snippets of it. I feel less vulnerable in being honest. It has that same sensibility of saying, ‘Here I am; I don’t need you to tell me if I’m good or not.’ Hopefully you know inherently that you are good."

The result of the honest lyrics is a much more sincere album than Shadows Wake Me, which had an over-produced and impersonal feel. Hyperdramatic comes across as a project over which Doyle had more control.

While the lyrics on Hyperdramatic came from Doyle’s diary, the music came primarily from other sources. Among them are former Odds frontman Craig Northey and Calgary boy, former Red Autumn Fall frontman Simeon Ross. Ross wrote the music for "Learn to Crawl." The collaboration came about because of mutual contacts in the industry.

"We have the same management, and he’s a good friend of mine," she says "He’s a great writer, a great singer, a great stage presence. He had this piece of music and I wrote lyrics to it and wrote music for a bridge and then it just turned up on the record."

Doyle hasn’t started touring in support of the new record, but within the next few months, Calgarians should be able to witness her on stage.

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