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Damhnait Doyle opens up musically, personally

Singer/songwriter Damhnait Doyle has no regrets about speaking out about decades of excessive drinking. That honesty and courage is also evident in the 43-year-old’s latest album, "Liquor Store Flowers."
Singer/songwriter Damhnait Doyle has no regrets about speaking out about decades of excessive drinking. That honesty and courage is also evident in the 43-year-old’s latest album,

Singer/songwriter from Newfoundland glad to have spoken publicly about her drinking, also proud of her new album

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

At 43 and with almost three decades of experience in the music industry, Damhnait Doyle is done trying to conform to what others think she should say and do.

It’s why the singer/songwriter from this province isn’t too troubled about some negative comments since opening up about her decades of excessive alcohol use and the need to recognize the culture of drinking in the industry.

“If you’re online making comments like that, I really have no interest in what you think of me,” Doyle told The Telegram during a telephone interview earlier this week from her home in Toronto.

“I think people just speak without really thinking.”

In an opinion piece published July 10 in The Toronto Star, Doyle told the story about how she used alcohol as “liquid courage” to overcome shyness, pressures of being on the road and the anxiety she felt facing audiences, peers and industry heads.

“The fear turned into adrenalin. It felt like the answer,” she wrote in the article, adding it often became expected of musicians to drink.

“Next to having my family, quitting drinking was, hands down, the single best thing I’ve ever done, yet also the hardest.”

While she doesn’t identify as an alcoholic and commends those who have overcome serious addictions, Doyle was drinking enough to realize it was an issue.

She said music establishments and venues need to offer more non-alcoholic options besides pop and juice. Other media outlets also reported her story. 

Some social media reaction was harsh, with people showing little support and understanding.

“I had thought of this article for months and months and months before I put it out, so, I had already (determined) that I really don’t care what anybody thinks of me or says about me,” Doyle told The Telegram. 

“That’s the difference between me now and me 20 years ago.”

Her honesty and strength is also reflected in her music.

In April, Doyle released her fourth album, “Liquor Store Flowers” — her first in 16 years. The 11-track collection tells the stories of the ups and downs of her life, opening up and expressing her artist self like never before.

Singer-songwriter Damhnait Doyle released “Liquor Store Flowers” in April.
Singer-songwriter Damhnait Doyle released “Liquor Store Flowers” in April.

 

“When I made my first record ("Shadows Wake Me" in 1996), I got the opportunity to open for Steve Earle and I remember looking at him from the side of the stage, thinking, how do I get to be like that, like this American troubadour,” said Doyle, a Juno-nominated artist who also performed in the trio Shaye from 2003 to 2009.

“The answer is it takes you 20 years of work and experience. I feel this record is representative of that.”

Doyle — who is also a member of the board of directors of SOCAN, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Association of Canada — has August shows set for Toronto, Prince Edward Island and Halifax. She’s scheduled to perform in St. John’s at the Iceberg Alley concert tent Sept. 19.

A mother of two young daughters, Doyle said she feels stronger mentally and physically than ever. She admitted she struggled with the decision to tell her story about the issue of her drinking, but she’s glad she did.

“I realized the only things that are worth keeping a secret are the things you should tell out loud because that’s when everything just gets better,” said Doyle, who added that therapy, yoga and meditation now help her cope with life’s pressures.

“If I help one person — and I know that I have because so many people have reached out to me to say thank you — then that’s enough for me. 

“And no, I won’t shut the F up, but I will keep going out there and singing my ass off.”

Twitter: @TelyRosie

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