On the Road of Song
Profile by Jane Ledwell
In 1980, when an adventurous, just-out-of-school Teresa Doyle played the Winnipeg Folk Festival, less than a handful of folk musicians were touring out of the East Coast.
At the 2013 East Coast Music Awards in Halifax, the Island singing legend and 12 other of those pioneers received a 25th Anniversary Award. “It was a really nostalgic night,” she says, not only because a “touching speech that Ron Hynes gave made everyone cry,” and because of Stompin’ Tom’s recent death, but because she was missing her friend, Raylene Rankin. “who,” she says, “really had a lot more to see and sing and write.”
Teresa recalls of her friend, “I was remembering back when she was still stuffing her own envelopes [with albums] —and I’m still stuffing my own envelopes, but I’m glad to be here to do it.”
When Teresa Doyle released her first album on vinyl in 1987, it was “the only PEI recording in crafts shops in PEI.” She and others “had to create a whole industry from the ground up. We had to invent it, one step at a time—how to get airplay, how to do distribution.”
The singer followed musical interests and intriguing collaborations, exploring PEI folk legends, touring Japan with early Elizabethan music, making three award-winning recordings of Celtic children’s music and an all-Gaelic album, studying East Indian music and sound yoga, and even returning to singing the jazz she cut her teeth on in Montreal for the seven years between 1980 and 1987—before “it was just time to come home, grow a garden, get married, and have a baby,” she smiles.
“My career has been stumbling from one stepping stone to the next, never with a plan,” she says. “What I’ve done is to follow what interested me.”
Teresa says her new album, Song Road, takes us on her journey and “integrates who I really am” by integrating many styles, themes, and genres. “I just like singing,” she says. “I’m really proud of this record.”
With the coming year a “whirlwind” of festivals and tours, Teresa says, “My career seems to be ramping up, if anything.” However, Teresa says (for all musicians), “In order for people to continue to make music, people must buy CDs and come to shows. It’s takes more than a ‘Congratulations’ and ‘I’m proud of you’…Music has been demonetized. Musicians are living on half as much money as 15 years ago.”
Living on little is part of a philosophy at Rock Barra, the North Side artist’s retreat Teresa coordinates: “There’s no staff, no budget, no debt. We operate from one miracle to the next,” she says. One project of the retreat is to celebrate the northeast of PEI. “It’s a minor miracle,” she says, “a mix of really, really local folks and people who want to do something really outside the box.”
Supporting creativity is vital because “artists need to help revision a new society.” Teresa says, “I’m trying to figure out my role in moving a new vision of PEI forward, that’s community-based and sustainable… I want to explore ways of living communally in rural PEI.”
She recently wrote an anti-fracking song called “Let’s Ban the Foolin’ Fracking,” and says with some fire, “Personally, fracking will be my last stand. If frackers come knocking on our door on PEI…and want to destroy our water and topsoil for all time, that will be the last stand for me. And I think it will be for a lot of people.”
Whatever stands Teresa takes, she will take them with a song on her lips. “I don’t want to be a protestor. I don’t want to be a victim. I would rather be a creator and a visionary,” she says. “Playing music is not a job. It’s not a livelihood. It’s a life’s work.”
Teresa Doyle, the singer, gratefully sums up, “My life’s work has been an exploration of how people use their singing voices in many different cultures. I’m grateful for thirty years in music, and I hope this is the halfway point. I’m excited by the possibilities for us going forward as a community, as humanity, creating a kinder world for our children.”
Teresa Doyle released her 11th recording, Song Road, in February of 2013.