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With her searing vocal penetrating every ounce of our collective attention, Damhnait (pronounced “DAV-net”) Doyle delivers a pointed message to all recovering people pleasers like herself on “That’s What You Get,” the kickoff track to the multi-award winning Canadian Americana artist’s long awaited, hard-hitting U.S. debut Liquor Store Flowers: “When you ask for nothing/That’s What You Get.”
No longer fearful and defiantly intent on asking for, and getting more, the powerhouse Toronto based singer/songwriter – renowned in her native country for her stints in the female vocal trio Shaye and Americana group The Heartbroken – combined forces with John Dinsmore (of the Toronto alt-country band NQ Arbuckle) to produce an epic 11-track collection that rolls like a freshly unlocked journal of her truest heart. Liquor Store Flowers is a cathartic confessional breaking all the emotional shackles that had long held her back from expressing her deeper artistry.
“For as long as I can remember, I have always intuitively looked around the room to make sure everyone else was comfortable,” says Damhnait, who grew up in Newfoundland, the most easterly province of Canada, 200 miles, she emphasizes, from where the Titanic hit the iceberg. “The song ‘That’s What You Get’ is my realization that when you’re always taking care of someone else’s emotional needs, yours go to the wayside. It was one of the first songs destined for the record, and the rest follow that pattern.”
Considering its prodigious and compelling songwriting and heartfelt vocal intensity throughout, perhaps the greatest irony about Liquor Store Flowers is that the singer didn’t set out with a master plan to record an album. She simply needed to get the songs that were long simmering inside, out of her body.
Says Doyle, whose songwriting influences include insightful storytellers like Townes Van Zandt and Lucinda Williams , “I have done a lot of writing in Nashville with songwriters outside my immediate circle to pitch to other artists, but these new tunes found me collaborating with some of my best friends in Nashville. My intimacy with them allowed me to write songs that were more representative of the pain I felt inside. It feels liberating to know that every song is 100 percent my own vision, saying what I needed to say without fear of what others might think.”
Combining raw, therapeutic expressions with deft narrative skills she’s been honing since she was discovered at 17 and hit the road with Steve Earle, Damhnait boldly tackles a wide array of hard-hitting life experiences that are both intensely personal to her yet universal in their scope and appeal. While she has toured with the likes of Willie Nelson and Tom Cochrane and traveled with the Canadian military to perform for troops in Kabul and Japan, Damhnait has been equally inspired by the people she has met during her many humanitarian travels over the years. In 2008, she went to Kenya to be part of the “Song for Africa” documentary, a project that conveyed the beauty and the hope in the slums of Nairobi; Damhnait interviewed people who are living with AIDS and young orphans looking for a way out through education. Two years later, she participated in “Rwanda Rising Up,” a documentary which saw her travel to Rwanda with the Make Music Matter organization as a featured performer. While there, Damhnait recorded music with genocide survivors, and when she returned, she filmed an in-depth interview with Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire. Closer to home, she has been actively involved in her community as part of a group sponsoring families of Syrian refugees.
Being a mom now of two young children inspired the heart-wrenching “Better Life.” The edgy ballad “Birthday Parties” taps into the often steep challenges of motherhood that many don’t like to acknowledge, while “Missed Call” is a sorrowful tale of regret about a friend’s desperate reach out before committing suicide. Damhnait wrote the biting, yet poignant last warning mid-tempo rocker “Liquor Store Flowers” to talk herself down after a fight with a loved one. Other highlights include the rollicking anti-religious hypocrisy song “So Clean” and the feisty blues/rock post breakup jam “Time Bomb.”
Reflecting on the extraordinary experience of writing and recording Liquor Store Flowers, Damhnait says, “I took the makeup off and shared only pure, honest feelings and emotions.”