For the fair-skinned, Edmonton-born Doug Hoyer, it wouldn’t be an immediate assumption that President Trump’s recently lifted travel ban would be weighing on his mind. But as an outsider living in Athens, Georgia, with plans to return here this week, the extreme maneuvers by the American president are causing some concern for him and his wife who is staying behind.
“There’ve been so many things changing every single day, some terror arises and who knows what can happen,” Hoyer says from his home down south. “What if I get stuck back in Canada and my wife’s down here, or whatever. I mean, there’s so much more going on right now—and I know I’m not a visible minority or someone who’s going to be targeted but, it’s still something that’s definitely present on our minds.”
Hoyer’s returning to Edmonton for some lab time at Grant MacEwan University as part of his hearing aid practitioner program he’s been doing from a distance. And while here, he’ll be dropping in at the Empress Ale House this Saturday to formally release his brand new album, Stepping Stone.
Having been an active and prolific musician for almost fifteen years, often in collaboration with others, it’s no surprise Hoyer is returning with new music. But his approach to creating this latest album, as well as how he sees it playing out, have morphed with the move in 2015. Back then, Hoyer actually released his last recorded effort, Dream Life, in tandem with his farewell show all while wrapping up OLD UGLY Recording Co.—the local label he’d helped establish half a dozen years prior.
“I’d spent a lot of time writing that album and recording it, and I had a bit of a budget so there were nice string arrangements and I was quite pleased with that record. But it felt so weird to just release it and go to the States,” Hoyer says of Dream Life. “I’d worked so hard and had this big release, so it’s not like I was itching to write.”
Shortly after arriving in Athens, Hoyer’s scientist wife immediately left for her first month-long field placement and Hoyer, without a permit to work, was alone to settle in and get to know his new home. Understandably, he missed his wife, and he missed his friends, family and the creative community he’d been so entrenched in. Instead of writing about the immediate new environment or current affairs of the day, Hoyer found his focus reflecting back to what he knew from a new perspective and appreciating the little things we don’t always recognize until they’re removed.
“I wanted to sing songs that people could directly understand, directly relate to, or at least have a scene painted to them that they could enjoy. As I started writing, I realized I was writing sort of self-referential stuff,” he says of the tracks about old band houses, local gigs, and even his first Star Trek convention.
Other than laying down a couple tracks with his old backing band when he came through town last spring, Hoyer made Stepping Stone on his own, and to play on his own.
“Generally in the past, my music’s been fairly bombastic in terms of production, you know, strings and horns and break beats and stuff like that. And on this album I thought, maybe I’ll just dial it back a bit,” says Hoyer, adding the logistics of performing on his own also played into the approach. “I definitely remember a period where I did not like being labelled a songwriter, and for this album, I just totally wanted to embrace it.”
Still, there were collaborators, including Matthew Belton of Mangled Tapes, who is helping release the album. And, Hoyer’s made some new musical connections down in Athens and they’ve already recorded a couple songs for Hoyer’s upcoming album, Background Actor, which will be a collection of character studies from the part-time works he’s found as … a background actor.
Atlanta is a hub for movie studios, which enjoy a tax-break deal, and Hoyer has found himself in several movies, including Hidden Figures—currently in Edmonton theatres—where he can be seen bobbing around behind Kevin Costner’s head.
“You kind of come up with your own little script as you’re doing it,” says Hoyer. “For that movie, we actually had a TA that would give us our own little micro plot, if you will, so that it looked realistic and we weren’t running in circles. I’d be at my station and I’d have direction to be working there for seven beats or seven seconds and then move over to this other guy and pretend to give him information or to another person and then go back to my station. So everyone had little mini plots they had to do.”