Eliza Mary Doyle is one of the featured performers hitting the stage at Watson’s Street Fest on tonight, June 23. The accomplished banjo player, vocalist and roots music performer puts on a high energy show with a special bluegrass flavour and virtuoso picking.  

She’s recently returned from an extensive tour of the US and is happy to be back in her home province. With a musical apprenticeship that’s included the likes of the Local Group and the Dead South, Eliza is a force in the world of roots and bluegrass. For her, getting into the genre was a straight up family affair. 

“My parents are both bluegrass musicians – my dad plays banjo, and my mom plays fiddle, so I grew up around it, but I didn’t play banjo growing up. It wasn’t until I was in university when my dad found an old banjo in a shop they were cleaning out, and he shined it up.” 

At the suggestion of her dad’s friend, Eliza inherited the banjo and began a musical odyssey that’s carried her to widespread acclaim and multiple albums, both solo and with various groups. 

Through April and May, Doyle toured through Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina before hitting Tennessee and Nashville, where she recorded her latest album, Pretty Strange. After leaving the bluegrass heartland, she made a detour through California and Montana on her way back home. The album is the first solo work in 6 years, and her tour, including the Watson stop, features that new music. She’ll be backed by a new band in Watson that will be sure to have the hands clapping and boots stomping.  

“We’re going to keep it high energy,” Doyle says excitedly. “We have an hour and we’re going to fill it up with barn burners and some of my new material. We’ve got pedal steel, bass, and a gal playing guitar and singing harmonies, so it’s going to be a really fun time.” 

Along with her extensive touring, Doyle started a non-profit organization bringing extended musical experiences to remote Saskatchewan communities. Along with co-founder Holly Yuzicapi of Standing Buffalo First Nation, Doyle and CAMP (Community Arts Mentorship Program) delivers long term arts experiences through establishing capacity and ongoing funding within the community.  

“If you only go into a community once for a one-off, it can actually leave the community more damaged because you’re bringing up hope, you’re bringing everybody together but then you leave. Music and the arts are so powerful in healing and bringing people together, and then you leave. People may get the idea to not get too excited about anything. So, we’re definitely committed to never leaving a community.” 

CAMP is set up in eight northern communities. Doyle says that operating the non-profit has been a learning curve, especially around procuring funding, reporting and day-to-day administration. However, she hopes to see the program expand.  

With all those commitments in play, Doyle’s love of performing remains evident, and everyone in Watson and area who attends Street Fest will get to see that firsthand on Friday night, June 23. 

Gates open at 5:30 with a barbecue. Following Eliza Mary Doyle are country rockers Sask Steel, fronted by Watson/LeRoy native son, Evan Zentner. For tickets, contact Jim Haussecker at 306-287-7130 or any member of the Watson Fire Department. 

Enjoy Eliza Mary Doyle talking about her music, changes in performing venues, the non-profit work and much more in the interview below.