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The Scouting Report

Minnesota Music Month Scouting Report 2024: Clare Doyle

Clare Doyle
Clare DoylePhoto: Sammie Jean Cohen, Graphic: Natalia Toledo | MPR

by Luke Taylor

April 10, 2024

For Minnesota Music Month, we polled the local music industry for April’s edition of The Scouting Report. More than 90 people filled out this year’s Minnesota Music Month Scouting Report ballot, and 253 unique artists were chosen overall. The top 10 artists — well, 11 because of a tie — who received the most support include Clare Doyle.

With just two years of performing under her belt, St. Paul musician Clare Doyle is a relative newcomer to the Twin Cities music scene. But music has long been a central part of her life. “My dad brought me to Weezer [at First Avenue] when I was too young to go [on my own],” Doyle recalls. “He's been a musical partner for a long time and kind of a catalyst for my musicianship.” 

This past January, Doyle was back in the First Avenue mainroom, but the view had flipped. With three singles released — “Devices,” “The Catch” and “You and My Guitar” — the rising Americana artist was invited to perform at First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2023 showcase event. “What a cool experience it was,” Doyle says. “That's an iconic room and an iconic stage to walk up onto, just best in class. I'm happy with the way that we performed. The set itself — honestly, it's a little bit of a blur! But it was a blast and a huge honor.” 

Related: First Avenue’s Best New Bands spotlights wide array of Minnesota music

Participating in Best New Bands introduced Doyle to new listeners, and it also bolstered her confidence heading into the rest of the year. After playing a show in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, at the end of March, Doyle decided to take the month of April to work on a forthcoming EP, with an expected release late this year.  

Doyle’s songwriting has been percolating for a long while. She grew up in St. Paul and attended high school at the Saint Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts (SPCPA) in downtown St. Paul. During those years, she was a self-described theater kid, not so much into music or band. “I think when I initially started songwriting, when I was maybe 18 or 19, I wrote, like, three songs and then basically stopped for a decade.” 

As an adult, Doyle relocated to the other end of the Mississippi River to New Orleans. She didn’t participate in the community as a musician, but the artistic vibe of the Crescent City made a lasting impression. “I think the kind of artist self that I wasn’t really acting on felt like it flourished there,” Doyle says. “It kept me connected to my creativity.” 

It was when Doyle returned to St. Paul that her musicianship took root. She was inspired by such artists as Jason Isbell, Ruston Kelly, and Jaime Wyatt, as well as classic country artists like Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Tanya Tucker, and Loretta Lynn. Doyle was motivated to write and perform her own music by a supportive and welcoming environment in the Twin Cities. “The word ‘community’ immediately comes to mind,” Doyle enthuses. “I was kind of shocked at how supportive and encouraging everyone was when I started playing and has continued to be. It feels very much like an interconnected, supportive community.” 

Within that community, Doyle has met numerous friends and collaborators, including artists like Molly Brandt, Taylor James Donskey, Abbey Janii, and Tim Evensen, and producer Zachary Hollander at the Pearl Recording Studio, where Doyle recorded her singles.  

She has also found connection with local audiences. Whereas the Best New Bands show at First Avenue was certainly a highlight, Doyle recalls a couple extra special shows that have provided powerful affirmation and encouragement. One of those experiences came at the first annual City Country Fest at Palmers Bar in Minneapolis last September. Doyle remembers feeling a powerful connection between her band and the audience. “Something pretty electric and magical happened onstage,” she explains. “You could feel an energy exchange with the audience that was feeding us and vice versa. That’ll stay with me for a long time.” 

Another memorable show came just this past January when Doyle was invited to perform at the Cactus Blossoms’ residency at the Turf Club in St. Paul. Doyle performed as a duo with her lead guitarist, and the audience hung on every word of every song. “They were so attentive, they were so onboard,” Doyle says. “It helped me lean into the storytelling. It was cool to play for a sold-out Turf Club that’s just right there with you.” 

A woman sings and plays guitar onstage
Clare Doyle performing at Best New Bands 2023 at First Avenue in Minneapolis on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.
Darin Kamnetz for MPR

Doyle lists the Turf Club among her favorite venues, along with First Avenue and the Cedar Cultural Center. She’s also got a soft spot for the White Squirrel Bar, which is located in the West Seventh Street neighborhood that she calls home. As she surveys the Twin Cities scene, Doyle is impressed with the broad spectrum of musical styles being pursued by area musicians. Doyle is invigorated by the robust Americana strand within that local scene, but she would like to see heavier country-rock sounds emerge. Doyle also wants to see “more representation of and opportunities for women, nonbinary, nonwhite, and LGBTQIA+ folks. I think that's just a need everywhere, and this is no exception.” 

Although Doyle is taking April off to focus on recording, she and her full band are set to play the White Squirrel Bar on May 9, and then she’ll play at Garret Nasset’s Woodshop Sessions in St. Paul on May 19. “As I've learned, it gets overwhelming to play [shows] constantly,” Doyle says, “but also when I take a couple of weeks off, I miss the hell out of it. So I know I'm going to be chomping at the bit in May to play again.”  

Clare Doyle – official site

Related: Minnesota Music Month Scouting Report 2024: The top 11 new local artists

Minnesota Music Month Scouting Report 2024: The complete ballots

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.