We can indirectly thank Commander Riker for Doug Hoyer’s latest album, Character Witness.
At loose ends in Athens, Georgia, where the Edmonton-born singer-songwriter had followed his wife to her next job in 2015, Hoyer found himself at a poorly attended Star Trek convention in Atlanta striking up a conversation with Jonathan Frakes, aka William T. Riker. After Hoyer mentioned that he was having trouble securing work while waiting for his work employment authorization card, Frakes said that Atlanta was turning into a bit of a movie and television haven. In fact, background acting roles were up for grabs, if Hoyer was looking.
“A few Google searches and e-mails later, my entire week was booked on different films and shows like Vampire Diaries, Hidden Figures, Avengers: Endgame, Dynasty, and more,” Hoyer says.
His stint as an extra wasn’t particularly well-paying, but it eventually fed into his songwriting. Invariably cast as a NASA tech, business man, gawking yokel or busy professor, he began constructing backgrounds for his non-speaking roles as an exercise, eventually writing stories about them. Thus was the genesis of Character Witness, which was recorded in Chicago (where the couple moved for a brief spell) and Edmonton, where Hoyer was attending school.
Settled for the moment in Calgary, Hoyer is in town to celebrate the release of his album, which is being distributed on local label Mangled Tapes. We spoke with Hoyer about his new album, recording in multiple cities, and being stuck in a room all day with Steve Harvey.
Q: Many of the songs in Character Witness have fun with both your stint as a background actor, as well as the notion that we’re all the main characters in our lives, but there’s more to it as well, right?
A: Other songs came from characters in books, or from conversations with folks that I’d meet on set, a various random assortments of Georgians, all with enough time on their hands coupled with blind, misguided ambition to pursue their fantasy of being “in the movies.” It makes for a lot of interesting conversations, and thankfully having a Canadian accent when in a room with extroverted Georgians can lead to the exploration of a lot of themes, whether you want to engage or not.
Q: How did you go about recording the album, given the fact that you were moving around quite a bit?
A: I recorded most myself, but also some with folks from Chicago — like Emily Jane Powers, who performed a few times with me in Chicago, who plays violin and vocals on two songs, as well as Fallon McDermott on sax and Danielle Sines on vocals. They were both from Impulsive Hearts, the band I played bass in. I recorded one song (Partner) in Edmonton last spring when I was in town for school and some shows, and wanted to capture the band I’d had.
Q: What were some of the weirder shows that you worked on?
A: Basically any game show. Dunk Kings was a long day of sitting in the audience looking excited to see people do slam dunks all day; however, Shaq made eye contact with me before shooting, smiled, and howled like a coyote for some reason. Family Feud was rough; they shoot four episodes a day, and in between episodes Steve Harvey would go on religious rants, telling these folks that they should be asking God for money and physical wealth — it was weird. Although the weirdest show I worked on might have been Lauren Lake: Paternity Court. It was equal parts hilarious and terribly sad.
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: Empress Ale House, 9912 Whyte Ave.