Listen to the new song from Donello – Greedy Vampires
Tell us about where you are from and how you got to this position today.
Where I am from is a question that becomes harder to answer as time goes on. I was born in New York and grew up in South Florida in a little town called Boynton Beach. After high school, I got a job in West Palm Beach as a DJ for WPBZ, an alternative FM rock station. It was then when I started to become more serious about playing music. After a few years of acting and singing in the theater, and doing radio, I realized I wanted to be singing, writing, and performing material of my choice. I moved out to Hollywood for a while, then back, and all around Florida.
I had been playing in many bands in the years leading up to moving to Austin, Texas. Most of the music I was doing was covers and very little original material. It was hard to be an all original band and get many good paying gigs in most places. It taught me to be original with the covers you choose and how you choose to do them. I would always find ways to squeeze a few originals in at every show.
About two months before I left to come to Austin, I put together an original demo of about ten songs. This really helped see myself as a musical artist, instead of just a band for the first time. When I arrived to Austin I knew absolutely no one, especially musicians. I was by myself on stage at many of my first couple of shows here. I didn’t mind it, but I definitely missed having band mates.
It was truly a fresh start. I soon independently released an album called Kayak EP from some of my demo tracks on iTunes. After auditioning several musicians, I eventually found a great spirit by the name of Bryan Fletcher, who has become my right hand man. We still do half of our shows with just the two of us as an acoustic act. About 6 months ago, we added a little bit of a woman’s touch by finding a wonderful talent named Blake McCaig, who adds steady djembe beats and warming back up tones to our all acoustic sound.
That pretty much brings us to the present. I am still looking to expand our sound and audition new musicians soon, but at the moment we are content with our more stripped down set up.
What do you have coming up? What are some of the new projects we can expect to see?
SXSW is just a few days away. We’ll be doing two sets in downtown Austin, at Halcyon on March 13th, 4pm -6pm. I think for local Austin artists it is best to play right after SXSW when all the venues start focusing more on local acts. I’m definitely planning on working out some new material for another album, but before that I would like to make a very tiny EP in the next couple months of ukulele covers and then on to re-recording some old tunes that need to be done right. So there are a lot of plans that need follow through.
Tell us more about the current song you are promoting to everyone.
Greedy Vampires is the first real studio single I made in Austin using my most recent band mates Bryan and Blake. We recorded it for a Halloween single. It was kind of a joke of a song at first, but it’s become one of the most fun songs to play live at shows for our fans.
How does your music separate yourself from other artists and bands out there?
To start, I have an all-acoustic sound here in Austin at the moment. No electric guitar, no traditional drum set or bass. We do have a percussion set up that is pretty cool. It consists of tambourines, shakers, and two Remo tunable djembes. I try to be different, yet one hundred percent myself in every song I write and every song I perform. In order to stay as original as possible, I try hard to get ideas from riffs and progressions I’ve previously created.
I can mess around with a riff for a long time before it ever becomes a song. Sometimes I write a song based off a lyric, beat, or phrase from an earlier song of mine. From show to show, I do like to switch it up with subbing in the mandolin or ukulele for a song that no one is expecting. I also have added a foot pedal that I use. It’s a unique sound I’ve come up with that is a woodblock-tambourine combo and that alone has been something that people really get a kick out of, no pun intended.
Tell us about one of the hardest challenges you had to face in the industry?
I think the hardest challenge I had to face was living in Los Angeles several years ago. After spending quite some time there, it made me realize how quickly we become insignificant if we don’t have much of a focus. I learned that true fame and fortune rarely happens overnight and even the most talented people struggle the hardest. Fortunately, those challenges made me stronger and built up a thicker skin for my future.
What was one of the biggest set backs in your career and how did you bounce back?
One of the biggest setbacks I’ve had to face is going from a part time musician to a full time musician, then back to a part time one again. Surely moving to Austin set me back a bit at first. Not being established and not knowing anyone was hard. Trying to find musicians that were available and also had good chemistry was tough and still is. Overnight, I went from making hundreds for gigs to making next to nothing and being happy, lucky, and ecstatic to get paid thirty dollars for a gig; even after paying ten dollars to park. Slowly, but surely I am still bouncing back.
What are some things artists need to be careful of?
Don’t be a flake. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I think reliability, genuineness, and kindness can go a long way. Most times just getting back to a person with a yes or no response sends a positive message as opposed to no message at all. Try hard not to burn bridges with friends, fans, fellow musicians, contacts, and venues. What people remember about you goes a long way. Time after time you do encounter many flakey people in this industry. It’s a great feeling when you connect with other strong anchors.
What suggestions do you have for other artists like yourself?
Get an Instagram account. I hear it’s the next best thing (#donello or #donellomusic). But really, my suggestions to other artists like myself would be to keep on keeping on. Do what you love and try to stay inspired. It’s too easy in this world today to become complacent and uninspired.
What is one of your favorite ways to promote yourself and your music?
Our manager Sofia is fantastic. She does 99% of all our bookings and promotions. She brings the best out in us, and the best out to come see us.