Daniel Donato

The Historic Grants Lounge at Grant's Lounge

Macon, GA

Show: 9:00PM

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Event Details

Whenpeople first meet Daniel Donato, they’re not fully braced for this walkingtornado of creative energy. “They think there’s something that tips the scalein ways they don’t understand,”says Donato about his over-the-top, slightly manic vibe. “But what actuallytips the scale is the amount of thought and analysis I put into my work andart, all of which is taken from the lessons of my life.”


Donato,a 25-year-old Nashville native, has distilled those life lessons into his debutalbum, A Young Man’s Country, his proper introduction to the generalmusical audience. Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium in a mere two days andproduced by guitar-ace Robben Ford, the record weaves outlaw country, GratefulDead-style Americana, and first-rate songwriting into a singular form Donatocalls “21st-century cosmic country.” 


Itmight surprise some that the Telecaster-wielding wunderkind, who at 16 becamethe youngest musician to regularly play the iconic honky tonk Robert’s WesternWorld while gigging with the Don Kelley Band, began his musical journey in apurely millennial fashion. Before he ever picked up a guitar, he discovered hehad an aptitude for music via the video game Guitar Hero. At the time, he didn’t feel compelledto try his hand at the real thing until one day, about the age of 12, he heardthe electric perfection of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” blast from a set of speakers and hisworld was changed forever. 


“Itwas the first time I ever had a vision for my life,” says Donato, who waspartly drawn to music because he sucked royally at skateboarding. “I then tookone of my dad’s old guitars . . . and I literally fell in love with it.” Fromthen on, Donato lived and breathed music, practicing his chops around theclock. He’d play before school, during his lunch break, and in the evenings athome, sometimes falling asleep with the six-string in his hands. 


Itwasn’t long before he was busking on lower Broadway in Nashville, playing eighthours a day on weekends for tips. It was after one of those day’s sessions thathe got a wild hair and snuck into Robert’s on a night when house act the DonKelley Band was playing and his wig-dome was blown. “It was the first time Iever saw a band that was that good up close,” Donato said. “So I’m literallywatching them play and I’m crying. I decided right then that I wanted to be thebest guitar player in the world.”


Donatocontinued busking outside arenas before John Mayer and Phish concerts and onthe streets of Nashville and it was then, while playing on Broadway, that he’dgive Don Kelley his business card every Saturday night, hoping for a chance toaudition. One day, while still a junior in high school, he got the call to comeplay. Donato was more than ready, and he delivered the goods in spades. He wasso good, in fact, that he became a regular member of the band, performing fournights a week for more than 450 shows with the group.


Playingnightly with the Don Kelley Band was a formidable education for the youngmusician. Jamming regularly with Nashville’s most seasoned players, stalwartpickers who may have played in Buck Owens’ band, or Dolly Parton’s, or AlanJackson’s, expanded his musical vocabulary while honing his stage presence. Alongthe way he was soaking up stories of adventures on the road and learning aboutthe ups and downs of the music business. In short, he was gaining pricelesslife lessons and a musical education from wells that run deep into the musicalhistory of Nashville.   


Aroundthe time he turned 18, one of Donato’s high-school teachers, a serious musiclover who had seen his student play at Robert’s, gave him a Grateful Dead boxset. It was another eureka moment for the guitarist. His love for the Dead mayhave been ignited much earlier by virtue of the fact that his mother was a bonafide Deadhead who followed the group on tour when she was pregnant with thefuture guitarist, but it was that collection that changed the way he looked at music. “It gave me a tie to all of the classiccountry gold I’d been working down at the honky-tonks each weekend,” he said.“Grateful Dead and Merle Haggard had always lived in my heart, but now, thelink was made, and I had a vision on how to keep it alive for this generationthat I am coming from.” 


Duringthe days of his Robert’s residency, Donato continued to busk at variouslocales, even playing the Grand Ole Opry, and it is the sum of all these gigs,experiences any teenage musician would kill for, that inform the sounds on AYoung Man’s Country.


“Ain’tLiving Long Like This,” one of three covers on the album, is a song by WaylonJennings, who was recording at the Sound Emporium the day Donato was born.“Angel From Montgomery,” a song Donato learned on the fly while busking for tourists,pays tribute to the late John Prine. Donato recorded his unique take on thetune before Prine’s death. The Grateful Dead’s “Fire On The Mountain” is tackedon to “Meet Me In Dallas,” a tune Donato wrote while on the road with PaulCauthen. The other seven songs, all originals, showcase the promise of a youngsongwriter coming into his own, one of the highlights being “Luck of theDraw.” 


Themessage of these songs contain the central tenet of Donato’s “Cosmic Country”ethos, which is about finding the courage to blaze your own path. As such, itis an ethos the artist extends beyond music into the channels of social media,where he’s built up a huge following of devoted “DD Heads,” as his fans callthemselves. His podcast, “Daniel Donato’sLost Highway,” brings together like-minded creatives to get at the heart ofwhat makes artists tick, for which he’s interviewed Brothers Osborne, BrentCobb, Orville Peck, and Garry Talent of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.


Incubatedto the sounds of the Dead, educated by some of Nashville’s finest players, andhaving more than 2,000 shows under his belt and a social media presence, DanielDonato is indeed a millennial whirligig of creative fire. He’s been dabbling inprofessional music since the age of 14 and yet he’s just getting started. AYoung Man’s Country is the portrait of a restless artist as a young man,one whose story is singular and is still in its exciting, early chapters -- andas this effort shows, the future is indeed cosmic. 

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Event Location


Grant's Lounge

560 Poplar St, Macon, GA, 31201

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Daniel Donato