April 13, 2023

Donny Watrous - D<O>N

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D < O > N released two albums worldwide called Trial & Error and 2nd GEAR. D < O > N is currently working on a new album with a planned release in early 2024.


D < O > N’s current single is “2nd Gear”.


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Donnie:Hi, this is Donnie from D.O.N. And you are listening to Concerts That Made Us Rock on!

Brian:Donnie, you're very welcome to concerts that made us.

Donnie:Oh, thank you for having me.

Brian:I'm delighted to have you now. We opened the show with Second Gear. It's off the album of the same name. Would you like to tell us a bit about it?

Donnie:Sure. Second Gear is a step up from my first album, Trial and Error, which Trial and Error worked on and recorded that through the pandemic. So... Second gear came about a year later. I just continued writing and recording and getting my skills up and everything. So second gear is titled because it is the second album and the second gear is the next level, like when you shift into the next gear, it goes through your car or whatever. So that was the mindset behind that.

Brian:Ah, and as an instrumentalist, when it comes to making new music, what does your process look like?

Donnie:Um, well, it starts with a basic rhythm. Um, and I usually get influences from other bands naturally. Uh, uh, just, you know, so whatever comes to mind, I'll start jotting down the, um, the rhythm for it. And then, and then as, as it goes along, I'll add the leads behind it. And I don't do any lyrics because I didn't want to open up that Pandora's box where everybody's like, well, why are you singing about that? Why is this song about this? So I just wanted the music to speak for itself.

Brian:One thing that's always intrigued me when it comes to instrumental musicians is how do you remember the music? Do you, you know, put it down in tablature form? Do you write it out as, you know, the usual music sort of tabs or notes, I suppose, or do you record yourself playing along so that you can remember?

Donnie:A little bit of all of the above there. So what I'll do is I'll get a, I'll get a basic rhythm and I'll jot down the chords, kind of like a chord chart. And then, and then that'll, and then I'll just kind of stick with that naturally. How I get it to stick in my head so I can remember it all is I'll just play it over and over and over like a broken record. And then as far as the leads go, it just comes naturally for me. Once I get the basic key of the song, like if it's in the key of C or D or whatever, then I just, I go with my basic scales, my pentatonic scales, and then I just, elaborate from there, I'll just come up with some, some different leads and just go from there. And it just kind of sticks with me.

Brian:The video now for second gear, I don't think there's a video out there that perfectly captures the vibe of a song so well. You made it yourself at home, didn't you?

Donnie:I did, using a website called Rotor. Basically, you can just get the clips and everything and exactly what you just said. I wanted something unique, something different, but something that has that energy for that song that kind of just like, wow, this is just high gear, high tech, high octane, if you will. And I wanted to stick with that. So I basically found these clips that looks like everything's just going in at full speed. And I just wanted to come up with a basic energy, if you will, to kind of just give that song some life.

Brian:You've released two albums worldwide, as you mentioned, Trial and Error, and then of course, Second Gear. A lot kind of happened in the world between those two albums. How do you think you've changed or grown as a musician in the time that passed?

Donnie:Wow. That would be like, well, first of all, I play for my church as well. I play guitar for them. So that, believe it or not, a lot of that inspiration for my music comes from, believe it or not, some Christian music or some gospel or whatever you want to call it. Basically, I'll take an idea of that Christian realm, if you will, and just start rocking it out. Like on the first album, I have this song called Celtic Star. And the basic rhythm of it, it was the inspiration was that song by Corey Asbury called "Reckless Love". So the basic rhythm is. similar to that. I mean, that was the inspiration, but I just went from there. And that song, I don't know if you, if you know this or not, but that song was dedicated, it's also the first song I ever wrote, but it was also dedicated to, if you remember the movie from the eighties called poltergeist,

Brian:I do, I do

Donnie:The girl, the little girl that played in it Heather O'Rourke. So I'm friends with her family. I'm friends with her uncle and sister. So I wanted to do something for them just because they're great people. And so it was kind of just to keep her memory alive. So I kind of came up with that. And of course, I have a video for that and her family sent me the pictures that I used in the video for that.

Brian:That's actually a lovely thing to do, especially now, you know, because she's, you know, it was back in the eighties. when she was famous and that tragedy happened, you know, so she wouldn't be at the forefront of people's minds anymore. So it's actually lovely to put something out there to keep her memory alive.

Donnie:Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And, uh, and like I said, her family is very appreciative. They definitely love it and everything. So, um, so yeah, it's just, I, you know, it's like, you know, everybody's like, you know, I was like, oh yeah, I mean, now that they hear the song and they see the pictures, I remember that, you know, kind of like you said, just kind of. re-sparks that memory.

Brian:Yeah, exactly, exactly. And there's another movie link as well with the first album, The Terminator Team. Now, The Terminator is one of my all time favorite movies, well, Terminator 2, but I actually didn't think the tune could get any cooler. I mean, you took it and you totally rocked it out.

Donnie:Yes, and I used that song to open some of my shows. I've only done a few live shows, live gigs. And that song, "The Terminator", theme is what I use to start the show with, to get the energy up, to get the crowd going. And it's been, it actually has been doing exactly that. It definitely gets the crowd fired up. It's a lot of fun. Yeah.

Brian:It's actually a wonder that no one, like since it's ever been released, that no one else you know, rocking it up and making it something even cooler.

Donnie:Actually, there has been, but I think you'll see videos and stuff on YouTube, but nothing was ever officially released. It's just these people on YouTube kind of just doing their own thing to it. But the problem, in my opinion, for the way they do is they totally changed the arrangement, they changed. So it takes away from the feel of. what it's supposed to be, you know, that Terminator, that theme that's, you know, it's just, so I kind of kept it, um, to the original composition. I just wanted to rock it out.

Brian:Well, yeah, you certainly achieved that. So at this stage in the interview, we'll dive into your, your music history to give people a sense of where you come from. So if you can, can you remember your earliest musical memory?

Donnie:Oh yeah. Oh, definitely. Well, you're going to laugh because. My musical tastes in over the years have, has changed immensely. Like when I was a kid growing up, um, I was, well, I guess, because, you know, you always listen to what your parents listen to and my, and my parents were huge BG's fans, so I started with the BG's. And then growing up, I got into middle school and then my taste changed again. And I started listening to missing persons. I was a huge fan of them in my junior high years or my middle school. It was called junior high back then. And then I didn't start getting to the hard rock until I got to high school, probably around ninth or 10th grade, I started listening to Metallica and Iron Maiden. And I think Striper was one of my influences as well.

Brian:Not a bad mix there. You know, growing up in your early years, did you grow up in a very musical house? You know, was there lots of support at home for music?

Donnie:Well, it's funny you say that actually. Yes. My grandmother played organ and she played for her church growing up. And then my mother, she was a singer and she actually cut a, a 45, which my, I don't even have a copy of it anymore. I think my, uh, my uncle does up in Ohio. But she cut a, it was two songs. And it's kind of like the, I don't know, I guess you want to call it the country realm or something like that. It was kind of country has that feel to it. So she did. But she never really took off with it. That's all she ever did. Just that 45, two songs. And then that's as far as that went. I mean, as I grew up, it kind of fell off, you know, fell off the edge of the earth and nobody ever heard of it after that.

Brian:Yeah. Yeah. And you know, during your teen years then, what was your local music scene like for gigs and for bands?

Donnie:Wow. Well, for me, because I had strict parents, I didn't get to go out too much. But I did have friends that started little garage bands, if you will. So I used to listen to those down the street. There was a few times when I turned 21, I was stationed in Germany. I was in the army at that time. So over in Germany, I started going to the clubs and everything like that. But as far as live music, the only time I did that was when I went to concerts.

Brian:As a concert goer, what concerts would you say have made you?

Donnie:Wow. Um, I would say my biggest, my favorites, if you will, Queensreich is a number one fan of mine. Um, and, uh, and I'm a fan of theirs. I should say I actually got to talk to Casey Grillo, uh, who's the drummer of the band, uh, I talked to him every now and again on Instagram through the messenger there, um, So they're actually coming in about two weeks to my local venue here. And also I would have to say, Dream Theater, probably another favorite for going to concerts. But as far as my influences, like what, you know, like who do I want to model after, or at least, you know, go on that path. I really, really, really liked Joe Satriani. I really love what he does because he's an instrumental guitarist too and I've been listening to him since the 1980s, since the Surfing the Alien album came out. And I kind of like always like was every time I see us, I've seen him in concert, my jaw just drops. It's like watching him play is like, it's like watching a magician do something that nobody else has ever done. And it's just like How do you do that? You know, it's like, so I was like, I probably will never get to his level, but I want to do what he does, you know?

Brian:Yeah, yeah, exactly. And when it comes to concerts, then what makes a good show for you? What do you look for in a concert?

Donnie:I would say number one, the band has to be good. So naturally, but as far as the show, I would have to say you'd have to have a good lighting show. Some people say pyrotechnics and it does help. It's not a necessity, but I'm not like, like for example, you know, kiss, that's all they are is pyrotech. And after a while it just, you know, I don't care if you have all show and all pyrotech and all laser, all that good stuff, you know, the band has to be there with it, you know what I'm saying?

Brian:Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. There's no point in having all that stuff if the band can't actually play well.

Donnie:Right, exactly. Exactly but I think the majority of it would be a good sound because I've been to some concerts where it's just sounds so muffled or so muddy and you like the singer, you can't understand a thing he's saying if he's saying anything at all. And then the music is just so distorted. So I think sound would be the second most important thing is to get that sound just right. 

Brian: You actually made me think of something I don't think I've ever. thought of before, I wonder how many of these legendary bands, if you strip away all the stage show and the pyrotechnics and everything, and just put them in a room playing, how good would they really be?

Donnie:That's exactly my, yeah, I agree with you. I would say there's probably a lot of bands and it's funny I say this because I've been to a few shows. I don't really want to name names because I don't want to start any trouble. I've been to a couple of concerts where it's like, Uh, this is horrible. You know, uh, the singer couldn't hold a tune very well. Um, very pitchy, very off key. Um, I've been where the band was like, I mean, I've heard, um, what do they call those, um, tribute bands in a bar play better, you know? Yeah. So, yeah, I mean, it is a huge, a huge thing to have that sound just writing, you know, and, and have the, the players be on top of the game.

Brian:Yeah, yeah, it is. It really is. And for any listeners that haven't caught one of your shows, then what can they expect?

Donnie:Well, I haven't done a lot of shows because I'm still kind of new at this. But what you will expect is number one, I'm going to be on my game as best as I can be as far as my playing. As far as sound, I'm a very stickler on having that sound just right. So you're going to get probably the best sound as you can with a live show. And then hopefully, if I get with the right people, the lighting will be where it needs to be as well.

Brian: Have you got your backing band fully sorted?

Donnie:I've got a drummer and a bass guitarist. I'm still looking for another lead guitarist as the second lead. I had one before, but the guy kind of flaked on me, and so he's no longer with us. So once I get that, I'm going to be back on track and get another lead guitarist. And yes, I'm planning on starting to do some shows and starting to tour cause I'm starting to get offers in with the record label. So I just got to, so I just got to get the band, uh, get the band finalized and polished up and then, uh, so hopefully, hopefully, hopefully by, uh, maybe by fall I'll be, I'll be ready to hit the road and do at least do some local shows anyway. 

Brian: That'd be great and out of the gigs you've played, is there one you would revisit as maybe the perfect gig?

Donnie:Hmm, the perfect gig. Wow. I've never really thought about that because every time I play, I try to give it my all, give it my best but the last show I played was in Barto and it was a Comic-Con festival. And it was the Sci-Fi Bartos, what they call it. And I got to close the show. I got to be the headliner there. So the crowd was great. The opening band actually kind of loved what I did. So I only got to play like 40 minutes, which is fine. I don't mind that. But I would say that was probably one of the better gigs I've done. So I really, really enjoyed that one.

Brian:To flip it around then, is there a gig that maybe didn't go so well and how did you overcome it?

Donnie:Actually, it wasn't really a gig with my music. It was more like one of the things I played at church. And it kind of like I forgot some of the music. So what I did to overcome it, instead of playing the chords and everything, I just did what I call sprinkles. which is a bunch of just improvised leads in the key that the song is in. So I kind of just made up my own little lead on top of what was. Everything else was playing too, but it's at the end, it still came out pretty well.

Brian:Ah, and you know, the whole process now of being a musician, whether it's recording the music, playing gigs. You know, what's your favorite part? What part when you get to it you're like, OK, I can close my eyes and go on autopilot. This is how comfortable I am with it.

Donnie:Wow, I don't think I'm there yet. I mean. As far as rhythm chords and things like that, yeah, I mean, there's there's a lot of music. I know how to play a lot of covers I can do or I could pretty much do it with my eyes closed and not even think about it. But as far as my own music, I mean. Every time I go out there and I play, even though I wrote the music and it's, I, you know, it's just been recorded and I did everything. And it's like, that's, there's still that, that nervousness of, you know, it's like, oh my gosh, you know, what if I mess this up? And what if I do the, you know, there's all that what is going through your head. So as far as like just being able to just close my eyes, not even think about it, you know, playing it like second nature. Honestly, I don't think I'm there yet. I don't know if I ever will be. I don't know if I ever want to be, because I always want to be conscious about, oh man, I don't want to mess this up. I want to get it right every time, or as best as I can.

Brian:You know, as a musician at your level then, how do you approach finding gigs and, as you mentioned before, hopefully setting up tours?

Donnie:Well, As of now, where I'm at now with the record label, they're the ones that sends me the offers for the tours. But before I got with the record label, how I did it is I would just get, there is a few Facebook groups. And I actually went on there and submitted some of my songs and I says, hey, this is what I do. So if you need a band for whatever, or if you need, and I've actually played with tracks behind me instead of a full band where I played on top of the tracks. I've done that too and that's actually an alternative. If you want a full band, but the band's not available that's something that you can do as well. And I've done that and it seems to go over well. So yeah, to go back to your question. Basically just through Facebook groups or things like that. And then actually that sci-fi gig I did, the guy who runs that show started listening to my, I guess he found my music on YouTube or wherever he found it. So he started following me. And then next thing you know, he offered that gig to me. So I jumped on it.

Brian:Not surprised. And when it comes to gigs, then what's your pre-show and post-show ritual? How do you psych yourself up? And then how do you wind down afterwards?

Donnie:Psyching myself up is an all day thing. So as I'm, I mean, I'm psyching myself up driving to the venue, I mean, going to these places. So it's like, you just have, you know, you just, I mean, I'll sit there and I'll actually play my own CDs in my car listening, you know, all the way there just to make sure I have the song in my head. So I'm not like, you know, when I get there and the song is like, oh man, how's this song go again? So that's basically what I do. And I'm kind of just like listening to my own stuff, kind of just trying to keep it fresh in my mind. And then the other thing is to wind down. Basically that's another thing, because after the show, the excitement's still going and it takes a couple hours for that excitement to wear off. So usually I just go off and after the show, after I meet whoever wants to buy a CD or whatever. Kind of just, okay, let's go to the local, you know, I don't want to say bar, but it's more of a restaurant. We'll get dinner, but I have a few drinks with my dinner.

Brian:Sounds good, sounds good. And how do you approach getting your music out there to new listeners? I imagine it's a bit harder than say the traditional band who has lyrics and a singer and stuff like that.

Donnie:It is a lot harder. Yes, you are right. How I did it was I released my first two albums through CD Baby, and they actually help you get your music on all the digital platforms like Spotify, but they don't promote you. They just get you there. You have to do your own promotions and everything. So that was like very difficult. So because unless you have a million friends on your Facebook or your social media and that is willing to share your music and kind of help you get your music out there. Cause I have a lot of friends, but they're like, oh yeah, this is great. But that was it. They, you know, they didn't share it. Well, maybe a couple did. So, and then of course, so, you know, I tried to do it as much as I can. I actually got on my car in the back window, I've got the website to my, to the music. I put that on there. So that's the best thing. I think the best thing I did was partnering with the music label because they can actually get you out there, get you on the radio, get you where you need to be. So I would say for anybody starting out, just go with, get it out there as best you can on your own. But as soon as you can, submit your music, submit your stuff to different record labels. Cause you never know what's gonna happen. You know, somebody eventually is going to, is going to contact you. And then from there, it's all good from there.

Brian:Exactly. I'm always saying, if you work hard enough at something, in the end it will pay off no matter how long it takes.

Donnie:Oh, definitely, definitely. Like I said, I've been doing this, this is year three for me recording. I've been playing guitar for about nine years. So, but as far as writing and recording, this is year three for me. And then so, and it's just starting to happen for me. The doors are starting to open now. So yeah, you said patience is virtue. Um, and you know, be patient and then share your music, you know, get it out there and then just do your best as far as like social media is probably the best way to, um, to get it out there, but the more friends you have and hopefully they're, you know, uh, you know, friendly enough to help you help you get your music out there. So they share with their friends and, you know, kind of do the pyramid thing like that. But you know, just like you said, just sit, sit tight, don't get frustrated, take your time cause it will happen. It'll get out there.

Brian:Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And when it comes to your music career and how do you measure success?

Donnie: I would have to say and it's not a lot of people are like, oh, by how much money? No, for me, it's not about how much money I'm making. It's more like how much of the music is getting out there for me. A success for me would just be like, if just let it out there, let all the radio stations play it. You know, I could I mean, not saying I don't want to make money on it, but naturally, I would say that, you know, I do it for the music. I do it for the passion. I enjoy playing. I enjoy writing. Um, so for me, this, this is what I want to do.

Brian:Yeah. Feeds your soul, so to speak.

Donnie:Yeah, exactly. It kind of gives you that feeling of accomplishment.

Brian:Yeah, exactly. And saying 30 or 40 years time then when you look back, what do you want your legacy to be?

Donnie:Uh, that what I did mattered, um, that the music people enjoyed it. Um, and the, uh, you know, I would say just kind of just do like what all the other musicians are doing. Um, you know, get, get your music out there, play for as many people as you can and just, uh, enjoy the ride.

Brian:Good answer. Good answer. And before we dive into the last couple of questions, then tell us your future plans, gigs, music, whatever's locked in for you.

Donnie:Wow. Um, as of right now, I'm working on a third album. I got the first song for the third album recorded. I'm probably going to hit the studio again in about maybe in about two weeks to work on the second song. So for this year, my goal is to get a new album out there, hopefully by early 2024. And then as far as gigs go, well, I want to get the band locked in and get it where I want it, do as many gigs as I can.

Brian:Sounds good. Sounds like a plan. What can people expect from the upcoming album then? What can you tell us about it?

Donnie:It's gonna be even better than this second gear. Well, I'm trying to improve myself with every album. I want to be better. I want it to be more aggressive, if you will. I'm not saying I want a death metal album or anything like that, because I'm more creative. I like to do the melodies. and that kind of stuff. Now there will be some hard songs on there. I mean, I, you know, all in all, I at the end of the day, I'm still a metalhead or hard rock. And that's what it comes down to. But yeah, as far as what's can be expected, well, we had trial and error. Second gear was like shifting into second gear, you know, the next level. So the third out is gonna be even, even It was like shifting into third, if you will, or whatever you want to call it. Um, but yeah, so it's going to be even better.

Brian:Good, good. I can't wait to hear it now. I'm looking forward to it. We'll dive into the last couple of questions. So if you could see any performer from history in concert for one night only, who would it be?

Donnie:You know what? Rush. I never got to see Rush. And now that, you know, Neil Burt passed and I would say, yeah, Rush. Rush has always been not my number one favorite, but it's always been up there because Geddy Lee and the band is what they were. There were a three piece band from Canada. And what they did was just amazing. Now, of course, the music that I like, everybody's like, oh, you like the first album or, you know, fly by night and all that. I'm like, no. I really didn't start getting into them until they changed their style with permanent waves and moving pictures and you know that style. That for me I think was their turning point and into the direction of the kind of music that I enjoy. So they had some grace. But yeah, if I could go back or if I could you know. see any band that would probably be the be the band to see.

Brian:Yeah, yeah, to be a good one all right. I find with Rush that the majority of people, they're like they won't be their number one band, but they're the type of band that I feel like everybody no matter what genre of music you're into. Everybody knows their songs. And if it comes on the radio, you'll automatically sing along. You sing along and then you'll turn the music up because it's like, Oh, there's that song. Oh, I love this. So if you had to spend 24 hours locked in a room with any musician from history, who would it be?

Donnie:That's a toss up because there's two that come to mind. But I would say Joe Satriani, because I think I could probably learn from him. And I don't know if you're aware of this, but he taught like Steve Vai and he's taught a few other. guitarists, you know, Kirk Hammett from Metallica. He was actually a teacher. So I think for me, he would be the one that I would love to be locked in a room and just, and just pick his brain, you know, and just learn, you know, get some, get some techniques from him and things. I think that would probably, uh, number one, be beneficial, but I think that would be just amazing. Yeah. Incredibly valuable.

Brian:Yeah. And the final one so. What song would appear on the soundtrack to your life?

Donnie:Soundtrack to my life. Wow. That would have to be, that's a tough question. Um, I would, I think if, if like on my own music on the new album, there's a song called driver X, I think it kind of fits like my, my personality and, and who I am. Even though there's no lyrics, there's no meaning to it as far as, you know, but, but as far as like the, the feel to it, it's just kind of like, that's who I am. I mean, that song kind of like drives me. Hence the name Driver x.

Brian:Perfect. Has to be that one. So listen, Donnie, it's been an absolute blast. Now I've really enjoyed getting an insight into your music.

Donnie:Hey Brian, thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, that was wonderful. 

Brian:We'll have to have you back on when you release the next album and get the low down on it?

Donnie:Oh, definitely. Yeah. That'd be great. And like I said, expect, expect bigger things cause bigger things are coming. 

Donny Watrous - D<O>NProfile Photo

Donny Watrous - D<O>N

D < O > N released two albums worldwide called Trial & Error and 2nd GEAR. D < O > N is currently working on a new album with a planned release in early 2024.