I first heard Donavon through Jack Johnson and found myself flashing back to my college days. Back in those days it was coffee houses and singer-songwriters. When I saw Donovan’s concert this past weekend at KAABOO it took me right back to the first time I heard him. He played on the main stage in the heat of the day and despite record setting heat in Del Mar, he came across just like he was singing in a coffee house back in the 60’s.
His newest album is “The Heart” is a totally introspective look at his life and what he is about musically. We had the pleasure of interviewing Donavon after his performance and he was very insightful as to his influences.
If your a fan of singer-songwriters, Donovan is a must to listen too. His music is fun and upbeat and not only tells a story but also creates a mood. I myself found a new fondness of his music and vibe. Catch him at a venue near you . His band and his performance is rock solid.
Images: Brian Tierney / BackStage360
Editors Note: BackStage360 wishes to give special thanks to Big Jon of Dusty Futon for freelancing this interview and to Donavon for graciously sitting down with us.
To create his fifth full-length album Start Livin’, Hawaii-based singer/guitarist/songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter holed up in a Southern California studio for seven days with his longtime bassist Matt Grundy—and no one else. The follow-up to 2010’s Glow, Start Livin’ is a nine-track selection of folk-infused songs that sweetly reflect the simplicity of their recording. With its smooth showcasing of Frankenreiter’s rich, honey-thick vocals and masterful guitar work, Start Livin’ bears all the intimacy of an impromptu back-porch performance and the tenderness of a treasured love letter.
“Start Livin’ is basically a love album,” says Frankenreiter, who co-produced the record alongside Matt Grundy and Adam Ableman. “Most of the songs are about my wife and our two boys, and the life that we’ve built together in Hawaii.” Thanks to Frankenreiter’s infectious warmth and finely honed pop sensibilities, each of those songs has the singular effect of drawing the listener into that bright and breezy world for a blissed-out moment. Essential to the record’s playful feel is Frankenreiter’s inspired use of instrumentation. “This album’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever done before, in that we skipped the basics and went for a whole lot of different instruments,” he says. “We never brought in a drum set—instead there’s handclapping for percussion, or the two of us banging on pots and pans. We were using everything from bells to singing bowls to Zippo lighters; at one point we put some beans and salts in a can and shook it around.” Grundy played a key role in the wildly varied sounds on Start Livin’, according to Frankenreiter. “Matt was playing ukulele and lap steel guitar and banjo—he’d grab an instrument and we’d do a take live and just build the track up from that. It was a real fun vibe.”
Despite that kitchen-sink approach, Start Livin’ never comes off as cluttered. Each of the songs shines with a crisp, clean sound perfectly suited to the album’s sunny spirit: “You” achieves a hypnotic dreaminess by layering lap steel over beautifully crooned harmonies and a twinkling acoustic riff; “I Can Lose” matches its island-breezy guitars with shimmering mandolin; and a gracefully plucked banjo backs up Frankenreiter’s hushed, heart-on-sleeve lyrics on the quietly epic “Together Forever.” On “Shine,” meanwhile, ocean-wave-like effects merge with a swaying melody and smitten lyrics (“You and I, girl, are like a sun and moon/Lately you’ve been in orbit in my head like a good summer tune”). While love songs serve as the album’s centerpiece, Frankenreiter also explores non-romantic love.