Editor’s Note: Originally published in March 2019
Some people are born with it, and some have to work at it, but I’m a firm believer either way it’s not one or the other. Whether that “it” is painting, skateboarding, duck hunting, rodeo clowning, or whatever. In Daniel Donato’s case, that “it” is mastering the maze of notes and sounds that stretch down the neck of a Telecaster, and with him, I’m convinced he was born with it.
Daniel hasn’t eclipsed the quarter century mark on this planet, yet he’s achieved more than most could only hope at any age. As merely an adolescent in 2010, Daniel had a semi-viral video of him SHREDDING in Jerry Reed-esque fashion, pickin’ like a boy on fire along the streets of Broadway in Nashville during CMA Fest, which you can (and should) view HERE.
Since then, Daniel has dominated guitar with such Nashville acts as The Wild Feathers, Paul Cauthen, and The Don Kelley Band. Daniel is a frequent NAMM attendee and has a slew of videos of him playing with legends like Robert Randolph and Albert Lee to name a few. He also has guitar picking lessons with Reverb, and countless other videos displaying his awe-inspiring skills.
Along with his ever growing guitar-slaying chops, Daniel has also evolved a love and skill for songwriting. Just this past weekend he released his latest single, the perfect spring theme, “Sweet Tasting Tennessee,” and is gearing up for his Cosmic Country tour.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Daniel and finding out what makes him tick. Take it away Daniel!
Music Mecca: So you are days shy of your 24th birthday, and you’ve already amassed an impressive resume. What are a few milestones that mean the most to you?
Daniel Donato: I’m still inspired to play every single day. I’ve never had to earn a dime from anything besides music. Music has made me earn every single dime. (Two separate luxuries.) Someone stopped me in the grocery store the other day to say that I am the future of guitar and that I am their favorite Country music artist. I’ve also put a book out.
MM: It’s no secret that you’re a Tele guy. When did you realize that is your axe of choice and why?
DD: I realized this after I played on stage the first time. That was the guitar that was there. Leaned up against a Fender Champ with a torn grill cloth and no reverb. It sounds like a human voice. It is the guitar that is closest to a blank canvas.
MM: You do some awesome guitar teaching videos for Reverb on legends like Jerry Reed and Jerry Garcia. Can you talk about how that came about? Did they let you pick what to teach?
DD: Lauren Tolliver can be credited for this. She is a MACHINE of efficiency in communication and organization. I want to hire her someday, when I can make enough money to do so. They let me do what I want, yeah. That is why people love them.
MM: You just released your latest single, “Sweet Tasting Tennessee,” which is a perfect spring theme. What was the songwriting process like for it?
DD: It was kind of Nashville in its process. My friend Brooks Hubbard and I came up with the song in my living room one day. Two minds, one mission, and a few hours = sometimes a song that is worthwhile and sharing with the whole world.
MM: Where did you record it and who was involved in bringing it to life?
DD: I recorded it with a close circle of friends that I didn’t need to pay any union rates to. It was done in two seperate bedrooms within the greater Nashville area.
MM: How is this song going to be different than your upcoming release in late April? Heavier, softer, slower, faster?
DD: Late April’s release is like Sturgill Simpson meets Brothers Osborne with aspects of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.
MM: Can your fans expect these singles to be present on an upcoming EP or album?
DD: Indeed. But mainly, I am releasing music this entire year. I want to be a steam engine and push myself to dig as deep as I can and put out as much as I can.
MM: Do you have hobbies or pastimes that aide in your overall songwriting process? Hiking, duck hunting, parasailing, etc?
DD: I had a girlfriend that I loved immensely for 4 years. We broke up in June. I haven’t had many hobbies since then. I’ve been on the road or home writing. This is my purpose for now.
MM: What’s your favorite venue to play, and where do you aspire to play one day?
DD: I’ve played the Ryman two times in tangible reality. I’ve done it a bunch in my dreams. I want to sell it out like Jason Isbell or Sturgill do on what seems like an annual residency. This is a dream, Universe.
MM: What have you learned throughout your time playing with artists like The Wild Feathers, Paul Cauthen, and The Don Kelley Band?
DD: So many things! All of these projects are comprised of such different organisms. Music really is a vast perspective to live life through. Don Kelley Band = A live show needs to be a business operation. You must be there to deliver and be present. Wild Feathers = define your goals and visions in ways that are clear as to avoid any wasted artistic fuel. Paul Cauthen = be the best you. Be fearless and fast in getting that out from behind the shades you keep it because the world is waiting for a superhero, like really bad.
MM: If you could only listen to one Grateful Dead album or live show for the rest of your life, it would be…
DD: American Beauty. Rocking The Cradle.
MM: What primary goal or goals do you hope to accomplish by the time you’re 30? (which trust me, will come before you know it)
DD: I have a hard time with questions like this. I want to be at least 5x more relevant and scaled in my numbers than I am today. I also want to be feel the feeling I feel when playing but when singing; at least a percentage of that. I want a Tesla really bad, too.
MM: What advice would you give to other young songwriters and guitar shredders trying to make a name for themselves?
DD: You always can practice more. Practice always means more than what you think it can be. When you are a musician, life effects everything you do. So…life is practice. So practice everyday. But legitimately, I still get up at 6am and practice my guitar every morning. You can always work harder.
For more info on Daniel and his music, be sure to check out his website HERE.