It’s a producer’s era, but don’t tell the Casey Donahew Band. The raw country-rock act, which will perform Friday at the Cotillion, is solid in the studio but must be experienced live to be fully understood. Donahew and his bandmates exude considerable energy and are adept at connecting with an audience.
“It’s something that we’ve always prided ourselves in,” Donahew said while calling from Overland Park, where he was preparing for a show. “Playing live, executing up on the stage is something that’s sliding under the radar these days. We love to play live. We enjoy getting up there. But I think that’s something that we have to do in this age when it’s difficult to get national radio support. We rely on word of mouth, and the best way to get that going is to really deliver when you get the chance onstage.”
Donahew, an accomplished vocalist-guitarist, and his band have four albums under their belt. Each is made up of songs that are relatable stories set to music.
“I try and tell a story that has originality,” Donahew said. “I’m good with that since the songs come from my own life.”
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But there is also humor in the mix. “I don’t ever want to take myself too seriously,” Donahew said. “Some people go a little too far. To me, music is not about explaining how the universe happened. I don’t think most people want that. They want to be taken away from their lives for a while, and I’m more than happy to do that. I think there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way.”
Donahew learned from his initial music hero, Garth Brooks.
“Garth set the bar,” Donahew said. “He changed everything a generation ago. I remember admiring him so much when I was growing up. That’s a guy I aspire to be like. He captivates audiences. My wife and I saw him in Las Vegas and he was tremendous. I think it’s so cool he’s touring again. He’s the king. I was in Nashville a few months ago and I met him. It was a total power lunch. Lots of big names were there, and everybody stopped when he came in. You had heavyweights, like (Kix) Brooks and Dunn, just stop what they were doing because Garth was in the room. He has had a big impact on me.”
The same can be said for Rob Thomas, the pop singer who leads Matchbox Twenty.
“Rob Thomas is great at expressing feelings in song,” Donahew said. “I remember the first time I heard Matchbox Twenty and I realized how special Rob Thomas is. I always wanted to write like him.”
When Donahew is home in Texas, he spends as much quality time as possible with his wife and two sons.
“I’m having the time of my life with my 2-month-old,” Donahew said. “He’s amazing, and I’m having a blast with my 5-year-old. … It’s great having these children because they’ve been inspiring to me as a person and as a musician. I’m so lucky to be able to have a band and a family. What more could you want?”