Last winter I had the pleasure of attending Imaging USA, a giant portrait conference where photographers gather from all over the nation to train with industry leaders. Nashville was the host home, so I meandered down to the Broadway strip to soak in the Nashville nightlife, affectionately called Nashvegas. Every bar along the strip was humming with almost audible aspirations of fame for future country music stars. This particular bar featured in my photojournalistic coverage, is Roberts. Took a while for these guys to start their set and I started thinking, ‘they must be really good to be so casual about this on a Saturday night.’ Yup! Most amazing band I heard that night!
They had it all, amazing skill as musicians, showmanship and sound! This was the Don Kelley band who is apparently a fixture on the Nashville music scene at Roberts. What really stood out to me was the comedic presence of the stand up bassist and a very young guitarist, who I’ve since learned is Daniel Donato. Although I’m a fanatical lover of music, I don’t know a lick about it. I just appreciate it like nobody’s business and can be found singing all day long.
As I took in the sights and sounds of the local music scene, I recorded a bit of Broad Street up and down the strip. But this band, I needed to watch and spend some time capturing because they were capturing my imagination as they performed.
Daniel Donato blew me away, all night long! This kid landed a 3 year gig playing with the Don Kelley band in Nashville when he was just 17! That was after watching them perform every week, for three years, hoping for a chance on stage. He’d give them his card and then finally his number came up! It was a 4 hour gig, almost 100 songs, no breaks and he knew every one of their songs!
The night I saw them perform, Don Kelley said no one could compare to this kid! High praise from such along standing veteran of the music scene. Daniel was taught by his dad, who joined him on stage for a bit. As I watched him play, I kept thinking, ‘I am in the presence of greatness and this kid is going to be famous someday! I’ll say, “I remember watching him in Nashville back in ’17!” I was intrigued to watch the intensity and passion with which he played. He was in his own world and we were all along for the ride!
I came home and looked up Daniel’s creds to find that he’s been named the #1 young guitarist on a top 10 list for 2017 by Guitar Player In his early 20s now, Daniel is one of the most in-demand guitarist in Nashville. He moved on from Don Kelley band in 2015, so I was fortunate enough to catch him on that cold Nashville night reunited with his buddies! His ultimate goal is to get in front of as many people as he can and Roberts gave him the opportunity to meet his entire music network. He feels so lucky to have been given the opportunity to perform for 3 years at Roberts, hustling hard!
Daniel’s moving through the music scene on fire, learning what it means to promote an event, draw crowds, run a band and create signature style all at the same time. The crowd goes wild when he plays behind the back which then fuses into playing with his nose!
In 2017 he was “touring behind Nashville star Aubrey Peeples’ new record, working on an EP of his own music, and continuing to play in the bars where he only recently became old enough to drink!” Daniel’s desire is to be as good as he possibly can be, which changes daily for him as the bar continues to rise. So far Daniel has played with 4 major country acts, 3 bands who have signed with major labels and made over 30 albums! Pretty incredible for such a young kid whose humble beginnings involved street performances outside of bars, for 8 hours every weekend, with a sign his mom made, “saving for a telecaster!” I wish you all the best as you continue to soar Daniel and the Don Kelley band! Enjoy this surprise of live music coverage from a random fellow creative who counts herself fortunate to have stumbled across your performance that night!