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MUSIC | Vol. 8, No. 11, March 20, 2008
(Car Chase)

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Pensacola Vacation

by Bradley "B.J." Davis Jr.
Dondero Happy To Return After European Tour
Even at an early age, guitarist-songwriter David Dondero began making his impression in the music world.

His global travels and prolific band experience on a continuum of music genres have helped shape his now fresh, meaningful sound. From lending his voice from "behind the kit" to sharing songs with Alaska Native Americans on their reservation, Dondero is just glad to be able to make a stop in Pensacola, his former home, for a March 26 show at Sluggo's.

IN: You got a pretty early start on music. What made you want to play the drums at 10?
DONDERO: I was always drumming on stuff with my hands, so my mom got me some drums and that was that. My sister already was playing guitar, so I figured I'd be her drummer.

IN: When and why did you start picking up other instruments?
DONDERO: I was playing drums in a band called the Fat Stinking Belgian Bastards and writing a lot of lyrics and singing behind the kit. Then I started Sunbrain with my friend Eric, and I wrote the lyrics for that band and initially played drums and had his friend sing. He couldn't make it to a show, so I took over singing as a front man for that band, which evolved into playing rhythm guitar after a few years. It was spurred on by my friend Matt, who sent me an SG special in the mail. He became a Franciscan monk and was giving away all his material possessions. That's when I picked up guitar around 1991.

IN: Tell me about being a member of the ska revolution?
DONDERO: Back in 1991, I briefly played drums for a ska/soul band called The Push. Tony Tidwell played guitar and Mikey Dwyer was on bass. We dressed up in checkered suits and did the whole shtick. I was really into that stuff back then.

IN: You've got some pretty poignant lyrics. What are some external factors that help you create these lyrics?
DONDERO: A lot of things happen while traveling and the place you are at definitely inspires a certain feeling. Writing a song while in North Platte, Neb., would be a lot different than a song written in Oporto, Portugal. [It] seems the place has a lot to do with what I'm getting at. It's hard to keep it locked up. It would drive me crazy. We all have death and heartbreak. I've seem to have had some bleak runs of it myself, so it's a good way to let it all out.

IN: You released Simple Love last year. Do you have another album in the works?
DONDERO: I do. I'm working on a whole new batch of songs. [I'm] not sure what to call it yet, but I'm glad [to be] finally writing again. There was a good year where nothing came out. I thought I was never gonna get it back but it's starting to come around again, thankfully.

IN: You make mention of Pensacola in "South of the South." Tell me about your time in the city.
DONDERO: I lived in Pensacola from 1996 to 1999. Great times. I learned a lot while I was there about playing music. Terry Johnson let me work at Sluggo's and is my great friend along with Rymodee and Jen Knight and countless other Pensacolians. If it wasn't for Sluggo's, I would never have been able to develop as a songwriter. I was allowed to do a songwriter night called Flat Broke Folk at the club every Sunday. Many fun nights. At the time I lived there I played drums for This Bike is a Pipe Bomb. They taught me how to tour and connected me to the traveling life, opened my eyes to the possibilities. You can do whatever you want on your own terms if you try hard enough.

IN: This is only about your eighth stop on a long tour. Tell us about your recent tour.
DONDERO: About a month ago, I finished up a pretty good tour of Europe: Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, U.K. and Scandinavia. I'm gonna try to do another tour of Europe with a band this fall. The loose plan is to go to Germany and rehearse with some friends in Hamburg and travel with them.

IN: You got any stories from those tours our readers can know?
DONDERO: Well, I was up in Alaska. My dad had warned me to stay away from the Indian reservation because he thought I'd get my ass kicked. He was wrong. I played on Indian land for the Chickaloon Folk Fest and had a great night. Drinking beer with three Indians listening to John Prine all night. [They were] some of the sweetest/nicest people I've ever hung out with. (My dad) is a big time hunter, and I guess they don't like hunters trying to get their caribou. I'm not a hunter, so they're okay with me coming on their land and singing songs.
IN: You've been quoted as having "attributed with creating the distressed vocal style which influenced Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes."
DONDERO: It's very flattering. I am happy and proud of Conor for his success. His success in turn has helped me as well. He puts my records out and has supported me through thick and thin.

David Dondero
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 26
Where: Sluggo's, 2403 W. Cervantes
Cost: $10
Details: 435-1541 or