The past year has been good for Keelan Donovan. He released his first full-album, Happenstance, last September, and has spent the months since touring around the country, playing with acts like Hailey Reinhart of Postmodern Jukebox, Lisa Loeb, and Birmingham’s own Matthew Mayfield. He’s also been busy co-writing pieces for himself and other artists, and a song he wrote—“Tonight Feels Different”—was recently featured in an episode of the ABC show Nashville.
Ahead of his show at the Nick on Saturday night, Donovan spoke about his tour plans, his upcoming album, and his run-in with Thom Yorke.
Weld: You moved to Nashville a few years ago from Maine. How has that move affected the way you make music?
Keelan Donovan: I feel like I started listening to different music when I got down to Nashville, and everyone in that city knows someone who knows someone. I feel like just being in that city, being surrounded by the right people, it helps my music to find a new sound and better writing and better things that I ever could have down in Maine. Not to down-talk Maine, but it’s not a big art scene, and Nashville has a huge art scene.
Weld: You released the material in your Happenstance as a series of EPs before compiling it into one album. Why did you roll out the songs in that manner?
Donovan: I wanted to keep people excited, keep people interested. Releasing an album a year works for some artists, but for artists who aren’t as well known, I feel like it’s important to always have fans interested in something out, whether that’s another record or something like different [merchandise]. I think it’s important to keep people interested and releasing three EPs—people are always waiting for the next and wondering when the next one is coming out. So I try to keep them in that way. It was one of the best decisions I made last year.
Weld: On social media, you hinted that you’re working on more songs. Do you have any concrete plans for your new album?
Donovan: Yeah, I’m working on a new record right now. We have five songs done so far, and I’m hoping to get it out before the fall, and get it onto Spotify and things like that. I’m very excited about these songs. I’ve done a lot of co-writing in Nashville and it’s given me a chance to write songs that maybe aren’t as personal but have a chance to reach a broader audience.
Weld: What have you been doing in terms of co-writing?
Donovan: I work with a company called Big Yellow Dog in Nashville. They have some artists and songwriters—Meghan Trainor is their big songwriter—and I’ve been working with them. I write songs for myself and others, and for TV shows: on the TV show Nashville, one of my songs was one of the character’s singles. That was fun; I write for everyone and everything and not just myself. It’s really fun to be able to collaborate with other songwriters and bring things to that next level.
Weld: You only have three more shows until your current tour is over. After the tour ends, are you going straight back into the studio or do you have more live shows planned?
Donovan: I’ve been touring quite a bit. I plan on writing a lot more, but I want to be on the road playing my songs in a different city every night. I think it’s maybe in August, September, I’ll be back on the road, I’m not sure where yet. But I think that I’ll be hooking up with a couple of other artists and making some music.
Weld: On all your social media, your description reads only: “Thom Yorke once gave me a piece of gum.” What is the story behind that?
Donovan: Before I was doing music full time, I used to work in [the Hutton Hotel in Nashville]. All the famous acts and actors in music or whatever, they stay at this hotel. And Radiohead was staying there, and they came down and Thom Yorke was chewing gum and they were having a conversation about the gum. And I walked over to take their order and he started talking to me about the gum, and he gave me a piece. And I ate it—I’m so mad at myself, I should have kept the gum! But I ate it. And it’s gone forever. It was so fun, it was a great place to work. There are a lot of stories like that, but that’s the one that sticks out.
Keelan Donovan performs at the Nick on Saturday, June 25 at 10:00 pm. Valaska, Outlier, and Waterwells will also be playing. Tickets for the 21+ show are $7.00. For more information, visit thenickrocks.com.