Jim Donovan is an Instructor and the Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Saint Francis
University. He was also the drummer and founding member of the multi-platinum band
Rusted Root from 1990-2005. Currently, Mr. Donovan is the founder and lead
singer of Jim Donovan & Sun King Warriors, where their first self-titled album
hit the Billboard Americana Charts. Here, he discusses their latest album, We See Through It.
This is Sun King Warriors second album.
What was the mindset going into the second record?
This time around, I
aimed at writing music that considered each of the musicians in the band.
Unlike the first record I did which was mostly by myself, this time I knew who
was going to be doing the recording. As a songwriter, it was very exciting to
know that I had musicians who had the ability to do some pretty complicated
things while still feeling good musically.
I wanted this record to
feel much more collaborative and for the songs to be more adventurous and
expansive. It was important to me that there are some songs with extended
instrumental sections rather than only three or four minute songs in a pop
format. The idea was to create an album that was cohesive from song to song and
also felt like a complete body of work. At the end of the album, I want
people to feel like they went on a musical journey of sorts and to feel the
energy of it all.
sounds like the band is having a blast playing together. How
long have you all known each other? What inspired you to make music together?
We love playing together and
even just hanging out together. What's great about this group is that we have
friendships beyond the stage. People can feel the friendship coming
through the music. Our bassist Kent Tonkin is one of the key members in the
band and was a person who I met the first day I began working at Saint Francis
back in 2004. Father Gabe, who was the president at the time, introduced me to
him. He said to me, “I have someone you need to meet he's also a musician like
you.” He also happen to have long hair like me! Father Gabe could not
have been more correct. Kent has become one of my greatest friends. I was also
fortunate to have both all three of my kids Tupelo, Ella and Oliver record with
us this time. It's such a kick to have them be in this part of my life.
Tell me a little about the recording process. Are lyrics and
grooves sketched out and built upon in the studio, or do the songs arrive from
Typically, the song
starts as a kernel of an idea. Nine times out of ten the initial idea comes
during a long drive. As the initial inspiration hits, I sing it into my phone
whether it be a melody or a guitar riff or even a drum beat. Once that happens,
the rest of the song usually begins to flow from wherever it comes from. I wish
I knew where the songs originated! Once I have the initial idea, I'll sit down
on my couch at home and teach myself the song.
On this record, we
played all of the songs live for about a year and then went into the studio to
record them. Doing so gives us a level of refinement and comfort with the
Psalms. Then once we get into the studio, we go through yet another level of
refinement as we record each piece of the song track by track. First, we
get a good scratch vocal track and then guitar and then begin layering in each
instrument one at a time. This Record took us roughly a year to record and
another two months to mix. The studio is one of my favorite places to be though
it is an extreme exercise in patience!
Where can we buy the album and where can we catch the band live?
Something fun we are
doing this time is giving anyone a download of the album for free. We
have a goal of creating 10,000 new listeners this year.
To do this, we created a
deep dive into the entire creative and recording process called the “Premium
Album Experience”. The educator in me wanted to take the opportunity of a
record launch and turn it into something that would also expose the listener to
the parts of the process that are typically hidden from sight– the
creative and recording processes. During the experience, anyone who signs up
gets two songs per day for 5 days in a row along with stories about each song,
videos of the recording process and access to my personal audio journals where
the original sketches of each idea first formed. We're pretty excited about it! Here's the link: http://bit.ly/SKWPremiumFree2
You can also buy
autographed vinyl or CDs at SunKingWarriors.com
After the semester is
over, the band and I hit the road regionally playing throughout Pennsylvania,
Western New York, Ohio and Maryland this summer. We will be playing
locally in Hollidaysburg on Thursday, June 21 at the US Hotel Ballroom and also
on Friday July 27th in Ebensburg for the downtown shutdown!
Sun King Warriors