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Jim Donovan Discusses His Band's Latest Release

April 25, 2018

Jim Donovan, center, and Sun King Warriors pose for a photographJim 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.

Sun King Warriors on stage.It 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.

Sun King Warriors on stage during the album release party.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 jams?

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!

Jim Donovan and Sun King Warriors, We See Through It, album cover.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!

Fine Arts

Sun King Warriors