By CHERIL VERNON
With at least seven songs hitting the No. 1 spot, including “One Star Flag,” currently at No. 2 and previous hits such as “Double Wide Dream” and “White Trash Story,” the Casey Donahew Band is making waves on the Texas Music Chart.
Area residents will get a chance to hear the band perform as the headlining act at 9:30 p.m. today on the Chili Pepper Stage on Spring Street during the Hot Pepper Fest in downtown Palestine.
“We are looking forward to our first trip to the festival and we are excited to be playing,” Casey Donahew said during a phone interview with the Herald-Press Friday.
The Burleson native (with the help of his wife, Melinda) has carved out an impressive niche for himself on the country music scene over the past decade, attracting a solid base of loyal fans who flock to his live shows.
Building his career from the ground up one show at a time, he’s managed to perform on countless stages night after night in front of thousands, topped the Texas music charts several times, released four albums independently to critical acclaim, and forged a path all his own through the music scene without the aid or muscle of a major record label or power-suit management company.
And the release of his latest CD, “Double Wide Dream,” may just push him to heights he never could have imagined when he first plugged in on stage at the Thirsty Armadillo bar back in Fort Worth’s Stockyards in the fall of 2002, and began constructing his own field of musical dreams.
“This is the 10th anniversary of our band traveling on the road,” Donahew said. “For years we have been under the radar, but we have made our name off of the live show and will continue to do the same with a high-energy, lots-of-crowd-participation show.”
In fact, performing live gives Donahew, like most performers, a natural adrenaline rush.
“It’s definitely why you do this — to get to play music for 90 minutes and interact with the fans,” Donahew said. “It makes the long nights and long drives, terrible traveling conditions and cheap hotels all worthwhile.”
Though he seems like a born natural when it comes to performing, Donahew actually fell into music gradually. He grew up on a farm the first few years of his life and quickly grew to love riding and team roping, a sport he still enjoys today.
His grandfather, who loved to play and sing, gave him his first guitar growing up, but it wasn’t until college at Texas A&M that he first began to teach himself to play and really focused on writing songs.
A big fan of 80’s and 90’s country, Donahew had always admired the storytelling in the songs of that period, and when a wild-eyed Oklahoma boy named Garth Brooks began swinging from the rafters and employing all sorts of crazy, rock show antics during his concerts, Donahew was immediately hooked.
During his college days, Donahew also discovered another rowdy artist who was forging his own path across the Lonestar state in a big way, Pat Green.
When his fraternity hired Green to play one of their parties back in those early days, Donahew was instantly inspired by Green’s way with a song and his ability to connect with an audience.
“Those two guys (Garth Brooks and Pat Green) really blew me away on how they engaged the crow and put on a show — more than just a guy standing there with a guitar. They really entertained people on a different level,” Donahew said.
Transferring to the University of Texas/Arlington, Donahew began traveling around with his girlfriend/future wife Melinda to catch shows by Green, Randy Rogers, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and other acts who were bubbling up just above the surface on the burgeoning Texas music scene at the time.
And it wasn’t long before he was testing the waters himself, playing a regular acoustic gig at Fort Worth bar the Thirsty Armadillo, trying out the songs he’d been writing since high school.
Within a few years Donahew had conquered the small club circuit and was packing out larger places like the Fort Worth Horseman’s Club. He released his first independent CD, “Lost Days,” (which included the autobiographical nod to his home turf, “Stockyards,”) and the song quickly became a huge hit for the new band, even among fans who had never visited the Texas city.
“Stockyards is one of those songs we started out with. I’ve been to a lot of places, and I’ve never been anywhere quite like the north side of Fort Worth. Its just one of those places…I grew up in all those bars, and there’s such a history down there and it’s something I think everyone can relate to,” Donahew said. “It’s weird, it seems like we go far from Fort Worth and people still sing that song, it’s one of those things people relate to — everyone’s got their own Stockyards if you will, their own place they grew up that they remember going to the bars and running the streets and getting into trouble, I guess.”
In 2006, Donahew released a second self-titled CD that included “White Trash Story,” a raucous, redneck story tune that instantly became a fan favorite.
He followed that up with a live CD recorded at Bostock’s, (the Stephenville bar that gave Casey one of his first big breaks), then returned to the studio in 2009 to make, “Moving On,” a project described as “rattling, rolling and rumbling like a youthful Robert Earl Keen fronting Reckless Kelly.
That project sold an 32,000 copies thanks to his growing legion of fans, as word spread like wildfire among the college crowd about this underground indie sensation.
“’White Trash Story’ really elevated our career for sure. So far it’s going over pretty well,” Donahew said.
His latest studio CD, “Double Wide Dream,” is right in the wheelhouse of Donahew’s previous three — the songs contemplate all the highs and lows of real life, and the CD is packed full of that unbridled, can-do indie spirit that has rocket-powered his entire career right from the start.
From the straight-shooting, hilarity of the leadoff single, “Double Wide Dream,” a redneck’s declaration of love for his hot mess of a wife, to the heartfelt twist of “Give You A Ring,” and the Texas-tinged smoker, “One Star Flag,” the tunes on this new CD cover a broad range of material and emotions and showcase a maturity that can only be achieved through lots of living, loving, and losing — things Donahew has no doubt done his fair share of throughout his life and his budding career.
The CD includes the hilarious title track “White Trash Story II — The Deuce,” a continuation of the tune that has become a fan sensation and instant singalong during his shows.
Both “Double Wide Dreams” and “One Star Flag” are now videos that can be viewed on CMT’s music channel and online.
“Right now we are doing some writing and preparing for possibly having another record come out for next summer,” Donahew said of their future plans.
Donahew is enjoying his ride on the Texas music scene.
“The Texas music scene is pretty rare. There are independent artists here that don’t have to be steered in any certain directions — you can be yourself and write the songs you want to write,” Donahew said. “There’s lots of classifications in Texas music — some that are really traditional and some that have a real rock ‘n’ roll quality. I believe the freedom makes the song writing a little more believable.”
Just within the month of October, the Casey Donahew Band has already performed in several states including Montana, Idaho, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas, as well as several gigs in Texas. This week, he has been in Mission and Corpus Christi before performing in College Station on Friday and heading to Palestine today.
For more information about the Casey Donahew Band, visit http://www.caseydonahewband.com