Last weekend, a little known but prolific songwriter brought his summer tour through our listening area with three shows (details below), starting in Pensacola, Florida, then in Birmingham, and ending Sunday in Tuscaloosa. Just a few of the many stops on his journey.
(music: “Ashes on the Highway” from the album The Transient)
David Dondero is not a household name, but it could have been. His career spans decades with 10 albums to his name, ranging in genres from folk to counry and blues to punk.
(music: “The Living and the Dead” from the album The Transient)
David Dondero lives the life many other musicians want you to believe they live. He lives out of his car, a Toyota Corolla. He takes odd jobs. And he plays shows. Lots of shows. There are currently 55 dates on his website for his current summer tour, a number that just keeps growing. The toll that kind of lifestyle takes is one of themes of his latest album “This Guitar.”
(music: “This Guitar” from the album This Guitar)
Though Dondero says the song is meant to poke fun at himself, he says he DOES sometimes feel regret for the life he chose for himself.
David Dondero: “You know I’ve lost a lot of relationships over it, you know, being on the road. And I’ve lost job opportunities. I AM slightly envious of those who live straight lives and live in houses. But then again, you know, it’s pretty cool on the other hand being able to just be free and roll around and play songs.”
That tug of war is something that comes out in Dondero’s music often. His songs are often hilarious. Take his songs “Don’t be Eyeballin’ my Po Boy, Boy,” or his fan favorite “Not everybody loves your doggy like you do,” but there’s always that undercurrent of the tough life on the road.
(music: “Twenty Years” from the album The Transient)
Dondero: “If you live like I’m living now, and you’re living out of a car. And you know they say, “Well where do you live?” And it’s like, “Well I live on the Island of Toyota Corolla. It’s a moving island and I live roving around the United States of America.” They could be envious of that, but then they’re like, “Well where do you LIVE?” I’m like, “That’s where I LIVE,” you know? You’re LIVING there.”
(music: “Take a Left Turn in Boise” from the album This Guitar)
Like many great artists, David Dondero is far too underappreciated. His shows are often ill-attended, which is a shame. Dave says he plays “unpopular music.” His music lands in the college radio and NPR circuit, which too often means lots of acclaim but little repeated exposure. Part of it is just how the music industry is these days.
Dondero: “I think there’s a lot of great music out there, lot of stuff that I can’t believe how great it is. But I try to listen to the radio and I don’t hear ANYTHING that I’m interested in, in modern music. For the most part what I’ve noticed with music that’s being marketed, I can’t find anything, or I’ve lost interest in even trying to.”
Achieving commercial success really isn’t the point for a lot of artists. It never has been for Dondero, who 10 albums into his career, just continues playing and shows no signs of slowing down. For APR News, I’m Jeremy Loeb.
(music out: “Take a Left Turn in Boise” from the album This Guitar)
Click the above audio to hear the full feature with David Dondero.
You can hear a half-hour session I did with Dondero at my old station, WHQR in Wilmington, NC here.
David Dondero played the following shows in our listening area:
Friday June 13: The Handlebar - Pensacola, FL Doors 8:30/Show at 9
Saturday June 14: Desert Island Supply Company - Birmingham, AL Doors 9/Show at 9:30
Sunday June 15: Druid City Brewing Company - Tuscaloosa, AL