Not only are you doing your thing singing on this album, but you’re talking on a lot of these tracks! That’s not typical Donell… Is that an indication of a more open, more engaging, more vulnerable Donell?
I’ve definitely dropped some of the walls that I’ve had up over the years. For a long time, it took me awhile to come out my hats, because I was really self-conscious about my bald head. A lot of things in my life I look at it now like, that’s stupid, a lot of the phobias that would bother me before, now I kind of dropped all of those things. It took me awhile to figure that out, I don’t know what I was hiding behind, but I guess with age knowledge and wisdom comes, and now I just see those things as being so immature and it just really didn’t make any sense. So I’m definitely a lot more open now. And honestly plays a big role in that. Once you find out who you are and you are truthful to that, then nothing else can bother you.
You seem like a very private, introspective guy with an old soul. How would you describe yourself?
I’m real laid back. In some ways, I’m an introvert. I don’t like to be around a lot of crowds of people and stuff like that. I’m really private. A lot of people say I’m shy and I don’t think so, but I just enjoy the things that I enjoy in life. I’m not really into a lot of material things and stuff like that, I got two cars, my wife drives one and I drive the other… I’m a basic guy. Music is just my job, and I love it. But that’s what I look at it as. I don’t look at myself as some R&B star or anything like that. I just really appreciate the fact that I’m able to do what I love to do and take care of my family doing it.
How do the ideas for your songs come to you? What’s your creative process for making soulful music? And how do you fuel or spark your creative process?
You know, I like the outdoors. I like to just clear my head from just all thought so I can let something else come in. I do a lot of meditating, I listen to countless music from the past—you know Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Isley Brothers—these are all greats. And that’s where I pretty much get my inspiration from to create new music, by listening to what came before me, so that’s my creative process. If I didn’t love the art of music, I probably wouldn’t do it. But I really, really get a kick out of the art itself, just being able to go and sit down at a piano and stuff just comes out. I mean, it amazes me every time I make a record, because sometimes I sit back and I listen to the records, listen to the lyrics and I think to myself, “Damn, where did this come from?” or “What made me say this?” So it’s intriguing for me, it’s truly something special.
You’ve reached a milestone in your life, turning 40. How has age shaped you as a person and as an artist?
To be honest with you, I mean I’m just getting here, but I love the idea of 40. It just makes me feel like I’m a brand-new person, like it’s a new beginning for me. Everything to me now is so much more serious. I have a different outlook on life and what I want to do with it. So I’m embracing this – it’s beautiful.