Donny Parenteau is a talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. In the past ten years, he has racked up over 100 nominations at various award shows across Canada. He has also made several appearances on stage as an instrumentalist with country icons Neal McCoy, Merle Haggard, Faith Hill, Shania Twain and more. In his spare time, Donny is involved in an ample amount of charity and humanitarian work.
With a nomination for Sunday’s 2013 JUNO Awards in the Aboriginal Artist of the Year category, Donny is definitely an artist Canadian fans ought to pay attention to. We had the chance to speak with Donny and gain a better understanding of the man behind the music. He offers insight into his lyrical inspiration and his passion for public speaking in this EXCLUSIVE interview.
When did you realize you wanted to make a career out of singing and songwriting?
I realized this after I retired from Neal McCoy in 2002. I moved back to Saskatchewan and figured out that my next move was starting my very own band. This became a reality in January 2003 and the song writing started flowing.
For our readers who might not be familiar with your music, how would you best describe your sound?
I would have to say I carry the traditional side of Country from what I grew up on in my voice blended with today’s production sound. Zac Brown Band would be a good reference for today.
How would you sum up your latest work, Bring It On?
The CD Bring It On was a complete labour on love straight from the heart ,from the songs I wrote right down to how I played in the studio. This is without a doubt my best work to date.
As a multi-instrumentalist, you have shared the stage with several iconic country music singers. Who has been your favourite singer to perform with?
Merle Haggard was one of my all time favourites to share the stage with and meet several times. I think about the first time meeting Merle after a show: Sean Carson and I (Canadians) were sitting at a picnic table and we stopped Merle and asked him about a song he sang that day. Well, the next thing we knew, he was singing to us. After this, our Neal McCoy bandmates asked, “how did you two Canucks get Haggard to sing for you?”. We simply replied ,”we asked.”
You’ve been recognized as one of the top songwriters in Canada. Where do you draw your inspiration from when writing?
I always get my inspiration from the people I love most: my family. I want to tell them how I feel about them and how my life would never be the same if they were not there. It could be a different way to tell my wife how much I love her, song about my daughter before she was born, to telling my Mother thank you for all the love and sacrifice she gave us kids, or a song in memory of my Father called “Post Marked Heaven.” The inspiration will hit me when I am supposed to write a song. I never push for it like turning on and off a switch. It does not work that way for me.
You engage in public speaking across the country, including a series called “It Starts with a Dream.” Can you give our readers some insight into the series and why you are so passionate about speaking to children?
The “It Starts with a Dream Tour” started about seven years ago when I was invited to two schools in Saskatchewan during Education Week and asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up. I received a blank look and I asked, “are you just being shy or do you not know?” The answer from most of them was, “I don’t know.” This is when the ” It Starts with a Dream Tour” was born. What I do when speaking to the students all across Western Canada is explain how dreams can become a reality if you want it bad enough. The reason behind this tour really kicked into gear when our daughter was born as I want to leave this world a better place for her. I have never been the type of person to complain about something without trying to fix the problem. I am real concerned with how the world is today and if I can reach some students, it is at least a start in making this world a better place. This is why I do what I do and am extremely passionate about it.
What motivated you to open up your very own School of Music?
I have been blessed with a talent that I am fortunate to say makes my living and I want to share that talent to anyone who is willing to learn. I feel that music is a powerful tool that can help you in life in many different ways, emotionally and spiritually.
What has been the most memorable or rewarding experience of your career thus far?
The first time I walked onto the Grand Ole Opry stage and performed with Neal McCoy.
Who are your musical influences?
Merle Haggard for voice, Johnny Gimble for musicianship and Neal McCoy for entertaining.
What is it that draws you to country music?
The Country Music I am drawn to is the pure, honest, heartfelt, storytelling songs that actually leave you thinking when done listening to it.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?
I would like the readers to know that whatever you choose to do in life or are doing at this very moment – you only get out of it what you put into it.
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