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Daniel Donato: Cosmic Village & the Search for Meaning

For guitarist and songwriter Daniel Donato, playing music is more than just a career — it’s about the search for meaning and a desire to help others find meaning in their own lives. His latest album Reflector, released on November 10th, 2023, has received widespread critical acclaim for it’s “cosmic country” sound, which is also the name of his band: Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country.

The album is impressive, with the twang to befit the country title, and a glaze of psychedelia that makes it deliciously cosmic. Fifteen tracks and not a single skip, with a great vibe for sitting outside in the sun and enjoying life. The songs are laid-back, and the lyrics are reflective and thoughtful, bringing to mind a sense of life’s journey.

Daniel Donato – “Hi-Country” (Music Video)

Along with his songwriting talent, Donato is renowned for his skill as an improvisational guitarist, and it has earned him the busy lifestyle of traveling coast-to-coast playing music with some of the greatest musicians of our time.

This very week, Donato performs with Phil Lesh & Friends in San Francisco, with a show the very next night in Richmond, and finally to our hometown of Charleston on Saturday May 11th to perform on the Windjammer’s beachfront stage.

See our Q&A below to learn more about Daniel Donato’s perspective on life and music, thoughts on playing with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, and the cosmic village that keeps his show on the road.

Daniel Donato Interview

On Travel & Musical Mindset

CHUBES: I saw you twice during SXSW, and then the night after your (late) set at Antone’s (Austin, TX) you were on stage with Phil Lesh in New York. What goes into making a move like that? Straight to the airport from Antone’s, straight to the Capitol Theatre upon arrival in NY?

DONATO: A lot of intentional and concise moves on travel, preparation, and communication within the personalities that make up my core team. I am very lucky but also very hardworking, so we get to cover a lot of ground so to speak.

CHUBES: How do you keep your mind right when you have such quick turnarounds, and many sets of music to perform at a high level?

DONATO: I try to discern The Will of my own internal voice as the primary source of direction, and all external voices are either secondary or just pure noise and distraction. It can be lonely at times, or I can be misunderstood, but ultimately, our own Truth is what takes president over anything else, and serving that yields Fruits that replenish our Soul deeply. 

CHUBES: Do you think playing music, and especially improvised music, helps cool you down after all that? Like stepping out on stage is that moment of peace that you work towards? Feel free to expand on that…

DONATO: I’m not looking for peace, I am searching for meaning. Meaning is an anchor for when the multitudes of temporal scenes in life are chaotic or orderly that transcends a suggested goal of happiness or peace. If I can bring meaning to light, and it brings meaning to others in an enduring way, then I sleep well at night, even if it’s just a few hours before we’re on the road to the next show.

On Playing with Phil & Bobby

CHUBES: You’ve performed with tons of different artists now, some of whom are the greatest of our time (like Phil & Bobby). I’m sure you’ve picked things up from those guys that you can apply to “Cosmic Country”?

DONATO: Experiences like that are fruits that money cannot buy, but our work alone only can earn. Specifically with the fellows of that band, they have a refined way of Observing while also Producing simultaneously that is really harmonious and beautiful, and it is easier said than done. Very counterintuitive to how most folks apply “performing on stage.”

On Reflector & Community

CHUBES: There’s a lot of info out there on Reflector, and I can weave that into the article along with my own thoughts on the record. Congrats on the critically-acclaimed album! Have these songs continued to evolve since they’ve been released? Any examples come to mind?

DONATO: The songs evolve everytime they are played, because we as Persons evolve as we’re Kinetic and ever-changing beings. I notice that a lot of the lyrics contain multitudes of meaning that unveil as they are sung for longer. Most importantly, it’s the Community of our people in Cosmic Country that bring so much love, beauty, and goodness to our shows that help to evolve these songs! I feel a great deal of accountability to everyone whom is on this train with us, and dedicate my life to it everyday.

CHUBES: Anything else you want to mention?

DONATO: I am just so grateful for everyone that the Universe has brought into my reality as this train rides on. My band, my crew, my business team, our Community, and non-physically, whatever Celestial Personalities that provide me with Eyes to See and Ears to Hear. I’ve been dreaming this everyday since I was 14 years old, and very little of it I take for granted. From starting out busking on the street to playing Red Rocks is no small feat, and it takes a village; we just happen to have a Cosmic Village, an Eden of sorts, in parallel with the forest that is the Music Business. I love each and everyone of them so sincerely and am honored to dedicate my life to the service of bringing Truth, Beauty, and Goodness to Life on the stage each night for everyone to partake with and within. 

Enjoy Reflector below, and learn more at