Yukon musician celebrates solo debut

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Jacqueline Ronson

News Reporter

Local musician Declan O’Donovan will release his debut solo album this Thursday at the Yukon Arts Centre.

After wowing crowds at the Atlin Arts and Music Festival last month, O’Donovan will bring his alternative blues rock music to Whitehorse to celebrate the release of his album, available in digital and CD formats.

O’Donovan was born and raised in Whitehorse, the ninth of 11 children.

He took an early interest in music, and his parents supported him with lessons through his childhood and teenage years.
“There was always a piano in the house. I started at a very young age.”

O’Donovan achieved local fame along with his brother Ryan and childhood friends Adrian and Joel Bergman through their blues rock band, Scotch.

The four of them moved to Montreal in 2007 to bring their music to a wider audience.

The band members parted ways in 2009 to explore their own directions.

Since then, O’Donovan has been working on his own solo material.

He recorded the eponymous debut CD between January and March of this year at the Old Crow Recording Studio and Daniel Janke Studio in Whitehorse.

Putting the album together in the thick of winter was an awesome and intense experience, said O’Donovan, who hadn’t been in the Yukon during the coldest months for five years.
“Some of the darker themes of the album could possibly reflect on where we were at, working in a studio where you’ve got to bring thick socks or slippers because it’s freezing cold.”

The album was supported by a cast of accomplished musicians, including lots of local talent.

Jordy Walker co-produced the album.

Together, the contributing artists took O’Donovan’s material and brought it to places that the songwriter himself didn’t anticipate.
“Some of the tunes, I walked into the studio with merely a skeleton, the chord structure and the lyrics, and sort of said, ‘What can we do with this?’”

This year’s Atlin festival was the first real showcase of O’Donovan’s material, and the crowd liked what they heard.
“It was special for me because the Big Soul funk band happens to include members of the horn section that I used for the record so I managed to steal them for one of my sets and have some brass for part of the show,” said O’Donovan.

The 27-year-old musician performed on the main stage on the first night, surprising the audience with his energetic performance on keyboard and expressive vocals.

The next day at the Lake Stage, festival-goers crowded near the entrance and around the packed tent, hoping for a second glimpse of the artist, although many settled for only hearing the music.

It was O’Donovan’s first time attending the festival, both as a performer and audience member.
“Atlin was phenomenal, the way they organized it, the way they treat musicians, how the volunteers work, the hospitality they provide, and just the opportunity to play with, I felt it was an incredible lineup this year.”

At the Yukon Arts Centre Thursday, O’Donovan will be joined by Bruce Bergman on guitar, Robert Bergman on bass, Lonnie Powell on drums and a full cast of supporting musicians, including a horn section.

The Steve Brockley Band will open the night.

Steve Brockley was born in British Columbia but formed his band in Montreal, where he met O’Donovan.

Brockley has earned fans around the Canadian music festival circuit with his evocative songwriting and rough-around-the-edges folk sound.

Their stay in Whitehorse also includes a Thursday Arts in the Park set, and performances at the Gold Rush Inn Saturday and Sunday.

Gern f., of the alt country group United Steelworkers of Montreal, has been quoted as saying of the Steve Brockley Band, “The music that comes forth is nothing less than awesome, not ‘that’s rad dude’ awesome but the origin of the term, to hold you in pause – to inspire awe.”

After the Yukon Arts Centre performance, O’Donovan will take his music to the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival in B.C., where he will play a main stage solo set as well as a full band set supported by members of the horn section of Vancouver band Five Alarm Funk.

After that, he heads to Montreal to throw a CD release party in his second home and prepare for a cross-Canada tour.

Tickets for the CD release event are available online and at the Yukon Arts Centre box office for $20. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com

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