by Evan James Ceretti
Nick Doneff’s love for music started at a very young age. As a toddler, the Ontario-born, PEI-based singer-songwriter would go to the flower shop where his mother worked as he waited for the school bus. In the back of the shop there was a toy Mickey Mouse record player. He would sit and listen to various 45s, and his father would draw stars beside Doneff’s favourite songs.
Doneff’s father and grandmother both played guitar, which inspired him to follow suit. “My dad would always have a guitar around when I was growing up and he would play. We had a shack in the back of our property, and we’d have parties, and the campfire and guitar would happen.”
Doneff’s music and lyrics are usually not too many degrees separated from something he sees or feels, he said. “I try to take some really seemingly ordinary things, that when you look at them it’s like, ‘that’s not so ordinary’ or ‘that’s not so uncommon to feel this way.’” This type of writing style was largely influenced by artists like John Prine, who taught Doneff that you “can take something that you pass everyday but don’t look at but then finally you look at it and you’re like, ‘woah that’s kind of screwy.’”
His debut, self-titled album started as a project at Humber. Most of the tracks were recorded live with a full band in Toronto, with the exception of a couple of solo tracks recorded on PEI. The main theme of the record has to do with the confusion of being twenty-something in this day and age. “Like getting spat out of college with a music degree and being like, ‘so what now?’” “The album’s first track, Latest Hiatus, sets the tone for what the album is all about,” said Doneff.
Doneff was nominated for three 2018 Music PEI awards—SOCAN songwriter of the year, song of the year, and video of the year—all for the song Old Dog. Come May, Doneff embarks to Denmark to participate in an artist exchange through Music PEI. He teams up with Ida Wenoe to perform in Denmark. The pair already played the PEI part of the exchange in spring 2017. Go listen at nickdoneff.bandcamp.com.