The Intentional, Unconventional David Dondero

David Dondero

Sunday, May 4

Singer/songwriter David Dondero was born in Duluth, Minn., just like Bob Dylan. In a recent e-mail to Seattle Weekly, Dondero writes that furthermore, both were born in the same hospital, St. Mary’s. It’s a distinction he describes with humor. “I don’t think the doctor fed me the same articulation pills that Bob must have gotten,” he wrote.

Yet in 2006, on an NPR list ranking the “Best Living Songwriters”—on which Dylan, unsurprisingly, came in first—Dondero edged out competition like Joni Mitchell, Jolie Holland, Carole King, Leonard Cohen, Billy Bragg, Nick Cave, and plenty of other renowned masters of song to join the list at #10.

These days Dondero continues to refine a catalog that explores the folk tradition, much as Dylan and Woody Guthrie (whom Dondero cites as an influence) did, culling stories from endless travels throughout the states and a deep love of American culture. Though the songwriter’s career was launched through well-respected indie labels like Ghostmeat, Future Farmer, and Team Love (whose co-founder Conor Oberst in turn cites Dondero as an influence), his latest, This Guitar, was crowd-financed.

“The Kickstarter campaign was a really great experience,” he writes. “It was a lot of work. More so than I anticipated, but well worth it. . . . The old record-label model . . . was basically a loan that could never be paid off. This Kickstarter model flips it over. It’s all paid for in advance. I don’t want to go into the past with the labels. I never really sold enough records to make it worthwhile for either party.”

A quick listen through Dondero’s back pages, like the road songs “Ashes on the Highway” and “The Stars Are My Chandelier,” show that convention is of little interest to him. Of his music, and the unrelenting wanderlust that inspires it, he writes that he always labors to “just keep trying new things.” To wit, Dondero currently lives off the grid at a farm in northern California, doing carpentry and odd jobs in exchange for room and board. “You get used to shitting in a bucket and covering it with sawdust,” he writes.

Bringing his tour to Seattle’s all-ages venue is no accident, either. “A few years ago I played for my friend’s class in Cleveland . . . One kid asked me, ‘Why don’t you play good music like rap?’ . . . At the end he asked if he could strum the guitar through the amp really loud. He liked that. Maybe it opened up his mind to another form of music.” The Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., 956-8372, veraproject.org. 7:30 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. All ages.

 
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