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Casey Donovan 2017 (2)You’d be hard pressed to turn on a television in 2017 and not see Casey Donovan’s face. However for the Sydney-based singer songwriter, the high profile appearances on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here and the incessant Coles supermarket ads, were never about her own music. So it’s with a great deal of relief and gratitude that she can finally promote her own material with the release today of a new 7 track EP, Off The Grid and Somewhere In Between, a release made possible by her crowdfunding fans. AM’s Greg Phillips caught up with Casey for a chat about the creation of the EP.

Casey has virtually grown up in public, first coming to our attention as the youngest ever winner of Australian Idol in 2004. Placing yourself so firmly in the spotlight in the social media age is challenging enough but to do so as someone who suffers from severe anxiety can be really problematic as Casey found out. The song The Villain off the new EP addresses these issues.
“I am always challenging myself in different aspects of my life,” Casey says of why she has taken on such high profile and sometimes polarising projects. “For a while there, it had me by the balls. I didn’t know which way was up and I was questioning everything about life and I was a nervous wreck. I was having panic attacks every minute. To combat that I do things that scare me and try to scare the anxiety out. Sometimes it turns around and slaps me in the face but I think by going into the jungle it definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things. I’d always ran away from a situation and I found being in the jungle, I couldn’t run away and I had to face a few things. I had to sit with my thoughts. It’s definitely been an eye opening year. I keep going and I think that is how I am going to overcome this anxiety and the black dog that likes to pop over the fence every now and then. The Villain, I wrote from a place in my heart where I felt like it needed to come out and I needed to write a break up song to move forward. I hope people listen to it and get up and go, you know what, we can do this … we can get up and face our fears to the extent where we can feel a little bit better about ourselves.”

Aligning yourself with projects such as I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here or the Coles ads could be seen as a career gamble. The upside for an artist seeking exposure is that your face is everywhere. The downside is that you are heavily scrutinised. I wondered if the decision to accept these roles was thought about long and hard or were more impulsive?
“I’m usually a very impulsive person,” says Casey. “But when I got told about the jungle, I thought hmm, is that what my career has come to? I believe everything happens for a reason. I didn’t realise what I had got myself into with the jungle until I was getting into a helicopter in the first episode and ready to get straight back out again because of my fear of flying. For me it was getting from Sydney to South Africa in one piece. But I do think about things and how it might impact my career. At the end of the day I enjoy having fun and taking the piss out of myself and enjoying life for what it is. I mean the jungle taught me so many things and the Coles ads, when they put it to me I just thought OK, cool … let’s do that.”

The tracks on Off The Grid and Somewhere In Between were written over a 2-3 month period from December last year, along with producer and songwriting collaborator Dan Skeed. The album was financed by a Kickstarter campaign, an experience which was equal parts gratifying and stressful for Donovan.
“It was very nerve-wracking to be honest” Casey says on reflection. “I was at a point in my career when I was driving for Uber and between gigs and didn’t know what was going to happen and I just wanted to get some of my original music out there. It was nerve wracking asking people for help. I’m not one usually to put my hand up for help. It was very confronting but very rewarding as well. For people to step up and put their money where their mouth was, is a very generous thing and I am forever grateful to those people.”

Some of the tracks on the EP were co-written with producer Dan Skeed, others came out of sessions at home on the guitar or keyboard, developing ideas with Garage Band.
“Usually the first thing I will go to is guitar,” says Casey of her songwriting method. “I wrote Lonely on guitar and Hear Me Now on my keys. I mean, I am not the best keys player but that’s the magic of Garage Band, where you can just play something and go OK, that’s something I can work with. I just recently purchased a Cole Clark guitar. I had been using Takamine for a few years. The Cole Clark has a really awesome body sound. I’m not a maestro on guitar either but it pays to have a good sounding guitar. I got it from the Guitar Factory in Parramatta, where I have some mates and I said to them, just bring me something that sounds really nice and I just love it.”

Casey is looking forward to touring the EP, with extensive dates booked throughout September and October. It’s also a great opportunity to tour with a full band, something she hasn’t done for quite a while. After the tour, she has her eye firmly on more recording and then a holiday.
“I’m touring with a 4 piece this time around … keys, guitar, bass, drums and myself,” she says excitedly. “I haven’t put a full band on the road for 11 years. These songs that I am releasing really do need that fullness to them. It’s exciting to be back on the road with original music. After that, I want to get back into the studio and look … I actually want to go on a holiday … not to a jungle… I want to go to the US. I have never been, so I want to let my hair down a little bit and take myself out of my comfort zone.”

OFF THE GRID AND SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN is out today. Casey Donovan website

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