2014 SRS Band Bio: Aaron McDonnell

Competing Week 3, August 21st
Southern Junction, Royse City

Band: Aaron McDonnell

Band Members:
Aaron McDonnell (Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar/Songwriter
Dani McDonnell (Backing Vocals/Tambourine)
Dave Stammer (Bass Guitar)
Dennis Bailey (Pedal Steel/Banjo)
Leland Rooney (Lead Guitar)
Kyle Williams (Drums)

Band Bio:

Aaron McDonnell (Lead vocals / Rhythm guitar / Songwriter):

Singer and guitarist Aaron McDonnell was born and raised in Oregon’s rural Willamette Valley to a mill-working father and a God-fearing mother. He bought his first guitar, a knock-off Telecaster, when he was 15 years old and proceeded to learn everything from Garth Brooks to Nirvana, however it was the sound of the older generation that captured his imagination; George Jones, Johnny Cash, and Conway Twitty songs drifting from the radios and turntables of his grandmothers’ kitchens and living rooms. This heritage is alive and well in McDonnell’s earnest and straightforward songs and strong, clear baritone.

Aaron formed the Pop Country band Gin Betty! shortly after moving to Seattle in 2004 recording two albums and quickly found himself with a following playing several top local venues including The Showbox, and The Triple Door. Gin Betty! was featured on a national college radio campaign and received good responses particularly in Texas and other areas in the Southeastern United States. Personal turmoil within the band lead to its unraveling and the formation of The Grandtours in 2009 (named after the classic George Jones tune “The Grand Tour”). This band explored darker territories lyrically and more complex sonic arrangements all the while staying rooted in a Classic Country Music format and flavor. Again, a local following was formed and two records were recorded, unfortunately they dissolved due to conflicts within the band in 2011. After taking some time off from playing music publicly, Aaron moved towards a solo project named Aaron McDonnell & The Gospel Plow which released an EP in January of 2013. The project was met with positive feedback from local club owners and members of the Seattle Country music scene receiving praise from veterans in the industry.

With the release of his new EP “Follow”, Aaron’s emergence as a full solo artist in 2014 will be the culmination of a tough yet inspiring road which has spanned nearly a decade, including the formation and dissolution of three bands, recording of five records, and work with several top engineers/producers including; Tom Pfaffle (Nirvana, Black Crowes, Heart), Steve Aguilar (Dave Matthews Band, The Head & The Heart), and Phillip Peterson (The Posies, Portugal. The Man). With true purpose, his songs explore age-old themes of love, heartache, failure, and faith. They are classic in their influence and unpretentious in their delivery. At once familiar and fresh, Aaron McDonnell is both an authentic homage to the sounds of the past, and an exciting example of what is to come.

Dani McDonnell (Backing vocals / Tambourine):

Dani has a voice that can rumble the house. A fifth generation Texan, she brings a soul to the stage that is reminiscent of her Gulf Coast roots. Her prominent and one-of-a-kind voice pairs well with folk, soul, rock, and pop, but really soars in the arena of country and blues. Her colorful tones immediately dressed up Aaron’s songs and the two hit it off after first playing together in the Seattle Country Rock band “The Grandtours.” Prior to that, Dani had played many solo shows both in Seattle and Texas, gracing the stages of bars & coffee shops around town. A formidable artist on her own, she plays guitar, piano, and tambourine, but for now is working to compliment Aaron on backing vocals and tambourine as they share the stage together.

Dave Stammer (Bass guitar):

Georgia-born electric and acoustic bassist Dave Stammer grew up playing a wide range of music from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to the Allman Brothers, Muddy Waters, and Bob Marley. In his teens and 20s he played lounges, hotels, and lodges across the Southeast, the Midwest and the East coast. Highlights include appearances in Atlanta’s Fox Theater, a variety of recording sessions, and appearances in Chicago and NYC area clubs. During Dave’s ten years in Los Angeles, California you might find him playing country music one night, followed by a recording studio session the next afternoon for a funk and soul singer, and then playing traditional jazz standards with a big band later that evening. Notable events include participating in the original Live Aid Concert global fundraiser in July 1985 as well as graduating from the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. Dave’s move in the 1990s to Dallas, Texas finds him performing mostly country and western, classic rock, and blues on area stages including a recent appearance at Dallas Cowboy Stadium.

Dennis Bailey (Pedal steel / Banjo):

Dennis Bailey, originally from Colorado, has been performing music in the Dallas area since 2006. While Steel Guitar is his main instrument, he also plays Banjo, Guitar and Mandolin and sings. He has won many awards on the Banjo, Guitar and Mandolin. Including: second place in the National Banjo Contest. He worked for 10 years at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs as an entertainer. During this time he was a featured performer with the Colorado Springs Symphony for an annual event. Following that he performed in several shows in Branson Missouri for four and a half years: Including Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, The Positive Country Show, and The Bob Nichols Morning Show. He we nominated for several awards during his time in Branson. He takes pride in being a team player and in his ability to play the classics as well as staying current with Top 40 music. Dennis has performed with: Michael Martin Murphy, John Hartford, Johnny Lee and Moe Bandy.

Leland Rooney (Lead guitar):

Hailing from Wylie, TX and having started playing at a young age, the sound that comes from Leland’s guitar is one mature beyond his years. His versatile skills thrive in a wide array of genres from funk to country. His licks are precise and soulful and compliment whatever group of musicians he happens to be playing with. Leland is currently studying jazz and classical guitar the University of North Texas and plays in the Denton band, “Jambunctious.” Nashville is calling for this young talent as he steps into a bright musical career.

Kyle Williams (Drummer):

Kyle Williams is an accomplished drummer playing both at his local church, and in the Denton band “Class Action”. He is comfortable in many genres and can be counted on to be the backbone of the song regardless of the style. He also currently attends the University of North Texas.

Come check out Aaron McDonnell this Thursday night in Round 1, Week 3 of the 2014 Shiner Rising Star Competition! This week is at Southern Junction (Royse City), 8-10pm.