Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

Don-E: E's Back!

Don-E @bluesandsoul.com
Don-E @bluesandsoul.com

Unanimously acknowledged as one of the UKâs most gifted and enduring soul music talents, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Don-e this month returns with his fifth album âLittle Starâ. Whose release is currently being pioneered by the irrepressibly-surging offshoot single âSpiritualâ, which for the first time ever features seven of the UKâs veteran male soul vocalists together on one track - Leee John of Imagination; Junior Giscombe; Carl McIntosh of Loose Ends; Omar; Paul Johnson; Noel McKoy; and Rick Clarke.

Born Donald McClean in Brixton, South London, church-raised Don first became drawn to his parentsâ collection of gospel and classic soul following his pastor fatherâs gift of a home-made guitar on his fifth birthday. Following which he would later soak up the influences of funk, reggae, jazz and pop before initially breaking on to the British music scene in 1992 as a 19-year-old new singing to Island Records - for whom his debut album âUnbreakableâ spawned the uplifting UK Top 20 hit âLove Makes The World Go Roundâ.

Nevertheless, with his sophomore set - 1995âs âChanging Seasonsâ - faring notably less well, the mid/late-Nineties would find McClean parting ways with Island and hooking up with former Jamiroquai member Stuart Zender to form the short-lived duo Azure (who were briefly signed to US neo-soul icon DâAngeloâs label) while also writing and producing for other artists like The Sugababes, Beverley Knight and Mica Paris. All of which would in turn precede Don-eâs return to the scene as a solo artist in 2005 after hooking up with his current label-home - UK soul independent Dome - to release his third solo album âTry Thisâ, which was in turn followed-up by 2008âs well-received âNaturalâ.

⦠Which conveniently brings us back to today and this monthâs release of Donâs self-produced third album for Dome - the aforementioned âLittle Starâ. Whose standout tracks include an uptempo house cover of âSlave To The Rhythmâ - originally a1985 hit for left-field funk/dance diva Grace Jones, in whose band he now regularly tours and plays - plus a soulful slow-jam update of late reggae legend Dennis Brownâs âLove Will Find A Wayâ. While its 12 new songs (all of which are self-penned) range from the hypnotic street-soul vibe of the title-track and the Leroy Hutson-influenced, rare groove feel of the lilting âHold Onâ to the punchy, Ty-featuring âBSâ and irresistibly-pounding, catchy âHot Like The Summerâ.

⦠Cue and ever-affable and down-to-earth Don-e meeting up with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis in his West London studioâ¦

Don-eâs views on his new album âLittle Starâ

âWith this album Iâm really kinda showing the different sides of soul that have influenced me. Like sometimes I get a bit Marvin, sometimes I get a bit rare groove-y, other times Iâm listening to the house guys like Josh Milan and Blaze... And in terms of the overall feel, I guess my main aim was for it to be DANCEY. Because though a lot of people associate Don-e with slow-jams like âUnbreakableâ and âTry Thisâ - which is all cool - at the same time one of my favourite Michael Jackson albums, for example, is âOff The WALLâ, because you can dance to almost every TRACK⦠So yeah, for âLittle Starâ I definitely wanted that feel-good factor. Plus with me recently having come out of a crazy relationship that had lasted for years, what Iâve discovered is that, though before I was writing really sweet/lovey-dovey stuff, itâs only after you get your heart broken and ripped out and stamped on that proper LYRICS start coming your way! So while I did definitely want to keep the overall vibe of âLittle Starâ happy and uplifting, at the same time you have got songs where Iâm talking about real-life things that Iâm sure EVERYBODY feels at some time or another. Like âIncompatibleâ, where Iâm basically saying âEven though we were in this relationship I knew you had to goâ⦠You know, itâs basically dealing with that stuff that goes on in your head that you donât actually SAY to people.â

With âLittle Starâ featuring his house update of her 1985 hit âSlave To The Rhythmâ, Don-eâs experiences of touring as a regular member of Grace Jonesâ bandâ¦

âI just call her âAmazing Graceâ, because sheâs just UNBELIEVABLE! Like after each show we have the after-party with the drinks and the oysters, and while weâre always knackered - and weâre just the BAND - Grace is still STANDING! You know, sheâs always the last one to go to SLEEP! So weâre like âWOW! How does she DO it?!â! ⦠I mean, I actually first met Grace through The Duke of Wimborne who worked on my first album. He basically just called me up one day and said âIâm hanging with Grace at the moment. We really wanna put a band together so she can go back out there and do some of her old stuff. Do you wanna come and meet her tonight?â⦠So I met her, and though I was expecting this ferocious woman, she was actually really sweet and really COOL! She was like âIâm cooking dinner for you tonightâ! So she cooked me curry goat and rice, and from us just talking that evening I ended up not only being in the band myself but also bringing in my brother who plays drums, my friend Malcolm Joseph who plays bass, the two girls whoâd been doing backing vocals on my shows... So yeah, I guess Iâve now been with her for about seven YEARS - which has been a really great experience and I have learnt a LOT!... You know itâs like a whole ânother WORLD working with Grace Jones!â

The album âLittle Starâ is released July 29. The single âSpiritual (Featuring Carl McIntosh, Junior Giscombe, Leee John, Noel McKoy, Omar, Paul Johnson and Rick Clarke)â is out now, both through Dome.

TO READ MORE FROM THIS INTERVIEW WITH DON-E CHECK OUT OUR PRINT ISSUE - CLICK BELOW OR VISIT YOUR LOCAL MAG OUTLET (inc: WH SMITH AND JOHN MENZIES)
Words PETE LEWIS

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