Rising country star to headline July 4
By: NOELLE BARRETT Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
Nicole Donatone has been singing since she was four years old. By the time she was a teenager, she had done something many could only dream of — she opened for Willie Nelson.
That was one moment that helped Donatone realize how much passion she had for the music industry.
Since then, Donatone has taken advantage of every opportunity to perform that she could, and on July 4 she will perform in Lititz for the 195th Fourth of July celebration.
She may come from the small, rural town of Hackettstown, N.J., but she is still pursuing big things.
"My parents noticed I was musically talented. I sang in school choir and drama clubs, and my parents would be my promoter," Donatone said. "They got me involved in fairs, charity benefits, karaoke contests, and anything I could get involved in."
The venues started to get bigger as she became older.
She has opened for Connie Smith, John Michael Montgomery, Sammy Kershaw, Randy Travis, Tracy Byrd, Restless Heart, among others. She also performed at the AT&T Pavilion pre-show in Philadelphia before the Keith Urban and Jake Owen Concert.
During her school years, Donatone performed at a lot of shows in the summer, but always made sure school came first.
She said her singing career became more serious after high school and after college. Donatone attended Northampton Community College, where she majored in Radio TV and graduated in 2010.
"I was the recipient of the class for the Marconi award. Marconi invented radio," she said. "Every year they give out the award and it was really cool and an honor."
After graduating, she earned an internship at Penn’s Peak Radio, which covers the northeast PA area. A lot of national acts perform at the Penn’s Peak venue, she said, and it gave Donatone opportunities to open for some of those acts.
"I kind of had a plan to get a degree and then pursue the career more," she said. "I haven’t made it big yet, but I’m doing pretty well and having a lot of fun."
Donatone said while there are so many elements to having a music career, she likes doing it all.
"I love going in the studio and pouring your heart and putting emotion in it," she said.
Donatone recorded her original album, titled "If You Knew," in Tennessee and released it last year. She looked through and listened to hundreds of songs until she found songs that resonated with her.
Her first single off the album, "Red" was also her first time making a music video. Donatone said working with the director Jim Shea, a Grammy Award winner who worked with Jimmy Buffet and the Eagles was a rewarding experience.
"It was awesome! He made it so much fun and so easy," she said. "It was also a lot of work. There were five 12 to 14 hour days. I was riding a lawnmower forty times in a circle. It was funny and we had a lot of laughs."
Donatone said she knew what to expect, but didn’t realize how surreal it would feel.
"It was a cool, humbling experience. When I was younger, I would sing in front of a mirror with a hairbrush in my hand, or I’d be driving down the road looking in the mirror acting like I’m in a video singing to the song. It’s just an honor, like a dream come true."
The video is filled with lively fun scenes that capture some activities Donatone experiences in her own life.
"I don’t have a truck, but I have friends and family that do," she said. "I always enjoyed going out for rides on quads in the fields or in the woods."
But if she had to choose one thing, Donatone said like many other artists, performing live is her favorite.
"Performing onstage is the best part and singing it live to the audience," she said. "When you see people crying and wiping their faces or they’re laughing and just singing along with it, and meeting them after the show; that’s what makes it fun for me."
She hopes her lyrics and emotion have a positive effect on the crowd.
"If I touch one person, then I’ve done my job," said Donatone.
While she has fun at every performance for different reasons, one show sticks out in her mind.
"One show I really enjoyed was singing in Hackettstown, New Jersey for supporting our troops. It was just an honorable thing to do," she said. "Before they left, they invited me to their going away party, and I sang ‘Amazing Grace,’ and they presented me with a flag that was folded."
They also gave her a certificate and pins.
"I cried," she said. "It was just so touching and something I will never forget."
Donatone said her career is something she couldn’t pursue without her family, and is grateful for their support.
"Everybody in my family has been very supportive. They’ve always had my back and always got me to where I am and taught me. They raised me to be who I am today," she said. "It really helps when you have a good support of friends too. A lot of my friends come out to the shows and show their support. I have a lot of great friends."
Donatone is looking forward to spending time in Lititz and visiting the area.
"I’ve been in the Lancaster area before, and I love it there- the horse and buggies and the food and everything, so I’m really looking forward to it," she said. "I want to come out and enjoy the whole day and watch the festivities, and I’m really looking forward to bringing my family."
When she isn’t performing or working on her music career, Donatone enjoys spending time with her friends and family. She helps her parents in their deli in Hackettstown, Tony’s Luncheonette.
Donatone also enjoys going on walks, working out, kickboxing, the outdoors, and playing with her dog Sammy.
For more information or to see the music video, visit http://nicoledonatone.com. More HEADLINER, page A3