With upbeat anthems, quiet confidence, and a wicked sense of humor, Keelan Donovan knows how to light up a room. Since first hitting the road in 2014, the Maine-born and Nashville-based troubadour has logged over 600 shows across 48 states and four countries alongside the likes of The All-American Rejects, Ben Rector, Matt Nathanson & New Politics as his music popped up everywhere from Spotify’s coveted “New Music Friday” and “Weekly Buzz” playlists to ABC’s Nashville and a trailer for The Hero starring Sam Elliott. His self-titled 2017 EP, Keelan Donovan [Big Yellow Dog Music/ADA], captures the engaging and enigmatic energy that defines him. His most recent single “Like A Radio”came out in July of 2018 and continues to show the growth in his sound.
“I want people to think of me as a real person and hopefully even as a friend,” he exclaims. “I want to be approachable. That makes the songs relatable. It all comes back to that honesty and integrity of the performance on stage and in the studio. It’s a specific energy.”
Inspired by seeing a play about Buddy Holly in middle school, Keelan picked up his first guitar and started chasing that energy during eighth grade. Attending the University of Maine, he spent his weekends rocking covers at bars and frat parties, cutting his teeth in the process. Those early gigs paved the way for him to embrace songwriting.
He admits, “I thought to myself, ‘If I can make people happy on the weekends playing covers, what if I wrote my own songs and got the same reaction?’”
Around that time, he first heard “Little Lies” by Dave Barnes and learned about Belmont University in Nashville. The city ultimately called to him.
“Classic songwriting drew me there,” he says. “You come to Nashville, and it challenges you and wakes you up in a great way to be the best songwriter you can be.”
Upon graduating, he dove headfirst into Music City’s legendary scene influenced by the likes of Mat Kearney and Ingrid Michaelson. By 2013, he released the series of independent EPs that would comprise 2015’s Happenstance. He spent three straight years, averaging more than 200 shows annually. 2016 saw him ink a deal with Big Yellow Dog Music after its A&R caught a stunning and striking show.
In 2017, his self-titled debut fused lyrical storytelling, irresistible hooks, and singer-songwriter spirit driven by rich instrumentation. The single “Touch and Go” broke into the Top 40 Hot AC Billboard Charts & remained there for five weeks.
“I hope people can hear a message through my music,” he leaves off. “We’re in this together. There’s a lot of crap going on in the world—especially right now. If they can listen to my songs, see my show, meet me, and realize we’re all just people, that’d be amazing. I want them to walk away with underlying hope from listening to me and seeing me.”