Spotlight on Donna Hughes, performing at The Blue Vine
“Whatever moves me, moves me to write,” says emerging songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Donna Hughes. For Hughes, songwriting is an all-consuming endeavor, encompassing all that goes on around her.
Since she first began writing songs a little more than a decade ago she has composed over 250, recording over half of them. Her songs have been recorded by Alison Krauss and Union Station.
Her first nationally released album, “Gaining Wisdom” was produced by the legendary Tony Rice, and features contributions from an elite group of supporting musicians and harmony vocalists such as Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rhonda Vincent, Carl Jackson, and Alecia Nugent.
Hughes has cultivated a love of acoustic music born of hearing the bluegrass bands brought in to perform at her local church as she was growing up in Trinity, N. C. She pursued music from an early age, picking out tunes on the family piano at age 3, but she never sang in front of an actual audience until 1996, in church ó and was scared to death.
Around that time she started looking for places to sing. She would drive several hours to sing one cover song at a barn dance, or a country music hall.
Despite earning a bachelor’s degree in history and embarking on a career in real estate (with a sideline as a gymnastics coach), music was never far from her mind. She began writing and recording in earnest in 1996, cutting an album’s worth of songs that proved to be more of a learning experience than a career-builder.
Continuing to write relentlessly, Hughes spent five years gathering material for her first bluegrass album, 2001’s “Somewhere in Time.” That album picked up word-of-mouth buzz and won her a devoted following among both bluegrass fans and critics, and was followed by the 21-track collection “Same Old Me” in 2003. Union Station bassist Barry Bales heard a track from Same Old Me on WNCW’s bluegrass program, and brought Hughes to the attention of Alison Krauss, who quickly became a fan of Hughes’ powerful, insightful songcraft.
“Shortly before Christmas of 2003,” Donna recalls, “I received a phone call out of the blue from Tony Rice. He asked if he could produce my next album. It amazed me at the time, because my car CD changer was filled with Tony Rice albums!”
While Hughes is a strong rhythm guitarist, piano was her first instrument, and producer Rice was insistent that it play a part in Gaining Wisdom. Hughes learned to play classical piano by listening to her mother perform pieces by Bach and Beethoven and then learning them by ear.
She has been referred to by the renowned bluegrass/country writer and producer Carl Jackson as “one of the best new singer-songwriters in the world of bluegrass.” The Donna Hughes Band will be appearing at The Blue Vine, 209 S. Main St. this 9-11:30 p.m. this Friday night.
There will be a $5 cover charge.
For more information, call 704-797-0093.