Earlier this year, 2004 Australian Idol winner, Casey Donovan survived the jungle in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! Now she’s released her crowd-funded EP, Off the Grid & Somewhere in Between and its singles “Lonely” (her first in seven years) and “The Villain”, and is later set to tour this October.
What can you tell me about the new EP, Off the Grid & Somewhere in Between?
I used Kickstarter, so it was crowd-funded to cover recording costs. It has been such a great experience. The whole reason and premise behind crowd funding was to see if people really wanted to hear my music. I love writing original music and I was doing so many cover gigs that I was like, “Why can’t I sing my stuff?” (Laughs)
It’s a seven-track EP. It’s a pretty mixed bag of songs – everything from pop to country to R&B to hip hop to big cinematic ballads with haunting sound. It’s turned out to be a really good product, which I am very proud of.
What was the reasoning or influences of all these different sounds?
I didn’t mean to do it, but I did. From the moment we got the go ahead from Kickstarter, I went into the studio, sat there jamming and came up with the songs. At that time, I was lonely, so to speak (Laughs), and I was going through a bit of heartache, so that’s where I got the inspiration for “Lonely” and a few of the other tracks. But it just depended on the day. If I was happy, we’d write some happy tunes. If I was a bit sad and melodramatic, I’d writer sadder, deeper kinds of sounds. It was a very interesting writing process but I also get a lot of inspiration from meeting new people and talking to people and finding out their back stories and how life treats them.
Five O’Clock Dance is as country as I get! I grew up listening to country radio and country music and I’ve got a Kasey Chambers song tattooed on my back. I’ve always had a soft spot for country and when I’m writing on my own with my guitar it usually has a bit of a country twang to it.
Speaking of tattoos, you also got the EP cover art tattooed on your leg, is that correct?
I did. [I got it] because I like tattoos but it stamps a point in my life where things are turning around. I’m very much more in control of my career and where it’s heading and I’ve got such a great team around me. That tree of life scenario from the roots up and I thought that’s pretty cool so I’m going to get it tattooed on my body.
Did you draw it?
Yeah, I did. I do a bit of art on the side as well. So I sketched that up; and when I was drawing it, I thought, “This would make a really cool tattoo!” And I thought, “Stuff it, I’m doing it!” (Laughs)
Was there more expectation to take advantage of being back in the public eye after coming off I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! than Australian Idol?
Definitely. I’m older, wiser [and] a bit more knowledgeable about what’s going on. At 16, I didn’t really understand what was happening; but coming out as a 29 year old, for me to jump on opportunities, I question myself and I’ll procrastinate until the cows come home. But it definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things and it’s okay to ask for help sometimes.
Was there a moment where you thought you had a chance of winning again?
No. (Laughs) It really did warm my heart. It was a nice feeling to have. It’s bizarre that even throughout the whole 13 years of my career, even when I wasn’t doing music and I was still wondering what the hell I’m going to do with my life, people were still interested in what I was doing. That has been a nice thing to take through my career and know that people still care and want the best for me. It’s a really refreshing feeling again. I didn’t go in expecting to win. I thought I’d be in a week or two and go on about my business. I didn’t expect to come out on top and win it. But, it was amazing. At the end of the day, I got to give my charity $100,000 and help sick kids.
With the rise of social media are you more aware of people’s interests as well?
Yeah. Social media and all online avenues – it’s very much full on. It’s a lot to take in. I’ve never really had that many followers but the ones that have followed me around knew where I was about. When I came out of the jungle and I saw my Instagram was sitting in 30000s. Prior I had about 5000 followers and then coming out I said to the guy who looking after my social media, “We’ve bought them, haven’t we?” And he’s like, “No, they’re real.” I was like, “How do I feel with that many people?” Embrace it and don’t change what you do. You keep trucking along and keep enjoying life. I do put some really stupid shit up. I am addicted to snapchat filters and making people laugh. My aunt is one of the stars in them – she’s hilarious. (Laughs)
Were people’s reactions different to you when you got out of the jungle compared to when you won Australian Idol?
I was aware this time around. I miss the fact that people don’t get signatures anymore; there was something about writing a message to someone that was awesome. Now it’s a selfie, so you’ve got cockeyed Donovan making a weird face and then little kids being like hashtag, hashtag, hashtag. I was like, ‘Oh god, people don’t need to see that!” But it’s definitely much more heightened; I like to say it’s on steroids. It’s great to be able to put a smile on people’s faces.
You’re kind of the Queen of the hashtags – so it’s funny that you mentioned that!
(Laughs) But my hashtags don’t go anywhere because they’re so ridiculous! I will write the most stupidest hashtags, like, “Why are you doing this?” But no, I keep going. At the end of the day, I think if you can be yourself in any situation then you’re winning.
In terms of selfies, I guess that comes down to music going digital.
It is sad. I got a thousand copies [of my EP] printed so when I tour in October, they will be sold at the gigs because people like to have a momentum of being somewhere. Digital is the way that the world is going, so you’ve got to embrace the change.
Coming off of your win on I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!, did you feel like you wanted to make something of a reintroduction EP of who you are now?
Definitely. I mean having the EP come out after the jungle was coincidence, because that was pre-planned so happening whether I went into the jungle or not. But the fact that the jungle gave me that extra platform to get it out there with more reach has been absolutely fantastic. A lot of people have forgotten that I’m a singer. That’s my job. That’s my love. That’s my passion.
I’ve been doing so many other things that I’d kind of forgotten that that’s what I did too. But with the jungle came and I’m doing the Coles ads – which are amazing and bloody hilarious – so life is definitely changed but still trying to hold it together as an independent artist – which a lot of people forget. They’re like, “Why don’t you just pay people to do that? Why are doing all this?” and stuff. I’m like, “Because I’m an independent artist … that’s what we do!” (Laughs)
I figured coming out of the jungle like there would have been offers thrown at you.
There was a few. But being older, wiser and actually paying attention to contracts, I wanted this music to be mine. I didn’t want anyone to own anything because for most of my life everyone else has owned everything and I felt like I wasn’t deserving of my own products. I wanted to be very independent.
You’ve spoken very candidly of how life was during and after Australian Idol in your autobiographical book, Big, Beautiful & Sexy, so it does make sense why you’d choose to go down an Independent route instead of taking those easy offers.
It was hard writing that book because unfortunately I forget a lot of things, so when I had to sit there on my iPad and structure what to talk about and question whether I should put in the cat-fishing story, because it was such a hidden part of my life that I still hadn’t dealt with it; I thought – I’m going to write about it! I’m going to be brutally honest about it because as hard as it was for me to get that out and write it down, this is going to help someone else.
That’s what I based my career on, by me making a fool of myself or being completely open and honest and not hiding anything, this is going to help someone else; so if I’ve got to make a tit out of myself to make someone else kind of go, “Oh shit. It’s okay to talk about it or to fall down and get back up.” I’m more than happy to do that.
Are you glad you had the pitfalls that you did but did they kind of help get to where you are?
Definitely. I’m continuously learning in this career. I’m continuously learning what to do, what not to do, or yes, just try it. For the many down days and the many down periods I’ve had, they have helped me overcome a lot of things, be stronger and open my eyes to – which I’m very grateful for. I mean down periods at any time are shit, but it’s how you come out on top, how you work through the stages of what you’re feeling and how you over come them.
There’s been a lot of talk and controversy over your decision to appear in Coles advertising. Whether the right decision or not; do you watch them, mute them, and/or change the channel?
I don’t actually watch TV (Laughs) or listen to the radio, so it doesn’t bother me but I’ve had a few mates come through and be like, “Casey, I just can’t anymore.” You can’t just enjoy my facial features as I’m telling you to go to Coles as prices are down? If you give in to it, it’s not as annoying, just embrace her for what it is. I go to the pub a few weeks ago [and] was sitting there with my mate and I look up and there’s my head. Everyone’s looked at me like, “Yes, everyone that’s me. Thank you for making the discovery that I am here and I’m watching myself on this!”
Off the Grid & Somewhere in Between is out now.
CASEY DONOVAN TOUR DATES
October 5th | The Toff in Town, MELBOURNE
October 12th | The Gov, ADELAIDE
October 14th | Lizotte’s, NEWCASTLE
October 18th | Brass Monkey, CRONULLA
October 19th | Leadbelly, NEWTOWN
October 20th | Centro CBD, WOLLONGONG
October 31st | Variety Rocks Concert @ The Enmore, NEWTOWN