Lisa Donnelly’s single “Here to Stay” — which she wrote for and performed on the TV special, “The Bachelorette: Ashley and J.P.’s Wedding” — is available online. Click here to download the song on iTunes.
Donnelly will be in Lawrence next month to perform in the Kansas University Theatre Department's annual Alums Come Home show. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 2 and at 2:30 p.m. March 3 at Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall, 1530 Naismith Drive. Tickets are $18, or $10 for students and $17 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff. To purchase, go online to kutheatre.com or call 864-3982.
When “Bachelorette” sweethearts Ashley Hebert and J.P. Rosenbaum tied the knot on national TV last month, all eyes were on them.
But during key moments of the wedding ceremony, all ears were on someone else.
That soulful voice — crooning Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” as Hebert walked down the aisle and later an original song titled “Here to Stay” as the newly pronounced couple faced family and friends — belonged to Lawrence native Lisa Donnelly.
Donnelly, who’s now pursuing singing and songwriting full-time in Los Angeles, says the exposure is a big boost but not necessarily a catapult for her career. She’s riding the momentum yet continuing to work hard at refining her sound, lining up gigs and recording her next album.
“If you’re walking down the path, you just get to take a big step forward for a little bit,” Donnelly says, “and then you keep walking.”
“Home,” her album set for release in May, explores “the understanding that home is with you wherever you go,” Donnelly says. For her, that goes for her experiences and her music.
Donnelly says her decidedly non-9-to-5 life involves traveling a lot, keeping odd hours and living in a city that can be cutthroat, competitive, industry-driven and even lonely. She describes her new album as the completion of a cycle — a realization that no matter how long you’re away, your roots are still with you.
In interviews and blog posts, she frequently lauds visits to more free-spirited locales like San Francisco, Austin and Lawrence as breaths of fresh air that help keep her inspired.
Donnelly describes the sound of her debut album, “We Had a Thing,” as pop-folk. “Home,” she says, has a pop sensibility but a rootsy vibe and blues-gospel edge — a throwback to the funky soul music that fans of The Lisa Donnelly Project remember seeing at Jazzhaus and other local venues, where she performed often before graduating from Kansas University and moving to Los Angeles in 2002.
“She’s always had an amazing voice and the ability to put her personality across, and I think the fruits of our efforts have been really driving and enhancing the soul of what she’s doing,” says Donnelly’s current producer, Ethan Allen.
Allen says Donnelly has wide appeal and is worthy of being a singer-songwriter everyone knows.
“She’s one of the great voices that we have right now, and she’s got some songs that really match and suit her present spirit,” Allen says.
Donnelly tweets at twitter.com/lisadonnelly, updates fans on her latest projects on her website, lisadonnelly.com, and is using PledgeMusic.com — a crowdsourcing website like Kickstarter, but for musicians — to help get the new album off the ground.
“Little by little, people find out about you,” she says. “And we live in a world of social media where people and fans are pretty much the way to drive musicians.”
The wedding singer
Donnelly’s been singing in weddings since she was a teenager and says her friends joke that theirs were good practice for the high-profile “Bachelorette” nuptials. The Huffington Post described the widely anticipated show — one of only two actual weddings resulting from the “Bachelorette” — as “something so rare and important for the franchise that ABC simply had to turn it into a reality special.”
When they got word about the “Bachelorette” opportunity, Donnelly and Allen wrote four love songs in 48 hours for show producers, Hebert and Rosenbaum to choose from.
Accompanied by a pianist, Donnelly sang in person during the picture-perfect wedding, which was televised Dec. 16 and included a few shots of Donnelly at the microphone amid footage of the happy couple, their family, friends and former “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” celebrities.
Donnelly’s toe-tapping but sweet “Here to Stay” has a country feel and a recessional-perfect, upbeat, happy vibe.
“I remember the day we met, I knew I would never forget that smile...” the song begins, before leading into the befitting chorus, “Our love is here to stay, and it was worth the fight.”
Donnelly, naturally, was thrilled about the publicity from the TV special. But she also enjoyed writing and performing her song for the couple for the same reasons that have always driven her singing and songwriting.
Whether about hopeful moments or heartbreak, performing music based on one’s own experiences lets audiences know they’re not alone. That connection helps keep Donnelly inspired.
“There’s a never-ending well to draw from because life is so complex and beautiful,” she says, “and there’s always something to write about.”