INTERVIEW: LOUIS DONNARUMMA PRESENTS THE SONGS OF JEFF BUCKLEY AT FRINGE FESTIVAL

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Jeff Buckley fans will be thrilled to know his music is being celebrated at Adelaide Fringe this year, and non Jeff Buckley fans could very well become converted.

We spoke to 19-year-old Adelaide musician Louis Donnarumma for our 16 for ‘16 spectacular about his show, Grace: The Songs of Jeff Buckley and what it’s like to pay tribute to his idol.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInspired by his alignment with Buckley’s style and musicianship, Louis has always been a fan of the late guitarist whose career was cut short by his tragic death in 1997 at age 31.

“I feel connected to the music because of Buckley’s storytelling, and also his composition. Jeff Buckley is one of those guys you can’t put a genre on and I love that. When I heard the album, Grace, the only album he released, it hit me that, wow, you can do that to music!” Louis says.

“That was at a time I was really searching for a sound, and when I listened to him, I thought, yes, that’s where I want to be. His presence and the way the emotion of the music and lyrics play through his voice; I don’t think there are many that can do that.”

Louis chose to put together Grace: The Songs of Jeff Buckley after a successful season of Maggie and Louis Live at last year’s Fringe Festival.

“Last year, I did a Fringe show with Maggie Rutjens; she has done a lot of work with Timberwolf and Daniel Champagne and a lot of really good people. After that, I realised that Fringe is about putting on a show that’s unique, something people wouldn’t normally get to see; so I thought about everything I knew and the influences I had and one of the biggest influences I have is Jeff Buckley,” he says.

Print“I know I’ll never see him play live, and I’ve spent hours and hours watching him on YouTube. I don’t think people get to hear his music that often anymore; he is such a prestigious name and the music will live on for a long time, but I feel like people won’t get to hear it, so this is a good opportunity for Jeff Buckley lovers to bring back the music. It’s also a good chance for younger people to discover the music.”

Playing at two of Adelaide’s most unique and notable live music venues was a conscious choice to set the scene to relive Buckley’s halcyon days.

“We really wanted to get venues that emulated the nineties, so we picked The Wheatsheaf Hotel and The Grace Emily. One we got them, Ryan Kris, my manager, and I talked about how it would all play out, and the kind of journey we wanted the audience to go on,” Louis says.

“So we decided to play the album and have a story to it. We chose to put in a Tim Buckley song, which was Jeff’s dad – he had albums and albums, so we thought we should talk about him. We’re doing two full sets, so it’s more like a gig where you can sit, relax, have a glass of wine and listen to the music; I think that’s what Jeff would do. We really want people to have a good night out.”

While he’s also performing in other Fringe shows, Louis, who is a solo musician, band member and music teacher, has put this show together accompanied by university friends to showcase his talent and help build an already thriving career.

“I’m doing other shows, but with the Buckley show, we’re doing three shows with the full band. They’re guys I’m studying with, so we know each other really well. On bass, we have Anthony Costanzo, he’s been in several local rock bands for a couple of years; then there’s a guy called Glenn Charles, from the U.K. who’s studying here. We also have a musician called Tyler Venter who does a lot of session stuff for a lot of people, so I’m really lucky to have a good, solid band,” he says.

“My solo thing is the goal I want to follow, so I want to get to the next level and become more established. The Fringe show is a great way to reach out to a wider audience and say ‘This is who I am. This is one of my influences and I hope you enjoy the show.”

Grace: The Songs of Jeff Buckley will play on February 13, 21 and March 5. Grab your tickets here.

By Libby Parker
Photos supplied

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Libby Parker
Libby Parker is a journalist, teacher and life enthusiast.
You can follow her on Twitter at @upsidenews_lib