Telling stories with a fiddle and steel guitar is a long lost art in modern country music. Donice Morace has made that ideology his calling card, with a refreshing sound that shows glimpses of 90s greats such as Mark Chestnutt, but also feels fresh in its own way.
Since releasing his debut solo EP in June of 2017, Morace has seen his stock steadily rise, and is preparing to record a full-legnth album later in the year.
In this interview, Morace sheds light on his influences, going solo, a few of the songs on his debut EP, and more. Check it out below!
JL: Who were some of your biggest musical influences growing up?
DM: Jones, Haggard, Strait, Whitley, Chesnutt and Byrd.
JL: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
DM: Ya know, I’ve been asked this question a lot, and it was a couple of things around the same time that pulled me in. George Strait came to the Beaumont Civic Center, walked onstage and said “Man, it sure is good to be here in Corpus Christi tonight.” It just took me back realizing he was having such a good time doing what he loved that he had no idea where he was. Also, being from Beaumont, TX I got to see things start and snowball for Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd and Clay Walker. It inspired me, and I realized then that it was actually attainable.
JL: You had been active in music for quite a while, but mostly with groups. Why do you think now was the best time to go solo and release your own music?
DM: Great question. For the last 10 years, I had been the lead singer of the band Twangsters Union. When I recorded this EP, we used session players and the band didn’t really want their name on the record if they didn’t record it. It was a tough decision, because I have a really difficult name to pronounce. It just made me have to work harder; kind of starting from scratch again, but so far it’s worked out.
JL: Trent Willmon produced your debut EP. How did working with someone who has been so successful in his own bring out the best in you?
DM: I really felt so blessed working with Trent. Not only is he really hot right now in the production/songwriting scene, but he’s so very genuine. It was only natural to trust him. I knew even in pre-production that he was going to push just a little to get me out of my comfort zone, and it’s exactly what I needed.
JL: “Good Hurt Comin’ On” has been the song from your EP that has seemed to really catch on with your fan base. Why do you think this song has connected with people the way it has?
DM: When I wrote that tune, I was listening to a lot of Waylon and a Chesnutt at the time and I’m sure it came out in the song. I’ve had people say that it was refreshing to hear that older sound done in a fresh way. I don’t know, sometimes I think that country music has changed so much in the last decade. Maybe they’re not used to hearing a fiddle and steel guitar in a country song (laughs).
JL: “Lost at Sea” is one of my personal favorites from your EP. Can you talk about the writing process behind that song?
DM: I’ve loved this song for a long time too. I didn’t write it; Shawn Camp wrote it. Trent was already familiar with it, and filled me in on the story behind it. So I know who it was written about, but I’d rather not name any names (laughs). I think most people can relate to it though, because most everyone has loved someone, bent over backwards for them and beaten themselves up about it not working out only to realize that hey, maybe it’s not me. Maybe they’re the crazy one.
JL: You recently released a music video for “WD-40 & Duct Tape,” a really cool video with a fun storyline. What was the experience like making your first solo music video?
DM: Oh, it was awesome! Scott Wilson and Brooke Fatigante Beltram produced and directed it. It’s such a fun song that it made making the video so easy to do. I’m no actor. Hell, I don’t even take good pics, but Scott and Brooke were so easy to work with. They had their work cut out for them breaking in a newbie.
JL: Do you have a favorite song on your EP? If so, which song and why is it special to you?
DM: I do. “Good Hurt Comin’ On” is one I wrote. Years ago, the band I was in cut “Whiskey & Whitley.” We didn’t have money to release it, and soon Josh Ward recorded it, released it and took it to #1. He did a hell of a job on it, but it was always a special song to me. So if you listen to the 2nd verse of “Good Hurt,” I kind of tipped my hat “Whiskey & Whitley.”
JL: You’ve opened for legends such as Merle Haggard and Kenny Chesney. What was your biggest takeaway from watching artists with that level of success and how they worked with the crowd?
DM: I’ve been so lucky to open for so many great artists over the years. I always tried to watch their show closely and pick up on things I thought I could incorporate in my show. The one constant thing I saw was how humble and professional they were, no matter what was going on in their day. That really stuck out to me. So many times, things can go wrong during the day or even in the show, but you can’t wear it.
JL: Can you describe your music/sound in a few words for someone who may not have heard you before?
DM: Hmm…traditional, nostalgic, but fun and positive at the same time. I’m an old soul, but I think there’s room in today’s country music for a fresh take on that. It’s a shame, but there are kids listening to country music today that never heard a fiddle or steel guitar in a song and how powerful that can be. And there’s a way to make it fun too.
JL: When looking back at your career, is there anything you know now about the industry, yourself, etc. that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
DM: Too many things to list (laughs). I will say this to the young ones just starting out. Be supportive of each other. Yes, it’s competitive, but it doesn’t have to be cut throat. I’ve been so fortunate to have people help me, putting in a good word or just giving me good advice. I try to do the same if I’m asked. But yeah, lift your peers up, support them. It’s a tough business and everyone needs support.
JL: What are your thoughts on the current state of country music?
DM: I really struggle with this, Justin. Mainstream country has pushed the envelope so far; claiming that there’s room for pop in country music. The only problem is, it has been going on so long that I wonder if there’s actually enough room for traditional country music anymore. I hope there is. Don’t get me wrong, the music they’re playing is good music, but it ain’t country. I’d rather they not try to label it that way.
JL: What is next for you and your career?
DM: Trent and I are actually putting together another album at the moment. It’ll be a 10-song album this time. We’ll be recording in October, so I’ve really been consumed with putting this together, but so excited about it.
JL: Additional comments:
DM: Justin, thank you for being patient with me and supporting guys like me coming up. It really means the world to me.
*Image courtesy of Donice Morace*
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