27 Sep 2021

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Donna Dean


Her mother, a professional rhythm guitarist with a love of Hawaiian music, was at home on stage backing Kiwi legends Bill Sevesi and Bill Wolfgram. Dean's grandfather was a talented Hawaiian lap steel guitarist in his peak at a time when local dance halls were hosting fashionable Hawaiian bands.

Dean's father played mandolin and ukulele with a particular feel recognised immediately as coming from his indigenous Maori roots. Musical memories from childhood are of family gatherings where her mother picked Jimmy Rodgers and Gene Autry songs and mimicked Maybelle Carter on her guitar. Her grandfather's versions of 12th Street Rag and Wailana and the distinctive Hawaiian style of Frank Farera were often accompanied by her father's unmistakable South Pacific ukulele playing.

Dean's mother was a major musical influence and a talented musician. "Music was our common ground. We talked about musicians and music a lot. There were times she spent entire weekends jamming with other musicians in her kitchen".

Dean has written songs for as long as she can remember. "I was writing songs in my head before I could even write my name. My mother taught me three chords on the ukulele and later on guitar. I wrote about family politics in my teens. Whatever was happening for me I'd verbalise in song rather than talk things through with somebody".

From the late 1990's Dean spent several years living in London. During that time she performed in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Greece, the Polish border, Lithuania, Greece and Prague. She has preceded or followed a handful of incredible songwriters on stage including Willie Nelson, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Webb and recorded with Russell Smith. Other support gigs include Austin Texas singer-songwriters Terry Allen, Katy Curtis, Pat Green and Eric Taylor and music producer/recording artist Ben Vaughn.

She has recorded four albums. One, an acoustic solo album recorded in London and two backed by Nashville based band The Amazing Rhythm Aces. Her most recent album Money (the extended version), a compilation of her last three albums, won the prestigious New Zealand 2004 Tui awards for the Best Album and Best Song for Country genre. Money is on the play list of radio stations in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, France, Uruguay and Australia.




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