Freeway Donna: A Duo Worth Discovering
“2 piece guitar/drums desert sounds, twanging am radio, Primitive beats, and ice cream voice;” that’s how the Grand Junction band Freeway Donna describes their sound. While the description is both simplistic and cryptic, it’s a fairly accurate representation of the alternative rock duo after listening to their music.
The band consists of Talya Dewey (lead vocals, guitar) and Andrew Watson (drums, back up vocals) and was formed somewhat unexpectedly.
“We’ve both been musicians in the downtown scene for a minute and late last fall we kind of decided to start jamming together,” Dewey said.
Watson said that he was originally trying to set up a show for Dewey when she insisted that the only way she would play is if he accompanied her on the drums. Since then, the band has been performing in the downtown GJ music scene.
With the creation of a band comes, of course, the daunting task of choosing a band name. While many obsess over the endless combination of animal names and angsty adjectives, the name ‘Freeway Donna’ came to Dewey in a dream. The guitarist frequents Grand Junction’s Freeway Bowl and subconsciously combined the alley’s name with a “rad” employee.
Once the name came together, Freeway Donna could focus on what they love about performing. For Watson, it’s watching the crowd and their reaction to their music. For Dewey, performing’s greatest reward is self expression.
“The songs you choose to cover, you choose to write, are a way of expressing yourself and it’s cool to see that emanate through a crowd, see them feel what you’re feeling,” Dewey said.
To obtain space at venues such as Barons Grill does not come without practice, practice that often involves more than just the two of them.
“We practice at my house and the kids usually come in during the practice,” Watson, who is a father of two, said. He takes visible pride in how he has raised his children around his passion for music. “Art, music, they’ve been around it since they were born,” he said.
Dewey credits her passion for music to her music-oriented upbringing as well. She was raised in a small town in Wyoming which had virtually no music scene. However, her parents (who met in band class) instilled a love for sound in her anyway.
“There was always music in my house,” Dewey said.
This was perhaps the spark that fueled her future musical career, which was foreshadowed in high school when she was involved with a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band.
Though Dewey at one point thrived on imitating the sound of a favorite band, she now is heavily involved in the process of writing original music for Freeway Donna.
“It starts at Talya,” Watson said.
Their formula for writing hauntingly earthy and mellow songs is overtly simple, yet is still a process few could imitate successfully.
“You sing a little melody in your head, figure out something new and different to play with it and just hope that the lyrics fall into place,” Dewey said, “Luckily, sometimes they do.”
Freeway Donna’s music stands out from grungy-punk sound one is used to associating with the term “local band.” The vocals are soulful and beat with as much rhythm as the contagious drumming. Their sound is almost eerie, but not to the point of depressing you. Songs such as “Halah” communicate despondency in the lyrics but can still make you want to get up and dance. It takes a special kind of sound to make you want to cry and caper at the same time.
The band, which is well-known within both the Grand Junction and Colorado Mesa University music communities, does not function solely off of quality songwriting and musical passion. Behind the scenes is local filmmaker and digital marketer, Nicholas Moore.
Moore is in charge of activities such as booking but is mainly focused on promoting the duo through online media.
“I’ve taken thousands of photos of local musicians and now I actually have a way to invest that into a specific band,” Moore said.
Moore, along with Watson and Dewey, has big plans for Freeway Donna. They are hoping to begin touring in the near future.
“We’ve got some places to go and people to see,” Dewey said.
Though the band is growing in popularity and success, they remain humble regarding their roots. Watson and Dewey stressed that a career in music starts small.
“Start playing,” Watson said, “Start a band… just do it.”
Dewey agrees. She knows better than anyone that making it in the music scene takes a lot of time and commitment.
“I was gifted a guitar when I was 16 and I carried it around with me forever and I didn’t learn to play it until almost a decade later,” Dewey said, “It hurts your fingers and it’s hard but it’s so worth it.”
You can catch Freeway Donna live at their next show on March 2 at Intrinzik in Montrose. If you are unable to check out their sound in the flesh, head on over to freewaydonna.com for clips of their music —- their four-song playlist is exclusively available here and continues to grow.
Five songs that will change your perspective on life (According to Freeway Donna):
● Aretha Franklin - “Chain of Fools”
● Procol Harum - “Whiter Shade of Pale”
● Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - “American Girl”
● Bruce Springsteen - “Hungry Heart”
● New Order - “Age of Consent”
● The Gun Club - “Sex Beat”
● Dawn Penn - “You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)”
● Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - “I Learned The Hard Way”