Change.


People always say how change is good. The one thing that they normally leave out is that change is often times necessary.


For Jim Donovan, that need for change led him to transform his life from the drummer in Rusted Root to a dedicated father and family man.


For over a decade, Donovan has taught full time at a university with ideas dancing in his head to make a new album.


After two health scares that precipitated the need to get an album done, in November 2015, Donovan released his first album, “The Sun King Warriors.” The album was a real labor of love as it took nearly five years from inception to release.


Donovan recently completed a December run as Jim Donovan and The Sun King Warriors. The band will play at the Kollar Club on Dec. 30


The Swerve Magazine recently spoke with Donovan about “The Sun King Warriors,” Rusted Root and much more.


The Swerve Magazine: Not many people would have the courage to walk away from a successful band to concentrate on raising a family. Can you talk a little about what led to that decision and why it was the right move for you?


Jim Donovan: At the very end of 2004, our third child Oliver was born. My two daughters were two and four at the time and I had regularly been missing important things in their lives-birthdays, first steps.., etc. One day in the fall of 2004 I came home and announced to my wife Tracey that I was leaving Rusted Root to which she replied "You can't do that. What will we do for income?" I told her I'd find a way to make it work but that I was no longer willing to miss them all every day. Though I loved the music, touring had become a chore. I knew I was needed at my house and so the choice was clear to me. I can't say it was easy, though. I mourned leaving for a few years after and had to relearn how to live in the real world; one that wasn't asking for autographs or clapping for me after every single thing I did.  I also had to learn more about who I was underneath my band identity "Jim Donovan, drummer of Rusted Root." It took me quite a while to find out who I was as a person outside of that band.


SM: Did you think that one day you would return to producing and releasing music again?


JD: I always hoped I would and couldn't figure out how it would ever be possible with three kids and a full-time university teaching job.

After the health scares, I realized that if making original music again was important that I would have to figure out how to make it happen.


SM: Working three hours a month over five years to get “The Sun King Warriors” done, did that process focus you creatively?


JD: Yes it did. While the in-studio recording process happened in small increments, much creativity happened during the time in between sessions. I drive quite a bit and so I always had the recordings in-process with me in the car to listen to over and over. Having so much time allowed me to really sit with each song and find out if it felt right, if I got sick of it or if an arrangement needed to be tweaked up.


SM: Were there times when frustration set in like it would never get done?


JD: Unlike any recording I've done, I did not have a set "end" time. In fact, I wasn't sure I'd even release the music up until about four months before the end.


Of course, I'd hoped it would get released, but I wouldn't let myself think about what I was going to do with the record. I did this because I knew that if I began thinking about the future, I might get too sidetracked with planning and not focus on making the best album I could.


SM: How did you overcome those times?

JD: I had some "rules of engagement" for myself and my producer Sean McDonald.


I put these in place because I tend to be impatient:

1. The album is done when it is done.

2. There will be no cutting corners or rushing anything.

3. The only songs that get released are ones with true authentic emotion and personal meaning.

4. Treat this recording as if it were my last one.


SM: Was there a time when you thought maybe the album would not be released?


JD: Yes, for the first 4-and-a-half years…


SM: How important/influential were your health scares in getting the album done and out?


JD: I had two. One in 2011 and again in 2013. Both were ones that doctors told me were "near death" (and both turned out to be false alarms thankfully)


They had much to do with inspiring me to get it done. Additionally, I wanted my kids to see the part of their dad that creates and performs music- something I hadn't been doing since they were in diapers. I felt like it was important for them to witness a creative process from beginning to end and to find out how much patience and refinement the process takes.


Secondly, I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I had always wanted to record a full-length disc, but I had a fear of not feeling good enough to do so- especially where singing was concerned. Getting past this fear was a piece of personal work I consciously undertook to make it happen. These two factors, along with the health scares and the recognition that my time here on the planet is finite continue to be prime motivators.


SM: How important was it to have your children sing and play on the album?


JD: More important than making the album itself. Having them work with me is one of my great life joys this far.


SM: Playing drums, guitar and singing on the album was it easier to accomplish your vision for the record this way?


JD: Yes. I tend to have pretty clear ideas about what a song should sound like and how it should feel. That being said I allow myself to be open to input from those I trust and the others we brought in to record additional tracks like Kevin Mc Donald lead guitars, Rob James (Clarks) and my bassist Kent Tonkin.


SM: Playing all the instruments in the studio, originally were there plans to take this music on the road?


JD: I had no plans for the road and so I never considered playing the songs live until around 2013.


SM: And in doing so, how did you find the musicians to accomplish taking the album on tour?


JD: Kent Tonkin (bass), Bryan Fazio (conga) and Harry Pepper (Percussion) and I had an "all drum" group called Drum the Ecstatic (DTE) who played off and on like three or four times per year since 2005. The group was nothing serious, but it kept me playing music. In the back of my mind, I was on the lookout for people I enjoyed hanging out with and who were excellent musicians in case I ever put together something a little more serious. In 2013, I decided to shift DTE away from African traditional drum music and more towards this new body of work. Since I knew the album was to be called Sun King Warriors, I decided we'd call the band the same thing.... After the recording was complete Kevin McDonald approached me and said he'd like to be considered for the live band to which I immediately said yes. As for our drummer Joe Marini, I had met him at one of my workshops a few years ago and really took a liking to him. I feel very lucky to have musicians of this caliber creating music with me.


SM: With the album out and a tour almost behind you, what does the new year hold for Jim Donovan?


JD: Every Tuesday, starting in January, we're in the studio recording album #2. There's already a good 10-12 new songs ready to go, and so I'm itching to get back in there and begin the process again- especially now that we've got more of a band now. We'll also play a few dates per month through the year regionally. It feels so good to be making music again!

We'll be documenting the process and uploading snippets to Sun King Warriors on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We'll have a better idea of a single release date and album release date later this spring. I anticipate this recording process to be a bit quicker than the last one! (Though the rules of engagement will remain!)