Music is ever-changing, building on the past to bridge the gap to the future. Musician Daniel Donato is invoking his musical heroes in his own music, giving him a genre of his very own.

He calls it “cosmic country.”

Donato, a 25-year-old Nashville native, has distilled those life lessons into his debut album, “A Young Man’s Country,” his proper introduction to the general musical audience. Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium in a mere two days and produced by guitar-ace Robben Ford, the record weaves outlaw country, Grateful Dead-style Americana, and first-rate songwriting into a singular form Donato calls “21st-century cosmic country.”

Chicago Scene caught up with Donato before a gig at Chicago’s Bourbon on Division in Wicker Park.

“They think there’s something that tips the scale in ways they don’t understand,” Donato said about his music style. “But what actually tips the scale is the amount of thought and analysis I put into my work and art, all of which is taken from the lessons of my life.”

Since the age of 12, Donatto has lived, breathed, and immersed himself in all things music. At 16 he became the youngest musician to regularly play the iconic honky Tonk Robert’s Western World while gigging with the Don Kelley Band.

Cosmic Country album

It wasn’t long before he was busking on lower Broadway in Nashville, playing eight hours a day on weekends for tips. It was after one of those days’ sessions that he got the nerve to sneak into Robert’s Western World on a night when house act The Don Kelley Band was playing. He said that night changed him, forever.

“It was the first time I ever saw a band that was that good up close,” Donato said. “So I’m literally watching them play and I’m crying. I decided right then that I wanted to be the best guitar player in the world.”

Incubated to the sounds of the Grateful Dead, educated by some of Nashville’s finest players and having more than 2,000 shows under his belt and a social media presence, Donato is a trailblazer. The message of his songs contains the central tenet of Donato’s “Cosmic Country” ethos, which is about finding the courage to blaze your own path.

To learn more about Donato and his “comic country” music, click here.

For more Chicago Scene fun, follow @tomwgnchicago on Instagram.

Daniel Donato