We chatted with Donna the Buffalo’s vocalist/instrumentalist Tara Nevins to discuss the band’s new tour bus which was purchased with fundraiser proceeds raised by their fans collectively known as The Herd. We also talked about upcoming album plans, eating vegan on the road and what it was like playing with Butch Trucks for one of his last shows. Read the interview below and be sure to catch Donna the Buffalo playing at Suwannee Spring Reunion 2017 (daily schedule here).
How does it feel to be in a brand new bus?
It feels great. It’s been really fun having a brand new bus. The carpentry is beautiful. It’s overwhelming and we’re still in shock we were able to raise the money on Facebook and Gofundme. It’s amazing. This is our third trip in the bus and it’s still great. Everyone loves it.
It must feel great to have your fans and supporters come together to give you such an important tool in sharing your music across the country. You’ve worked hard and deserve it. Was it a little difficult giving up the attachment to the old bus?
We still have it. It’s parked right next to the new one.
Donna the Buffalo has been touring for over twenty-five years. How have you kept your consistency and creative edge over the years?
Having a passion about what you do certainly helps. We’re very fortunate to have developed a supportive community and following of great people around us. It feels like we have our own movement happening around us. It’s compelling. Having The Herd – our fanbase – around us is very supporting. We keep having interesting adventures and writing music – it’s just what we do.
Speaking of adventures, have there been any recent travels or exciting things you’ve experienced as a band?
We just went to Jamaica. We played with Los Lobos and Dark Star Orchestra. It was Dark Star Orchestra’s event. It was at a resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. It was fantastic.
I was informed the band is working on a new album. Can you share any details on what to expect?
We started working on it but haven’t gone back to it yet. We’ve been really busy with gigs. We’ll get back to it this spring.
You play several instruments in addition to being a polished vocalist. Was music in your blood from a young age?
I started playing music in school when I was young. It seemed like the thing to do. It came naturally. My parents always loved music and there was a lot of music in the house.
If you didn’t go down the music path, would you see yourself doing something else? Do you have any hidden talents?
I love to dance. I might have been a dancer. I may have been in radio. Maybe psychiatry, I don’t know [laughs].
Psychiatry – that’s interesting. Music can often alter people’s state of mind and be a source of healing – especially in a dance floor setting. Many people turn to music when they are looking for peace or to be uplifted and inspired. Is that a goal you have when creating and playing music?
No. You can’t really do that intentionally – it either happens or it doesn’t. It’s a reflection of the music and the vibe. That’s just always been our vibe for some reason. I can’t really figure it myself. People love to dance to our music and will dance all night. It’s just something in the sentiment of our music. It resonates with people in a way that gives them positive energy.
Maybe it’s the authenticity and simplicity that people are drawn to. The band doesn’t try to come across as anything other than what it is. The music touches a fundamental place in the heart of audience.
Well, I think you answered it better than I did. There you go.
This interview is for your upcoming show at Suwannee Spring Reunion. Will the band be premiering any new music at the event?
Most of the times I’ve seen Donna the Buffalo play were at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Do you have any particular moments that stand out?
There’s so many! It’s all somewhat of a blur. We’re part of the Suwannee family and we’ve been there since the beginning. We’ve had plenty of good experiences and played music with so many wonderful musicians. It’s so hard to pick out certain moments. Every year is full of good moments and it becomes a big collage.
What are some things you like to do in your off time when you’re not on the road?
I like to play my fiddle and accordion, get exercise. I like to visit with friends and family. I like to eat many healthy home cooked meals. I do a little shopping.
You mentioned you like home cooked meals. Do you cook?
Yeah. I went vegan and gluten-free.
Is it hard to find healthy food on the road? How do you maintain vegan and gluten-free diet when it’s not always convenient?
It’s a lot easier now with Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and a lot of the grocery stores carry organic items. You can always go to Indian restaurants and Thai and Vietnamese restaurants to find vegetables. We have a little kitchen on the bus for simple meals like breakfast and lunch. Culinary places are becoming a lot more evolved these days.
Last December, you played at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall near Jacksonville, FL. You had the opportunity to play with Butch Trucks at one of his last shows. He is a great icon in our community that will always be greatly missed. Can you share with us what it was like playing with him?
The show was great. We had a great time. The audience was great. Butch Trucks and the band were really nice. We thought it worked really nicely. It was a good fit and chemistry. We were just different enough to be able to entertain everyone and have it be a full evening of entertainment. We got along great and talked about how we should do more shows together. [His death] came as a shock to everyone. It was really sad, but that was a great gig.
Thank you for sharing the experience. We’re looking forward to seeing you at Suwannee this week. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we go?
We’re thrilled the crew there is continuing to have spring and fall events in Live Oak. We’re looking forward to it and we’re very happy to support it.
Photo by Bill Davis