Music

6 Things I’ve Learned About Life as a Professional Country Artist

Aaron McDonnell is a country artist based in Austin, Texas. He performs with his wife Dani and their band, The Neon Eagles. Below, McDonnell shares candid insight into his life both on and off the stage and as a professional country performer and songwriter. 

Always make your wife coffee before she leaves for work

Let’s face it, someone has to make sure we have insurance and a steady income, and in our family, it’s my wife Dani. In addition to being in my band (and starting a solo career) she is a BOSS in the digital marketing world. Her sacrifice of continuing to operate in the corporate world allows me to do what I do.

My siblings still hate it when I pick up a guitar

Some things never change. While we all love our brothers and sisters we also annoy them. My sister Katie has always been encouraging, but that encouragement usually comes with an eye roll. In a cruel turn of events, the universe gave Katie a son who adores our music. They literally cannot get in the car without my CD being played and she must eternally endure my tunes.

Tour buses only exist for the elite few

The life of a musician inevitably involves travel. Radio tours and gigs in Dallas, Midland, Houston, Lubbock, Fort Worth, Waxahachie, Alpine, etc., etc., etc… Texas is BIG! Perhaps someday we will enjoy a lavish bus, but until then we’ll be trying not to fart on each other too much in the van. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my van and was so proud the day I got it, but it does leave something to be desired. #vanlife.

READ MORE: Loretta Lynn’s Tour Bus is up for Sale

Privates events are key

While playing a packed club or dancehall truly is living the dream, they usually don’t pay all that great. In order to keep the business afloat, we play a ton of private events. Weddings, corporate gigs, birthday parties… we’ll do whatever! I’ve always loved the movie The Wedding Singer, but never saw myself in that role. It’s an interesting position to be in, and I do love being involved in people’s big day, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little hit to the ego. That said, booking info is available on aaronmcdonnell.com.

People are confused when I say I from Oregon

Is it actually possible to be a Texas country artist and play traditional music and NOT be from Texas? Yes, it is! It’s always a fun conversation when people are genuinely perplexed by the fact that I’m from some weird state called Oregon. “You listen to country music up there?” “You like steel guitar?” “How did you come to like country in the Northwest?” Believe it or not, outside of Portland most all of the state is rural and also home to farms, ranches, and even pro rodeo stops. Oregon is country AF.

Yoga is the greatest thing ever

In my old age, I have discovered a magical practice to unravel myself out of the van, and uncurl myself from around my guitar. Ahhhhh… yoga. While I would like to walk in the footsteps of my heroes, it’s hard to imagine Dwight Yoakam in a downward dog, or George Strait busting into a chaturanga, but I am proud to be a yogi, and believe it may actually save my life.

You can hear more of Aaron’s thoughts about life on the road in our recent podcast episode

Now Watch: Aaron and Dani McDonnell Perform Live at Wide Open Country HQ

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Life as a Professional Country Artist