Donna Nye was born in Pennsylvania into a musical family. Growing up under her father’s wing, an instructor and multi-instrumentalist, performing was already in her genes. They formed Kings & Queens with her sister Sandy on bass guitar and vocals and her father Donald on keyboards, saxophone and guitar.
Kings & Queens recorded an EP with two songs, “Shake Me” and “Foolin’ Myself,” written by Alan Merrill, who penned the song “I Love Rock & Roll,” famously covered by Joan Jett. By their late teens, the girls were a formidable duo writing over 300 rock songs. Over time, Nye grew into a versatile artist, brewing up rock, soul (both electric and acoustic), and polished pop tunes like her song “Wild Angel,” recorded in 2021.
We chat with Donna about her musical journey, songwriting, and her impressive guitar collection.
Share a little about your musical background. How old were you when you started playing guitar, and what inspired your passion for music?
I was 5 years old when my dad taught me accordion/keyboards and 8 years old when I asked him to teach me guitar. At that time, I was inspired by a show called “Bewitched” — the episode where Samantha’s sister Serena played guitar was all I needed to see. I wanted to be just like her. My Dad started a family band and the rest is history. He was a music instructor and self-taught musician and could play many instruments. My Mom, Marie Nye, at one point in time, was even our light person and our biggest fan and moral support.
There were various incarnations of Kings & Queens. You have been part of the band, as well as a duo and solo projects, correct?
Yes, I had a two-piece band called Donna Nye Band along with my Dad, and that was started in 2010. I also performed as Donna Nye Electric, which was solely me and my electric guitar, about two years before COVID struck. Then, I would go out and play acoustically by myself, and that was called Donna Nye Acoustic (DNA). Within that timeframe, me and my sister Sandy also played as an acoustic duo called Kings & Queens Acoustic Revolution.
Quite a lot of history writing and performing. Please share more about your songs.
I had a windfall of over 120 pop songs that I wrote by myself within a three-year period — recording, performing, writing, and arranging all the tracks; all the songs are copyrighted. I have a lot of my pop songs on SoundCloud and Reverbnation, which you can check out (see links at end). In 2021, I was selected as one of the top ten finalists in the World Songwriting Awards (WSA) Winter 2021 songwriting contest. It was for best pop song for my song “Wild Angel.” It was an international contest with 129 countries around the world participating in it.
You are definitely a self-starter creating music as well as a vibrant presence on social media. Were you ever offered a recording deal? If so, what happened?
Me and my sister Sandy were offered a record deal in the past by RCA Records. At that time, they only wanted Sandy and I. We had passed on the deal, we didn’t want to exclude our Dad, Don Nye, who taught both of us everything we know about music at a very early age. Looking back, it was a foolish decision, but I can never regret my soulful life and that I followed another road and my destiny.
Regarding songwriting, what types of environments do you feel you need in order to be your most creative?
That’s a difficult question because I had a windfall of songs that was given, or rather, channeled all at once and equipped me with a catalog of over 120 pop/rock songs. I have written, arranged and recorded these songs in a time period of about three years nonstop. I was connected to something higher, magical and beautiful. The songs just flowed through me and wrote themselves. I would write a song and then listen into the music and hear the words in the music. Every day I would write and arrange a song, and at the end of my day (3 AM), I’d be dancing around wearing headphones in my kitchen doing dishes or mowing the lawn the next day. Then I would put on earphones and listen to the song I wrote, arranged and recorded that day. All instruments, vocals, recording, mix, and drums were performed on my own. This was solely my project. A lot of these songs you can also hear on Soundcloud and Reverbnation.
What guitars have you preferred over the years? And what are you playing right now?
I have many electric guitars and acoustic guitars. My legendary guitar I played over my years of making a living from my performances was a blond custom Gibson Les Paul made with oak wood. Oak is well known for its magical qualities — you can check that out online. I also own a sunburst Gibson Custom Les Paul. I’m pretty sure that’s maple wood; my Dad’s Don Nye guitar was used in Kings & Queens. The finish on the back side of my blond Les Paul was so worn off from the studded belts I wore that I had to use duct tape to protect it from being totally destroyed!
When I perform on the rock club circuit, I am notorious for playing my Les Paul using a Jim Beam bottle as a slide. I also like using metal picks because metal against metal gives me the most satisfying sound. There is a video of me if you watch that video (see link at end) where I have the metal pick in my mouth as I run the liquor bottle up and down the neck of the guitar. Getting back to my collection, I own two black and Bubble Gum Pink B.C. Rich Warlocks, a white Gibson Flying V, ESP Ltd, Kirk Hammett Ouija Guitar, Glass or Acrylic Dan Armstrong Guitar, Ibanez 12-string acoustic, 6-string Gibson acoustic, and a couple of bass guitars. Most of which were gifts from friends and fans. My favorite and most used guitars are my Gibson Les Paul Customs.
Finish this sentence: I believe music…
I believe music is a universal language. Every species on earth, including humans, animals, birds, mammals, reptiles, and anything alive, all hear and feel the same thing when listening to the vibrations and frequencies — that open resonance into the source that created these creatures. Also, I believe music heals the body. Every musical note and its exact frequency in Hz has a link to the body’s anatomy at a quantum level. For example, the earth resonates at 7.84 Hz.
What inspires you to wake up every day and continue pursuing your dreams?
My whole life was molded into a musical career and background by my father, Donald Nye, so one way or another, my reach will always be linked to music. Whether it be pursuing an onstage international Rock Star goal or venturing out in a new direction of shopping my original songs to the most famous musical artists in the industry today, and artists of the past, which is what I’m in the process of doing now. Currently, an industry professional is shopping my original pop songs to major artists like Cher and Pink. To answer your question, it’s just who I am in life. My inner soul, mind and history are ingrained in me and inspire me to keep moving forward.
Listen to Donna Nye at Reverbnation and
SoundCloud (Donna Nye) and SoundCloud (Donna Nye Music)
Donna Nye Electric
Watch Crazy slide guitar – Les Paul with a Jim Beam bottle
*Photos provided by artist with permission to use.