As a student at Auburn University in 2008 and 2009, Donica Knight would wait in line for hours for the student section gates to open for football games at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Even after leaving school to pursue a music career, Knight’s love of Auburn football remained strong, and in 2013, she wrote and recorded “Great To Be,” a celebration of the university’s rich football heritage.
In early 2016, the talented and charismatic singer and songwriter will release her debut EP, Can’t Buy a Southern Girl, which features an exciting blend of country, blues and gritty Southern rock inspired by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Patsy Cline, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Rolling Stones. A video for the album’s scorching first single, “Love Ain’t A Prize,” directed by veteran cinematographer Noel Maitland, was released online in September of 2015 and promptly earned airplay around the country and a position on the IndiMusic TV Top 21 Video Countdown. Donica’s success has led to a rigorous touring schedule throughout the southeast, during which she has performed more than 350 dates, opening for iconic acts including Hank Williams Jr., Luke Bryan, Kenny Rogers, The Band Perry and many more.
Donica has written and recorded duets with country legend Ronnie Milsap, and her music has been featured on the soundtracks of films including Halloween Party and Alabama Dirt.
What was your childhood like, and how did it help to shape who you are today?
My childhood definitely shaped who I am today and defined the hard core values I hold dear to my heart. I had the best childhood. My parents raised my brother and I in a loving home in Prattville, Alabama. We had some land which connected to our grandparents’ house, which kept our family close. We would ride dirt bikes, four-wheelers and enjoyed playing outside sports. Our parents taught us the results of hard work and always supported us in any activity we were involved in. I am very grateful for my childhood.
When and how did you initially become interested in music and performing?
I had my first solo in first grade, so music started early in my life. My elementary music teacher saw something special in my voice and every year I always had the “big solo.” It was not until I went to college that I decided to pursue music as a career.
What inspires you?
Emotions and beauty! There is something special about a gorgeous painted sky that hits your heart in magical way or beauty behind the sadness of a good cry. Love, family, music, experience, people, a fun night on the town, there are lots of things that inspire me.
What was the recording process like for Can’t Buy a Southern Girl?
It was different than any recording process I have done in the past. It was recorded in Los Angeles, which automatically gave it a different experience, putting a Southern girl in the big city of L.A. Before we went into the studio, each song was given proper prep time and we did not rush recording tracks that were not ready. This was the first time I had ever tracked instruments one at a time, meaning we would go to the studio just to track drums on a song. We would work on the drums and percussion for a few days until we had the exact sound we wanted before moving onto bass, etc.
How have Chris Vos and Jim Huff helped to shape your sound and your approach to songwriting?
Chris Vos and Jim Huff both taught me new things about songwriting.
Vos was a co-writer on “Love Ain’t A Prize” and he emphasized the importance of keeping a tune “front porch” and personal to you. I am very grateful to him and hope to continue to learn how to write real raw emotions like he does.
Jim taught me a whole bunch and was key in shaping this record. He dug deep into understanding was it is that I like and enjoy. He also showed me the importance in taking your time on fine-tuning a song before you consider it done; by that I mean trying the “finished song” in several keys and different tempos before hitting the red record button.
In your opinion, does being a musician require a thick skin?
It requires thick skin or an unshakable self-confidence in your own abilities and music.
What’s the best song or album you’ve heard recently?
I have really been diving into the Tedeschi Trucks Band album Revolver. Susan has this incredible bluesy voice that just grabs my heartstrings.
Which Auburn football players have you most enjoyed watching over the years?
Well I have to give a shout out to my high school friends that ended up playing for the Auburn Tigers: Davis Hooper, Tommy Trot and Bart Eddins. I love seeing my friends and people I have a personal connection with going after their dreams and rocking it! But aside from them, Cam Newton was such a big part of our 2010 Auburn National Championship and an incredible athlete that it is nice watching him continue succeeding with his talents.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
To learn an instrument and stick with it!