On the Couch with Sean Donehue

Sean-Donehue-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Sean Donehue?
I am a 25-year-old session musician, singer-songwriter and composer from Melbourne (Naarm), Australia. I have worked as a singer, writer and/or arranger for artists (including Em Rusciano, Kaiit, Bachelor Girl), national events (including AFL Grand Final, Australian Open), and I’m an MD and lead vocalist of Sunshine and the Disco Faith Choir. With my roots in professional theatre (Opera Australia), I’m also the composer/lyricist of BEARDED alongside Nick Waxman; the ‘Brand New Queer Aussie Musical’ has received support and developmental funding from the AMTF Residency Development Program, the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), the Australian Institute of Music (AIM), Homegrown Theatre Co., and was shortlisted for the 2021 APRA AMCOS Professional Development Awards.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
At risk of sounding cliché, I’m fortunate enough to be able to do exactly what I want to do for a living and live my life authentically. I’m a serial ‘live in the moment’ kind of person (gross, I know, but true). That’s not to say I’ve never thought about doing things differently, and given the chance, I’d have trusted myself to write this show 5 years earlier. I’ve never imagined a life outside of music, and I suppose that’s the self fulfilling prophecy, but if I wasn’t able to sing, play or write, I’m certain I’d still find a way to exist in the arts as a manager or promoter of sorts. Who knows though, maybe I’m destined to be a lawyer and I don’t even know it yet…

Who inspires you and why?
The list of inspiring figures in my life is truly endless. I’m inspired by new people everyday. The connecting through line are qualities and attributes I find inspiring. I’m inspired by people with a point of view, by ambition, by a strong work ethic, by authenticity, by generosity. My parents demonstrated the importance of all these things, and now in turn the closest humans to me all exemplify these qualities in their own unique way, and that’s why they’re my friends. My musical inspirations are songwriters and composers that express the same qualities in their music; Sara Bareilles, Donovan Woods, Jason Robert Brown and Missy Higgins to name a few.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I think it’s hard sometimes to feel like you even can make a difference. It’s easy to become futile or feel guilty about the state of the world, like with every problem you fix a new one turns up. I’ve reflected on this a lot, and I honestly believe that just walking through the world as your most authentic self and leading with kindness and uplifting those around you really does make a difference in this world. Particularly as a proud queer person in a position of privilege who is able to share queer stories on a large scale, I recognise the importance of that representation and visibility. To make a difference in the world we actually need to see the whole world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I’ve managed to see some pretty impressive corners of the world in my short 25 years. One of the most magical places I’ve ever been to is Iceland. It genuinely feels like another planet, the scale is insane, it’s sparse, wild and uninhibited; you really feel like a guest in that space and almost like you’ve learnt a secret by just being there. On the other hand, half of my family are Maori and live in New Zealand. For obvious reasons, every time I go back it’s amazing to see my grandparents and cousins but also to connect with my heritage and the land that is sacred to my ancestry.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
The first place I take any visitors to is my parent’s house. They have property on the edge of the Yarra Valley, looking out to the hills with kangaroos, wombats, eagles, echidnas and every other animal you would see on an Australian postcard. It’s essentially Healesville Sanctuary minus the entry fee. Alternatively, any music venue on any night of the week, Melbourne really is the live music capital of the world.

What are you currently reading?
When I have time to read, I’m a big reader of Philosophy, Essays, Poetry and Plays. Here’s a few I’m reading or just finished: Maori Philosophy by Dr. Georgina Tuari Stewart, What Is Existentialism? By Simone de Beauvoir, People who Lunch by Sally Olds, Race by Toni Morrison and the classic A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller.

What are you currently listening to?
This question is simply too hard, but here’s a few things I’ve been rinsing: Being Funny in a Foreign Language by The 1975, Without People by Donovan Woods, Schvitz by Vulfpeck, Honey by Robyn and the Sibling Rivalry podcast.

Happiness is?
Happiness is exactly what I’m doing right now to be completely honest. Happiness is seeing the fruits of your labour, happiness is sharing your passions with other people, happiness is finding the exact right lyric/melody/harmony combination, happiness is a cold glass of Bollinger accompanying soft d’Affinois outside, the sun is out but there are intermittent clouds in the sky with a slight breeze and the temperature is 23 exactly, but it feels like 22. But the real happiness is seeing people who make you happy, happy.

What does the future hold for you?
I really think my future will not look or feel too dissimilar to now. I already feel successful, and I’ve achieved things that I never thought I would even 5 years ago. I’m always living in the present and I make a point of celebrating every success and enduring tough moments with the knowledge that I’m lucky enough to live the life I live when tragically so many don’t get that opportunity. I’d love to keep writing music and theatre that speaks to lots of people but also feels authentic my experience. I also hope the near future holds for me a cold glass of Bollinger, d’Affinois and a sublime 23 degree day.

Sean is the Composer / Lyricist of BEARDED – which will be presented at Cube 37 – Frankston Arts Centre from 1 – 3 March 2023. For more information, visit: www.artscentre.frankston.vic.gov.au for details.

Image: Sean Donehue (supplied)