Donna Colton is known for her deep expressive voice and original songwriting.  A glamorous figure on stage, her open-hearted sharing and down-to earth humor forms strong connections with audiences.  And this beloved status among her fans is demonstrated by the many awards, nominations and accolades she has received throughout her career. 

Based in Central New York, Colton was inducted into the SAMMYs (Syracuse Area Music Awards) Hall of Fame in 2009.  Previously nominated for Best Acoustic Act, her Donna Colton Christmas CD also received a SAMMY nomination in the Best Acoustic category.  Her career so far includes a feature performance on Charlie Daniels' Talent Roundup in Nashville, where she also played at The Bluebird Cafe.  Solo performances showcasing her songs took place at booth The Bitter End and The Spiral Club in New York City.  She has recorded seven albums and continues to write songs that explore contemporary emotions and issues with unmatched musicality. 

These highlights standout among many concert tours, media performances and musical eventsin which Colton continues to take part.  Whether audiences experienced her music at the Snowbird Lodge in Utah, the Iron Horse in Kansas, or at the long-running Winter Solstice Celebration held at the Cathedral in Syracuse, they cannot forget the passion she brings to every song.  A seasoned, dedicated performer, Colton started developing her talents as a singer, guitar player and a songwriter from a young age. 

 

EARLY YEARS

One of her first gigs, at age 13, was at a talent show at the New York State Fair.  Singing was a family affair.  Colton learned to sing harmony with her mother, her cousins and her Uncle Punk during family holidays.  Her Aunt Kathy and her Uncle Punk gave her guitar lessons and that where she learned how to finger pick on her nylon string guitar.  She remembers those “hillbilly spirituals,” a term coined by her husband, Sam Patterelli, and that both parents encouraged her in her career in music.  The family listened to Patsy Cline, The Everly Brothers, Hank Snow, The Fleetwoods and Marty Robbins records on an old portable suitcase record player.  In addition to this strong background in country music heard at home, Colton saw many musical performances in Syracuse at the New York State Fair with her family.  Some of these were Wayne newton, Mac Davis, Lynn Anderson, and George Jones with Tammy Wynette.  Another early influence during her teenage years was songwriter Carole King and especially her Tapestry album.  Inspiration was found listening to James Taylor, and songs by Janis Ian including “Society's Child” and “At Seventeen”.  

“I would save up to buy songbooks of artists I liked and try to learn how to play the tunes.  My repertoire at the time included songs from John Denver, Joan Baez, Jim Croce, Tanya Tucker, Dan Fogelberg and Elton John.  I'd get sheet music or cassettes and learn to play the songs by ear.” 

Sometime after the talent show, her parents met with Mike Gentile, who worked out of NYC in the music business.  He listened to Colton and told her, “These days, you have to write your own songs.”  And so, she did.  One of the first songs she wrote was called, “Michael”, and since she was taking french class in seventh grade, she asked her teacher to translate one of the verses so she could sing it in french. “When I learned to play guitar and sing, it's all I ever wanted to do,” says Colton.  From that time onward her playing and singing has included writing and performing her own songs. 

She received an early education in music promotion, when a local DJ who told her he thought she sounded like Linda Ronstadt, wrote letters and sent demo tapes to music producers and radio DJ's that he knew to try and help kickstart her career.  Many others helped in these endeavors, people who heard her and believed in he talent and abilities, family members, friends and other musicians.  As a teenager, Colton performed in restaurants, schools, hospitals and nursing homes.  One of the first big shows she was in was held at the Everson Museum.  She was in a cast of local talent on the theater stage where she got to sing her song, Michael, and the Irish tune Galway Bay.  One or more parent was always present, illustrating their unfailing belief in their daughter's talents. 

As a young woman, Colton performed with her musical cousins in Rear View Mirror and tried out a duo with her sister, Marleah.  They took the name Colton Road from the Lafayette, New York home where they lived for a time as children.  Vocal harmonies were very much the focus, helping them get gigs on the Syracuse University Hill and on local television, as well as around Central New York. 

When they formed the band Double Down, it became a staple of the local music scene with popular covers and striking family harmonies.  Featuring Colton and her cousin, Sharon Allen, as lead singers, Double Down performed songs by Melissa Etheridge, Janis Joplin, Indigo Girls and more.  Sharon's husband, Greg Allen, played lead guitar with Colton on rhythm.  When Sharon and Greg decided to focus on family and have another baby, the band was done.  

 

During her time with Double Down, Colton also performed as a solo act.  breaking new ground in the make-centric music scene, she was the first female artist to perform regular gigs at Shifty's, a bar known for great music in the neighborhood.  It was one of the first places that Rear View Mirror and Colton Road got hired.  She subsequently returned many times to this music venue and her solo photo adorns the wall there today.  She also cultivated a following at the historic Sherwood Inn and Morris's World Famous Grille in Skaneateles, NY. 

When Double Down retired, Colton kept booking herself as a solo.  She decided she needed to take the next step and record a CD of her original music.  That was when she started working at songwriting with Ted Wellenc, and recruiting her friend, Sam Patterelli, to play bass on the tracks.  She was invited to play songwriters nights at clubs and cafes where she gained more experience playing her own music.  

“It's hard to transition from playing covers and songs that people know to going back to trying to interest people in listening to stuff they've never heard before.  You have to work to draw them in.”  She opened for some well known touring artists like Chris Smithers and Bob Halligan at another music venue called Happy Endings.  Moving on from solo performances, Colton began appearing with Patterelli on bass and percussionist Julius Williams and others.  Performing as Donna Colton and the Troublemakers, they played covers and mixed in her original tunes.  Soon fans who came out for the Troublemakers were regularly requesting Colton's original tunes.  

 

THE RECORDINGS

 

In 1996, Colton recorded her first original CD named Black and Blue Elaine.  That was the title track written by both Ted Wellenc and Donna Colton.  Colton has recorded songs written by other local artists including Arty lenin, Gary Frenay, Lisa Martino, Greg Allen, Leo Visconti, another cousin.   She's recorded tunes and sung backing vocals for and with Loren Barrigar.  These artists gave permission for her to record their tunes.  “We consider ourselves lucky to be in a town that has some great songwriters,” Colton says.  
Nowadays, Donna and Sam are married and Patterelli performs with Colton on bass, acoustic, electric and baritone guitars.  He's been known to play a harmonica solo or two and sing backup vocals.  

After releasing Black and Blue Elaine on her own Red Lip Records label, Colton started making trips to Nashville with Wellenc to connect with writers, artists, venues and publishers in the music town.  
Then in 1997, while she was busy working a day job, writing songs and performing, a family tragedy occurred.  A late night call from a detective in Los Angelestold her that her brother, Daniel, had been murdered.  Information related to the murder was that a car had driven into an alleyway known for drug dealing.  Daniel had ridden his bike into the alley and leaned into the driver's side window.  He was shot five times in the chest, and died. He was 31 years old.  
The death of her baby brother was devastating for Colton.  After the tears and grief subsided, she wrote the song, Oh Brother.  It was a process of trying to understand and manage the anger and excruciating feeling of loss.  
“ I hear from so many fans that it's a song that they love and relate to so much,” says Colton, “All of us have a troubled soul in our lives, and I think that's why people feel this song.”