Songwriters and musicians like Donovan Melero recognize the double edged sword that comes with releasing a solo project like this one. On one edge is the excitement, accomplishment, and artistry that is exuded through the music. On the other is the inescapable reality that the project won’t exist without pouring your entire soul into it. The truth is that most artists realize this and constantly struggle with the balance of their self that they portray through socials and onstage, and the intimate details of themselves that they include or omit from their music. Rather than let this battle rage on internally, Donovan poured himself into this project as a means of healing and expression of emotions that couldn’t be told any other way. What started as despair, helplessness, and a feeling of loss, through music and poetry, has turned into something beautiful and a celebration of what once was, and what lies ahead.
2020 was a year that none of us are going to remember fondly. Covid-19 changed the world in ways we couldn’t have predicted. People that were present in our lives regularly were suddenly gone, as were the things we loved doing. For touring musicians, it slammed the brakes on anything and everything that was in the works. Album releases, touring, recording, writing, even just getting together with your bandmates and practicing. For Donovan, Hail The Sun and Nova Charisma’s touring plans were halted, album releases were pushed back, and his work as a booking agent was halted immediately. Distance also became an issue. People who were regularly in Donovan’s life because of touring and travel felt a million miles away. This ultimate distance led to the loss of a personal relationship that shook him in a way that hadn’t happened before. After a flight to other side of the world, in an effort to save something that was quickly escaping him, Donovan began the healing process the only way he could at the time- writing himself into his songs and telling his story.
The next months were spent taking a deep look inward. Time away from LA led Donovan to Massachusetts to be with family where he was able to reflect on the loss he had just suffered and begin the healing process. This is where the foundations of Chelsea Park After Dark were established. The stories you’ll hear on the album are a retelling of the thoughts, emotions, memories, and reflections that Donovan experienced driving aimlessly around the Northshore of Boston, trying to piece himself back together. The concepts of many of the songs were constructed at this time, as he was living it- giving the songs a unique and truly honest look into these stories. As Donovan realized more and more that music was his way to heal, he looked for new ways to express himself musically.
In September of 2020, an impromptu call to Joe Occhiuti (a partner of Donovan’s at kill iconic records and bass player for Ice Nine Kills) and Allen Casillas (kill iconic recording artist and touring drummer of Hail The Sun,) led the trio to Long Island, where they holed up at the famed Vudu Studios with producer Mike Watts for a week. Writing a solo album for the fist time, Donovan assembled the trio in an effort to explore new avenues musically and challenge his songwriting. What emerged from that session is what you’ll hear on Donovan’s debut. Musically eclectic, the album guides you through Donovan’s personal experience of loss, regret, acceptance, healing, and hope. Unlike Donovan’s other projects, the album experiments with soundscapes built from Synths, layered orchestras, electronic percussion, and sound design. In songs like ‘The Color Of Growth’ acoustic guitars swirl with layers of synth and strings, culminating in an epic conclusion where you can feel the loss Donovan experienced. These songs are contrasted with songs like ‘Better For The Next’- a delicate, live piano recorded song, introspectively accepting the reality of loss and striving to learn from it.
The 11 songs on this album, while highly personal and specific, speak to a larger audience of anyone who has experienced loss. Without intention, Donovan tells his version and details of the same story many of us have experienced in the same and different ways. He puts thoughts and feelings into words that many can’t, and delivers them in a sincere way that very few can. Donovan’s debut album may be an accident and result of something painful, but it birthed a truly honest and beautiful piece of art - Chelsea Park, After Dark.