Jazz Fest


Published:

Dolette McDonald, world-famous pop and rock backing vocalist, finds harmony in Savannah.

One of America’s most revered rock background singers, Dolette McDonald has performed with such enormous and diverse artists from alternative pop with the Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, mainstream rock with Sting, to singing in Spanish with El Divo de Juarez, Juan Gabriel — and will be performing with Savannah Blues sensation at the 38th Annual Savannah Jazz Festival on Thursday, September 26 in Forsyth Park. A resident of Richmond Hill for five years now, she talked about all she loves about Savannah and being behind the spotlight.

 

You’ve recently made the Savannah region your home for what you call your Act III moving from Naples, and before that, New York City. What drew you here?

Both my parents are from the South. My BFF and her husband moved to Pooler about five years ago, and my wife and I would visit often and really enjoyed Savannah every time we came. We decided that we wanted to move and were looking in the Naples area, but it had no music scene, which we always enjoyed in Savannah. We live in Richmond Hill, which is just close enough to Savannah for us to go and enjoy and then come home to live in a very natural environment where we can kayak, bike ride and walk for miles right in our own community.  

 

We know you don’t like labels as you have performed in so many genres with many different artists, what is the common thread of creativity that drives you to explore so many styles?

For me, the common thread of creativity is the challenge of being open to finding that perfect place vocally to fit into whatever genre that I’m singing in. I really have to let go of ego and just let the vocal spirit flow — which is the most challenging and rewarding at the same time when it’s a success.

 

The film about legendary back-up singers, “20 Feet From Stardom,” chronicles the life of singers who make acts like the Rolling Stones and others great successes. Although you weren’t in the film, like so many others, tell us about the reality of being a powerful back-up vocalist for huge stars?

The reality of being a professional background singer is that it could be as wonderful or horrible as you make it. The ability to observe what’s going on around you and fit in to the situation because it’s really not about you, it’s about the artist that you’re supporting, so ego goes out of the window and team playing is in. Sometimes you might have to change your sound to fit the situation. For example, when I went to work for The Police, the first thing I learned was that I couldn’t use vibrato because Sting didn’t like it — as he had none (at that time). That was one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn because I actually didn’t know how to sing without it. I had headaches after each show for about a month because I had to train myself to sing that way. With that said, I learned a skill that would help me in the future.   

 

What are your favorite musical events in the Savannah area?

My very first musical event in Savannah was sitting in with the Peter Fish Band at the Savannah Jazz Festival. That’s when I realized how much Savannah had to offer and we believe it was truly the “Aha” moment that gave us the inspiration to move here. Once we moved, we became members of the Coastal Jazz Association — and we try to go to as many of their concerts as we can. These shows are fabulous with the best of the best musicians performing.

    

Do you have any local places you like to eat and shop?

I absolutely love historic Savannah. I always start on River Street and make the rounds. I enjoy City Market and each square to Lincoln Street. I’ve enjoyed Telfair Museum and actually found a church that we like right across the street.  On Broughton, I love 24e Design, Kayak Kafé and Avalon Exchange. My favorite restaurants are Alligator Soul, The Olde Pink House, Sorry Charlie’s, 17Hundred90, Local 11ten, Rancho Alegre Cuban and so many other places that I have on my list to check out. As you can see, I love to eat.

 

You will be performing at the Annual Savannah Jazz Festival with Savannah Blues man Eric Culberson. What excites you about this new collaboration in this setting?

I’m excited about being inspired by a true Blues man. Just speaking to Eric over the phone has given me a certain comfort that we´re going to have an absolutely amazing set. Because I´ve studied the history of the songs that I´ll be singing and the women who sang them, discussing them with someone who is knowledgeable, makes for an easy and fun collaboration. I feel very blessed that he’s the person that I´ll have this experience with.  

For details on the Savannah Jazz Festival visit savannahjazzfest.com.

Subscribe now to the print edition or get instant access to our interactive digital edition.

Download the digital issue now!

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • A Savannah Scavenger Hunt: Historic Savannah Adventure

    Feb 19, 2020
    8:00 AM - 10:00 PM @ Savannah

    Explore beautiful Savannah. Steeped in Civil War history, you will be sure to find some new-to-you spots. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a...

  • #iSPYtogether Summer Challenge

    Jun 01, 2020
    12:00 AM - 11:45 PM @ Savannah Power Yoga

    We’re in this together! We’re experiencing a shift in the world together, and together we can keep each other healthy and connected in the...

  • Free Fort Pulaski Days

    Jan 20, 2020
    All Day @ Fort Pulaski National Monhument

    Fort Pulaski National Monument will have six entrance fee-free days in 2020. The dates for 2020 are: ● Monday, January 20 – Martin...

  • Prohibition Cocktail Classes

    Jun 22, 2020
    6:00 PM @ American Prohibition Museum

    Monday & Tuesday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Prohibition Cocktail Classes at Congress Street Up inside the American Prohibition Museum....

  • Georgia Mountain Fair

    Aug 14, 2020
    10:00 AM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    Look forward to the 70th annual Georgia Mountain Fair, held at the historic Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds this summer! Thousands of visitors from...

  • On the Spot Murder Mystery Show

    Jun 26, 2020
    6:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ Savannah Coffee Roasters

    On The Spot Murder Mystery Dinner Show hosted by The Odd Lot Improv Team at Savannah Coffee Roasters, 6:30 p.m. An entirely improvised...

  • Tedeschi Trucks Band Signs 2020 Tour

    Aug 14, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    The Tedeschi Trucks Band Signs 2020 Tour will be making at stop at the Johnny Mercer Theatre on Friday, August 14th at 7:30pm. Tedeschi Trucks...

  • The Price is Right - Live on Stage

    Aug 15, 2020
    All Day @ Johnny Mercer Theatre

    “The Price Is Right Live™ is returning to Savannah by popular demand! “The Price Is Right Live™ is the hit interactive...

  • 50th Anniversary Tour w/ Special Guest Don McLean

    Aug 25, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    It’s been 50 years since Randy, Jeff and Teddy, left the cotton farms of Fort Payne, Alabama, to spend the summer playing music in a Myrtle...

  • Rodney Carrington Live Concert

    Aug 27, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    The Savannah Civic Center is excited to Rodney Carrington will be coming to the Johnny Mercer Theatre on Thursday, August 27th at 7 p.m. Rodney...

  • First Fridays in Starland

    Jun 26, 2020
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Starland District

     Monthly arts event in Savannah’s Starland District, with street fair, art market or gallery shows. Starland doesn’t like to...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — St. Paul & the Broken Bones

    Sep 03, 2020
    8:30 PM - 10:30 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival performances, St. Paul & the Broken Bones will perform...

  • Gene Watson, Janie Fricke and Marty Haggard Concert

    Sep 05, 2020
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

     Enjoy an evening of real country music with Gene Watson, Janie Fricke & Marty Haggard. Plus a special tribute to legendary Merle Haggard!...

  • Shinedown Concert

    Sep 06, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah Civic Center

    Multi-platinum rock band Shinedown has announced their Shinedown: Deep Dive tour, an intimate run of Spring 2020 dates that will see the band...

  • 2020 SMF Fall Concert — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

    Sep 11, 2020
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Johnny Mercer Theatre

    Part of a new fall concert series of rescheduled 2020 Savannah Music Festival (SMF) performances, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit will...

  • Happy Together Tour

    Sep 12, 2020
    7:00 PM - 11:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    Enjoy an evening of hit after hit…after HIT!  The Happy Together Tour features: - THE TURTLES - CHUCK NEGRON (formerly of Three Dog Night) -...

  • Revolutionary Perspectives Lecture Series

    Sep 15, 2020
    All Day @ Savannah History Museum

      The annual Revolutionary Perspectives Lecture Series focuses on a wide variety of topics unique to the American Revolution era. Each...

  • Dailey & Vincent's LandFest 2020

    Sep 17, 2020
    3:00 PM - 11:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    Dailey & Vincent’s LandFest In The Mountains & On The Lake 2020 marks the festival's 7th anniversary of bringing the best American music to fans!...

  • 39th Annual Savannah Jazz Festival

    Sep 20, 2020
    All Day

    The 39th annual Savannah Jazz Festival is an event featuring 27 performances. The festival celebrates regional, national and international...

  • Mile Long Yard Sale

    Sep 25, 2020
    10:00 AM - 3:00 PM @ Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

    One man's trash is another man's treasure. Come shop 1 mile worth of treasures at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds! Free entry to shoppers! ...


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

Plant Riverside District Grand Opening

After $400 million and the better part of the past decade, the Plant Riverside District has finally opened for business. This 419-room JW Marriot marks the creation of a all-new entertainment district on River Street's west end. Speeches were made, hands were shaken (or rather, elbows were tapped), and the ribbon was finally cut, unveiling this monumental project for the public to enjoy.

Faces of the South 2020 Gala of the Decade at Plant Riverside District

On July 24, 2020 Richard Kessler unveiled his greatest accomplishment to date, the Plant Riverside District, to a guest list that read like a who’s who of Savannah’s movers and shakers. Adding to the excitement was the concurrent release party for South magazine’s Faces of the South: The Trilogy Edition. With safety and social distancing measures in place, guests enjoyed the sweet sounds of the Equinox Orchestra, dined on a sampler platter of Savannah’s finest food and drink and marveled at the excitement of watching Savannah’s hottest new entertainment district come to life.

Faces of the South Gala of the Decade at Plant Riverside District part II

On July 24, 2020 Richard Kessler unveiled his greatest accomplishment to date, the Plant Riverside District, to a guest list that read like a who’s who of Savannah’s movers and shakers. Adding to the excitement was the concurrent release party for South magazine’s Faces of the South: The Trilogy Edition. With safety and social distancing measures in place, guests enjoyed the sweet sounds of the Equinox Orchestra, dined on a sampler platter of Savannah’s finest food and drink and marveled at the excitement of watching Savannah’s hottest new entertainment district come to life.

Danny Merritt 2020 Election Watch Party

Danny Merritt held his election watch party at Coach's Corner in Savannah, Georgia on Tuesday, June 9th. Merritt ran for Congress for District 1 against incumbent Buddy Carter.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 5

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 4

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 2

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 3

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH — THE TRILOGY GALLERY 1

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

February Brews for a Cause

February's Brews for a Cause was held at the Drayton Hotel on Thursday, February 27th. South Magazine and Southern Eagle teamed up to raise money through a large silent auction for the Savannah Ambucs organization. Craft Beer samplings from Wild Leap Brewing, alongside appetizers from the Drayton Hotel were offered to guests.