no-tipsHey Zimzalas! – The next time you think about giving me a tip at a show

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Reviews and Articles

TRMA Newsletter Article by Cindy Muir

May 2016 Trop Rock Spotlight by Cindy Muir

TRMAI didn’t really hear about Donny Brewer till a couple of years ago and he was in the Austin, Texas area, just up the highway a bit from me in San Antonio. Then I had the chance to hear him live at the 2015 Pirates and Poets Invitational in Port Aransas, Texas. We had an interview after the show at the favorite local joint and a few days later, I was embarrassed to tell Donny that I couldn’t read my notes…. hardly a word of that interview got transcribed legibly. Oops! Too much tequila? Chardonnay, in my case. Anyway, by the time we were able to chat again, Donny Brewer had become a rising name in the Trop Rock world. No, I should clarify…. a rising STAR!

Donny grew up in the Austin Texas area and like many Trop Rock musicians, he started out in a high school rock band. Many folks don’t know that Donny is also a wonderful artist and he began college as a commercial art major, but the lure of playing music professionally led him away. In fact, he became a bass player in a country band that toured and opened for big-named country acts. All along, however, he was writing music himself.

Donny told me that he wasn’t initially aware of the Parrot Head community, but he had been writing songs for years that fit right into the tropical, laid-back lifestyle. Although he did record a classic rock album with his brother and dad, much of what he was writing early on was bluesy-funk and country in nature. He still collaborates with his brother in much of his songwriting. He joked that his brother, Ric, “‘isn’t really a musician…he’s a drummer.” Donny is all about the music and Ric is a pure lyricist.

Many of Donny’s songs are written to and from shows. He said “if a song comes to me, I write it.” Every song comes to him differently and that’s the frustration and the fun of songwriting, according to Donny. “Sometimes it sits and sometimes it just comes and jells.” For instance, he was on his way home from a show in Galveston, Texas and met Franklin Godowns, who amazingly knows the words to a myriad of songs. Franklin’s nickname is “Palapa Joe” and Donny had to pull his car over to the side of the road to quickly record the song that came to him about Franklin.

Donny made a huge splash in the Trop Rock world before and during Meeting of the Minds. He caught several solo gigs, but played with many other artists, as well. He has a fantastic partner in the traveling music world that he’s living in now – his wonderful wife, Michelle. They sold their Texas home and are now living out of an RV, which is equipped with a mobile recording studio. They travel to gigs and venues and Donny’s name continues to grow.

His latest cd is called Zimzala and is a delight to listen to with its variety of fun and clever songs. Donny used his photoshopping skills in the Zimzala logo and in the cover artwork of the recording. He is a skilled audio/ tech master as well as a gifted musician.

To say that Donny Brewer is a rising start is not enough… he’s gaining momentum in the Trop Rock world faster than the speed of light. Don’t miss him if he’s at a venue near you… he’s illuminating the Trop Rock landscape!

Zimzala Review in Phlocker's Magazine

May 2016 By Todd Alexander

Zimzala front 1400x1400When I get a new CD, I usually hope for 2 or 3 songs that I like well enough to add to my Favorites playlist. I can’t say that about this CD. That’s because I love them all. Every time I listen to it, a different song is my “favorite”. The CD is extremely listenable. There is a variety of styles and many of the songs blend styles where most listeners can enjoy them- even styles that typically aren’t their favorite. Donny’s voice, though good, doesn’t make you say “WOW”. The music/musicianship doesn’t make you say “WOW”. The way to voice, the music, and the songwriting blend together makes you say “WOW”! The songs and the styles are perfectly suited to Donny’s voice.

studioDonny is a relative newcomer to the Trop Rock scene but not to music or the beach. “I’ve been doing two things since I was a kid, playing music and hanging by the water. I’ve played in just about every kind of band, and being from Austin, I was heavily influenced by country dance halls and 6th street blues bars. Though I had toured the US playing arenas as a side man, and made a good living in cover bands, I never had success with my own music. My country, blues, and rock incarnations all fell to an abundance of competition in the market. All the while I had been writing music for a genre I never considered because I didn’t know it existed – Trop Rock. It was summer 2012, I think, around the time I finished my first album Live Like Jimmy Buffett.

It wasn’t until I was playing these songs at an acoustic gig, that Chris and Amy Durden told me that it’s not only a real genre, but there’s an entire community based around it. After playing my first house concert, I realized that not only are there people who would listen to the kind of music I make naturally, but that THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! It was so refreshing to know that the music I thought I was recording just for myself could be my career.”

Palapa Joe

Jammin’ with Palapa Joe

So having discovered Trop Rock, Donny quickly fell in love with “his people.” He soon discovered how much he enjoyed “the smaller crowds at Trop Rock shows where you look out in the crowd and actually know the names of the fans, and how cool it is to change your lyrics or song selection based on the connection you have with the audience.” He also has been impressed by their passion for Trop Rock, “I’ve played to arenas of 80 or 90,000 mindless Pop Country lemmings, and I’ll take room of 50 intelligent listeners every time.”

Zimzala (Defined as a “free spirited person who finds peace with the sand between their toes”) is Donny’s second CD. Both of his CDs were recorded in his home recording studio. This CD seems extremely smooth and polished. Donny uses lots of unusual, non-traditional sounds/sound effects and background vocals which give his music a rich, full quality. All of the songs on the CD were either written or co-written by Donny. Most of the songs on the CD are personal. “Every song on there is either completely true about me now or at some moment in my life. As songwriters, we always stretch the stories’ to the most utopian version, but I think if you write about yourself, you’ll always be real, and people pick up on that.” Two of the songs are about or inspired by special people in his life. Palapa Joe is inspired from Donny’s exposure to the Trop Rock scene. “There’s an amazing man named Franklin Godowns (aka Palapa Joe), who is a Trop Rock fan who happens to have the ability to remember every lyric to every song he’s ever heard, literally. I was inspired to write “Palapa Joe” by not just his ability but what he represents for me.”

Wendy Brewer

Wendy Brewer

Glow On is “a song my brother Ric and I wrote for my Aunt Wendy, another amazing person who, while touring the US photographing and documenting lighthouses for a book she was writing, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She not only beat it for many years, she became a champion and leader for cancer survivors including a faithful team called “Glow On” which has raised incredible amounts of money for the Susan G Komen organization. She passed this last year and my niece tells me that hearing the song helped ease her final moments. I plan to release a video of the song featuring pics of Wendy and many of her excellent photographs of lighthouses. Proceeds from all sales of the song go to the foundation in her name. You can find the book ‘Keep Your Glow On’ on Amazon.”

Donny’s brother, Ric has helped co-write many of the songs on these CDs. He also plays percussion on the CD. Several other family members also appear on the CD but not because this CD is a family venture. “I just tend to grab whoever’s walking through the house to do silly or large group backup vocals, and although there are no singers in the family, they’re always close by.” Donny will have to find new volunteers for his next recording. “Austin Texas has been my home all my life, but recently we sold the house, convinced my amazing wife, Michelle, to retire, bought an RV and are now full time gypsies – hence The Winnebago Tour. All credit goes to Michelle, who may have quit her job, but now has 7 or 8 new jobs working for me.”

The songs:
Hang Loose – A bit of a rocker with a Buffett-esque feel; a pretty catchy tune; great advice about living life a little laid back
Palapa Joe – a tribute to the super fans (represented by “Palapa Joe”) who love the music; this song could describe so many of us; upbeat story of the traveling music life and the appreciation of those who love/know the music; a great song and one of my favorites
Jump Ship – Tropical feel; gets you moving; have a ‘go for it’ attitude in love and life
Retirement Song- A sunny song of enjoying life like you’re retired- if you can’t retire, change your attitude/latitude; sounds like a fun way to look at things; enjoy your time with the special people in your life- life’s too short to not do what you enjoy
Too Much Quetila – Stories of being overserved or the perils/joys of excess- those things you do when indulging that you regret later (well, that depends on how shameless you are); many of us will be able to identify with at least some of the incidents described in this song
Wishing Well – has a reggae feel but even those who aren’t big reggae fans can enjoy this song; strong lead guitar and vocals
Coulda Been a Pirate – probably my favorite; beautiful song lamenting/regretting many possible outcomes of life but maybe missing being a pirate the most- but one can always pretend; great vocals; great keyboard riffs
Vitamin T – very tropical sound; about how Tequila serves as a vitamin/ health food and is an important ingredient to enjoying life and LIVING life
I Could Get Use To This – Another favorite; a bluesy/tropical blend; story of the joy of a new love and performing – and being content with what you have – dreams are great but reality can be great too, so be content with what you have
Footprints – Another favorite; a blend of styles- hard to describe- maybe tropical meets country meets jazz- that just brings a smile to your face as you listen; curiosity about those who enjoyed Donny’s favorite spot (the beach) before him and a bit of a cosmic connection to those who walked the beach before him
Keep Your Glow On- another beautiful song; mellow; a song about personal strength and overcoming struggles
That’s All I Wanna Do- A happy-go- lucky, sunny love song about enjoying life and spending fun time together
Zimzala – A reggae style singsong sing-along that describes so many Trop rock fans; doesn’t everyone want to escape to the beach?
Coconut Club – a fun song with a reggae, tropical sound; descriptive of so many of our favorite Trop Rock Tiki bars – a tropical version of “Cheers” theme describing the kind of bar we all want to find and call our home away from home: highlights his love of fun sign along type lyrics and fun sound effects
The Beer Song – Just a fun and funny tribute to the magical powers of beer; learn this one- a great sign-along when you catch him live.

Zimzala Review for Trop Rockin' Magazine

January 11, 2016 by Cindy Muir

tammycamp-300In November, Donny Brewer, from Austin, TX, attended his first Meeting of the Minds, and in my opinion, he took the event by storm. I think Donny’s name was the buzzword for the week, although the most fun word to learn how to pronounce was the name of his new CD, Zimzala! And Donny’s definition of that fun word is “a free-spirited person who finds peace with sand between their toes.” Yes! Let’s all be Zimzala!

This recording shows Donny’s mastery of “escapism” songs, many featuring the sounds of steel drums. The first song is titled “Hang Loose” and that could be a personal motto for most of us! Other songs that follow this trend on the album are “That’s All I Want to Do” and the catchy “Coconut Club.” Take a moment and escape right now, listen to this snippet of “Jump Ship” where he encourages us to sail away:

Zimzala front 1400x1400The “Retirement Song” speaks to those of us who are at that certain age and we all “Coulda Been a Pirate” with a job of drinking rum all day! And speaking of spirits, tequila plays a big role in “Too Much Quetila” and “Vitamin T.”
There are also more serious songs on Zimzala. The sweet song “Keep Your Glow On” was inspired by Donny’s aunt, who lost a battle to breast cancer. All the proceeds from the downloads of this song are donated to the Komen organization. “Palapa Joe” came from the amazing Trop Rock fan Franklin Godowns. Franklin has an amazing recall of lyrics and songs and after playing a gig that Franklin attended, Donny was struck by his amazing recall. On Donny’s way home, the song came to him and he literally pulled over on the side of the road and recorded the first take of this tune.
Donny Brewer is not only a very talented songwriter, but he’s also a fabulous music. He recorded this entire CD at his home studio, called Cowpatty Studios, with him playing all the instruments by himself. There is acoustic bass played by Kerry Williams on “I Could Get Used to This,” but other than that, Donny is responsible for all the instruments, even the steel drum that is prominent on several songs. How much talent is that?
Donny has been writing many styles of songs for decades, but it’s Trop Rock that he feels flows from him the best. He says “the more you let songs write you, rather than the other way around, the better off you are.” He says this recording was the most fun that he’s created and he hopes the listeners find a little bit of Zimzala in everyone!

Live Like Jimmy Buffett Review for Palm Tree Radio

July 21, 2014 by Alex John

PTRAs far as debut albums go this is an absolute belter! Yes, ok Brewer has been around the music scene for the past 25 years but this little gem is his debut Trop Rock release and it’s full of instantly singalongable (is that even a word!?!) tunes.
Of course a couple of tunes mention his holiness, heck Brewer’s even named the album after him, but this is far from a Buffett tribute album. From classic Trop Rock, through Reggae and the beautifully quirky Fishin’ On Credit this album stands on its own two feet and then some!
Brewer’s been around the music scene for years from his teens in Rock bands, leaving art education to go touring in Country bands until family life came calling and he settled back down in Texas to run his own studio.
In all that time playing Rock, Country and Blues though he never really got a chance, or had the inclination, to pursue the Island side of things but encouraged by his wife Brewer set about creating some new Island and Trop Rock tunes.
“This is who I’ve been all along,” he said. “Writing and recording Island, Trop Rock or whatever you wanna call it is natural for me. It’s easy.”
That easy attitude certainly comes across in the music, you feel Brewer actually could have been on the beach recording this album.
The album is full of great melodies; Island Time, A Little More Rum, Live Like Jimmy Buffet and if you’re not whistling by the end of Fishin’ On Credit I am going to come round and check you for a pulse!
Live Like Jimmy Buffett (album)
Brewer took care of production duties at his own studio and being a multi-instrumentalist was able to play and sing all the parts too.
“With other music I always feel like I could’ve written it better, or done a better production or sang it better. I’m never quite happy with it, ya know. With this album it’s like gravy. I hardly ever do a second vocal take. And it’s like there’s no rules. If I wanna throw in a goofy percussion part or change styles I can do that,” he said.
This really is a great album, well written, well produced and very well performed. We’re thrilled to feature it as our Album of the Week and Brewer certainly feels at ease with his new Trop Rock persona; “It’s my music. It makes me happy. It makes me feel good. And hopefully it’ll do that for other folks too. That would just be the icing on the…or the…lime on the margarita, or something!”
Well it certainly makes us happy and we think fully deserves our 5 out of 5 Palms rating as it’s a must have for your collection. Hear tracks from the album throughout the week on Palm Tree Radio.


The latest album from Donny – Zimzala

cdbaby2google-play-128Amazon-MP3-pgp2itunes2Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, CDBaby, etc.