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When the unbreakable finally breaks

SONGS FROM SADNESS: Don-E

BRITISH SOUL singer Don-E is known for his love songs. Throughout his career, he has crooned his way into the charts and hearts of his fans with songs such as Love Makes The World Go Round and Unbreakable.

But after building a 20-year career on singing about happy relationships, the songwriter, born Donald McLean, recently realised that sometimes, love is not enough.

With the past few years bringing suffering and much heartbreak, Don-E returned to the studio to create his latest release, Little Star.

“I’ve been through a lot in the last four years,” says the Brixton-born musician, who released his last album, Natural in 2008. “I was in a 12-year relationship that broke down four years ago so I’ve been writing about that and life after a long relationship.

“I was saying to someone the other day that for the last 20 years, I’ve been loved-up; I’ve been happy and writing about one side of things. Then, when you get your heart broken, you have to find your feet again and find your heart again.”

It is hard to image that a person who has been synonymous with love songs can switch to making tracks about break-ups. But according to the Delicious hitmaker, heartbreak has only made him a better artist.

“Heartbreak made me write this album – it has made me redefine Don-E,” says the 40-year-old. “I’m not blaming anyone, but in that relationship, I was starting to feel unsure about music. I was thinking about giving up music and doing normal things, like getting a nine-to-five. I was going through some weird things and I was never like that.”

He continues: “Since the break-up, I’ve met people who understand and can see the dream; see where I’m trying to go with it and that’s been really good. It’s proved to me that I am on the right path.”

With hindsight, it is easy to look back and know that ending a relationship was for the best. But at the time, the singer admits it was difficult and acknowledges that it was a life-changing experience.

“My life was upside down. I had to move home and do the single life and find my feet again. It was hard. It kept me up all night, wondering if I should just give it all up, if I should just mentor and become a teacher.

“But I’ve got all this music in me that wanted to come out, so doing a next job that I really don’t like wasn’t for me.”

Looking to what the future holds as well as releasing a new album, Don-E has been spearheading a renaissance of all things old school. The proud Londoner has joined forces with legendary British singers Omar, Junior Giscombe, Carl McIntosh, Lee John, Noel McKoy, Paul Johnson and Rick Clarke to form the Collective.

These heavyweights of UK soul are about to come back in a big way and according to Don-E, they intend on showing the younger generation what British R&B is really about. As part of their resurgence to the mainstream, the men have recorded a new song called Spiritual, which is the lead track of Little Star.

“It just makes sense to get us all together on a track,” says Don-E on the newly-formed union. “I grew up listening to all of those guys, when I was young. I remember Junior (Giscombe) came to my school to do an assembly and afterwards, I spoke to him and said ‘I do music, one day I’m going to catch you up.’

“I used to love Loose Ends and to me it was about paying homage to the Avengers of UK soul, as it were. The younger generation under me, should be able to look back and see the UK soul history. I think the UK soul scene has not been documented. Everyone knows it happened but there’s hardly any documentation. Now that we are in the age of the Internet, I think someone has to do it.”

Little Star is out now on Dome Records

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