Donna Woodall is a singer-songwriter, bandleader, and teacher. Her eclectic style incorporates elements of jazz, soul, pop, and blues while doing unique renditions of familiar popular songs as well. She frequents Milwaukee spots such as St. Kate Arts Hotel, The Sugar Maple, and Caroline’s Jazz Club.
ME: The first thing I ask everybody is, how did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?
DONNA: Well, I am friends with fellow vocalist and Green Room member Marcya Daneille. We were just talking one day about Milwaukee and the music community and sometimes the lack thereof, and she asked if I’d heard of Wisconsin Music Ventures. She said that it was really cool and that she’d been in it for about a year, and she described the vision behind it and how it builds community. Then out of the blue she said she was meeting with Allison that night for dinner and asked if I wanted to come (laughs). At first I thought I’d be this weird third wheel but then Marcya told me to bring my husband too because he’s a musician, and Allison was like “yeah, come join!” and that just really surprised me. We ended up going and had a great night of Mexican food, and I was sold.
ME: Yeah, it’s that easy! Happy to have you on board, for sure.
ME: How was your Valentine’s Day?
DONNA: It was really great! I got some lovely gifts from my husband – chocolates, bath bombs and things like that. We actually had a show that night at St. Kate; we have a weekly residency there on Monday night at their lobby bar and it was really nice having a lot of people come out. They had heart-shaped pepperoni pizza that night. Since we’re there every week, sometimes people here a lot of the same things so we mixed it up and just focused on love songs and jazz standards that night.
ME: Very nice, that sounds lovely! The heart-shaped pizza is a mainstay for Valentine’s. My partner and I went to Char’d Korean BBQ in the Third Ward; highly recommend that place.
ME: I was looking at some of the venues that you play and I saw Caroline’s Jazz Club. How is that place? I’ve never been.
DONNA: Caroline’s is a lot of fun; it’s got a nice stage and usually has a crowd that really comes out and supports the jazz music. Every time we’re there, the audience gives us a lot of free reign to not only do our jazzier fare but we do our originals and contemporary tunes as well. It’s a great place to hang out and hear music.
ME: I’ve got to check it out sometime. I haven’t been to Angelo’s either. Good to know!
ME: This is a fun one. What was your favorite movie of 2021?
DONNA: (laughs) Let me think…was there any Marvel that came out in 2021?
ME: I think so.
DONNA: I’d have to go with Shang-Chi. I’m a Marvel fan so those are usually my favorites. I also like sci-fi; it’s not a movie but I really liked Squid Game.
ME: Did you see Dune?
DONNA: I did not and it’s on my list! We didn’t get out to see a lot of movies last year but rented a lot. I did read the books though so I look forward to seeing it.
ME: My last question here is, what are you working on now? What’s in store for the next couple months?
DONNA: Let’s see. I’m doing a lot of different things and it’s been great because after all of the quarantine things have really picked up and I’ve been able to do a wide variety of things, like with the symphony. Coming up, for February I’m going to be in Burlington this weekend at the library doing a jazz presentation for Black History Month. I’ll be at Caroline’s again on the 25th; that’s kind of a monthly thing. I have a couple other residencies like St. Kate’s on Monday nights, The Sugar Maple every first Friday of the month, and then places like Blu at the Pfister and Cafe Coda I do regularly too. But the big exciting thing is that Marcya and I decided to put on a show called “Unexpected” where the two of us as jazz singers are doing unexpected covers in unexpected ways, so we have four shows so far coming up at the Story Hill Fire House and each one will have a different theme. We’ll have an awesome band behind us, and the first one is April 13th and we’re doing 70’s AM Radio, pulling out our bell bottoms and doing everything from Jim Croce to Joni Mitchell to 5th Dimension, Bill Withers, Billy Preston, and Chaka Khan. It’ll all be a fun surprise, and the rest of the shows will all take on a different genre. Who knows!