Diving to the world of Donny Crosswell with Graham Isador
by Interviews

Donny Crosswell came on the scene a few years ago with a mission to make country music fun and gay. Now backed by members of Pkew Pkew Pkew, Donny is set to take the stage on July 3 for the Orville Peck pre-show at the Budweiser Stage. Toronto-based writer and Punknews contributor Graham Isador caught up with Donny Crosswell and Mike Warne to talk about the band’s origins and so much more. Read his article below and enter for a chance to win tickets to their July 3 show!

Backed by members of Pkew Pkew Pkew, Donny Crosswell is on a mission to make country fun and gay

Mike Warne met Donny Crosswell hosting karaoke at an East End dive in Toronto. Toward the end of each karaoke night — without fail — Donny would take the stage and belt out the same 90s pop country ballad. The song was perfect, a catchy over-the-top number about drinking beer and kissing boys. Like Shania Twain but drunker. Garth Brooks but clever. An obvious radio hit. Mike was annoyed he couldn’t remember what the song was from.

After weeks of Donny’s performance, Warne finally asked why he couldn’t place the tune. The answer? Because Donny wrote the song. “Only a Beer Can” is his very own gay pop country banger. He made the YouTube backing track specifically to sing at karaoke.

Intrigued and impressed by Donny’s pizazz, Mike offered his services. If Donny wanted to start playing shows he’d back the singer with his band Pkew Pkew Pkew. Weeks later they were in the rehearsal studio, putting together a collection of covers and originals for a live set. For Mike, the excitement was palpable.

“Seeing Donny perform at Farside, Toronto’s best bar, was really cool, but at the same time, I could easily imagine him doing it on a huge stage in an arena,” said Warne.

The group played their first show to a sold out audience at the famed Monarch Tavern. The audience — dressed in their best “slutty country garb” at the behest of the band — was a vendiagran of punks, queers, and artists. Even before the band took the stage, the energy in the room was electric: a capacity crowd unapologetically drunk and looking to hoe down. By the time Donny emerged (dressed in barely there Daisy Dukes with Warne and the backing band in matching Western shirts) things were at a fever pitch. The big gay country party went off. People love Donny. He’s funny, he’s charming, and he writes and sings great songs. He’s very easy to cheer for,” said Warne.

Building a sizeable social media following as the self described Kylie Jenner of Fat Gay People, Donny is used to the attention. But the budding musical career is not something he could have predicted even last year. The collaboration with Warne and the Pkew Pkew Pkew members has been a delightful surprise.

“Meeting Pkew Pkew Pkew was a dream come true. From the first time we jammed my songs I knew we had something magical.” said Donny. “We are making country fun again. Something that hasn’t happened since Shania Twain.”

Despite being a relative newcomer, the musician is gaining momentum fast. He just released a new music video. This week Donny and his band will open up the pre-show for the queer crooner superstar Orville Peck ahead of his performance at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage. The stamp of approval from a heavy hitter like Peck (who has his own not so secret roots in the punk scene) is an obvious step in the right direction while the group looks to hone a reputation as the city’s most fun live act.

“I grew up on country music and having a good time and now I’m about to show the world what that’s all about!” said Donny.

As a genre, new country often gets dismissed as uncool outside certain southern states. Written off as something decidedly for other people. But with big catchy tunes about drinking and heartbreak, backed by some of the genre’s favorite party punks, Donny’s tunes are fitting happily with the punk scene while expanding beyond an audience of cranky dudes in black t-shirts. It’s a welcome change of pace in a scene that can feel myopic.

“There’s an incredible debut album in Donny. If you’re a PKEW fan, you’re going to love it. I hope you’ll come along for the ride,” said Warne.

Donny and the band are offering a number of free tickets for the Toronto Orville Peck gig. To win, follow the singer on Instagram and post a comment on this post.