Continuing my series on amazing stories of success, perseverance and the ultimate search of life’s purpose, here’s a glimpse into the world of Donnell Shawn Butler. At first glance you may not recognize his name, but within the music industry this young talent is a force to be reckoned with. He is blessed with the ability to sing better than many popular (high paid) crooners, write tracks for platinum-selling artists, produce and play keyboard!
He first fell in love with music at the innocent age of 5. Who might have been his first attention grabber? Stevie? Marvin? Nope. The Gap Band, singing “I’m in Love” on the radio! If you’ve ever heard him sing, you’d think he spent top dollars on the best vocal coach, but he managed to teach himself. In his own words, “I was whack at first then kept singing all day.” His ability to write songs began in much the same way as he explains, “I just sat down and wrote a song. Not a lot of thought to it.” How did he become so good at creating masterpieces? He believes, “Practice makes a successful anything.” Despite his raw, self-taught, skills Donnell’s journey hasn’t always been the easiest; it took sacrifice and walking out on faith…oh and of course, being told “no.”
If you were wondering whether or not Donnell faced rejection along the way, his insight is simple, “HAHA…rejection is the name of the game. I’ve been told “no” almost my whole life.” He also had to discover that his hometown wasn’t the best place to fully birth his talents. Although Philly is where his passion sparked, L.A. was the fuel to his flame. The opportunity to leave the City of Brotherly Love and relocate to the City of Angels was the start of his new beginning, but it meant leaving his family behind in order to gain exposure and mold his future. The risk has certainly been worth the reward and Donnell is making his new area code work for him in every way. When asked what it was about L.A. that had him pack his bags quick, fast and in a hurry he says:
Los Angeles is where the artists are and where people are really networking hard. The atmosphere is entertainment. [My] transition wasn’t very hard at all…it was very natural because I’m in my environment. The studio. Everyone here is networking and willing to work with each other…no one is keeping secrets or staying in a clique.
Have Mr. Butler’s years in Philly and leap into “Smog City” paid off at all? You be the judge. He’s written music for Craig David, Timbo, Letoya Luckett, Boyz 2 Men, Kevin Rudolf, Jesse McCartney, BlackStreet, Day26, Bridget Kelly, Lil Wayne and most recently Mary J. Blige (“Irreversible” off of her latest album, My Life II…The Journey Continues (Act I)). Even with all of his success, he still isn’t 100% sure of his God-given purpose, but knows that he is meant to inspire others at the very least. Donnell has learned that, “You have to be present in whatever you do. Go places and meet people and force your way into the door. Continue to write and write and write…something will give.” For his fellow, future young stars, he leaves them with this additional bit of advice:
Make sure it’s what you want. Make sure you can compete…Practice. Practice. Evolve. Take criticism always and get better. Be happy and grateful for anything you get. Be a nice person!…Nice and friendly get you a LONG way over talent. Non-stop work is the secret weapon. Stay up and do one extra thing and that could be the thing that takes you to the next level.
In the midst of his many blessings, Donnell has the rare ability to remain humble and grounded; something that seems to be missing from many stars today. His journey can inspire just about anybody that reads this and that’s what makes this whole thing called life very magical. Anybody can learn from their environment and the people around them; however, it’s up to each person to pay attention! Sometimes elevating to the next level requires taking a risk that may or may not work out in your favor, but lucky for Donnell Shawn Butler, his risks are paying off in every way imaginable…will yours?