Since becoming the youngest ever winner of Australian Idol at the age of 16, Casey Donovan has spent the last 13 years carving her musical career path as an independent artist and a stage performer, most recently in the Australian production of We Will Rock You. But in a second reality-TV stint at the start of 2017, Donovan gained new fans just being herself on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and took out the season 3 title. "It was so nice to come out of the other side," Donovan says, "and be like, 'this is awesome.'"
Now 29, Donovan has new music to share. She is releasing her latest single, "Lonely," on May 19, and looking forward to putting forward a six-song EP, Off the Grid and Somewhere In Between, later this year. WHO caught up with Donovan for an update on her life.
Q: Your latest single "Lonely" is such a wistful tune. What inspired it?
A: Just you know, general life, me being lonely [Laughs]. No, I don't know. I was just sitting in my bed one night and decided to write a song, and I got stuck with it for a little while because I didn't know what I wanted it to be, and then it magically just happened.
Q: Was it cathartic to perform it to such an intimate audience in the jungle on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, albeit broadcast to the country?
A: Definitely. It was very nerve-wracking, always, putting out new music and letting people in to your little bit of loneliness. It's hard work, but it was fun. When you're in the jungle and singing it to these guys, it was a lot of pressure, but you kind of forgot about the outside world, which was kind of awesome in its own right.
Q: The single is released today. Are you anticipating the moment when you get to hear it on the radio?
A: I don't know because I don't listen to the radio! Do you film yourself listening to it? Is that weird? Probably, but that's kind of the world we live in.
Q: The song will be on your crowdfunded EP, Off The Grid and Somewhere in Between. Has it been tough recording on your own?
A: It's been difficult. There were plans put in place last year with how I was going to move forward without I'm A Celebrity, but it's hard. It's hard being an independent artist. You've just got to pick up jobs. That's why I was Uber-driving and I've had reception jobs just to make money so that you can do the thing that you love. Australia is great but we've definitely got the tall poppy thing happening, so we are very quick to put people down, which is very sad.
Q: How did you keep yourself up during those tough times?
A: You write music. That's what you do! You write music, you get out there and experience the world and you talk to people. I mean I love to talk to people and interact and learn about their stories.
Q: Was that part of what you found with Uber driving?
A: Yeah! I loved it. I absolutely loved Uber driving. It was just fun and you got to meet different people from different walks of life and do all of that jazz.
Q: So when you did We Will Rock You last year, what was that like?
A: It was my first ever, I guess, massive production and it was just amazing to work with Brian Mannix, Simon Russell, Jaz Flowers — these are pretty amazing people and to get up on stage night after night and perform with them. I mean, Jaz Flowers has been in the theatre for years and she's done some amazing things, and Thern Reynolds, oh God, everyone in the cast, whether they were princies or ensemble, you know, it was just great to learn about their stories and what they've been doing and what they aspire to and what their goals are. It's a beautiful thing. Yeah, it was great to get back on stage and play a pretty ballsy character. She was pretty awesome. She's definitely taught me a few things in my life that I've had to pull out in the last month!
Q: What things in particular?
A: I don't know, just being assertive. Meeting Steve Price and Kris Smith and Nat Bass and Dane Swan, they all have side projects and they are all business people and it was kind of nice to sit there and learn, just learn how they run their businesses. i said, 'OK, it's time for me to be an adult and to know that I really can run a business.'
Q: So I'm A Celebrity was a good business primer?
A: I released an EP a few years ago and it was just great to get something out there. This time around, doing it again, I've got more insight into the industry and what to do and how to do it and how to approach certain situations, and I guess I'm A Celebrity has really given me that leg up. I mean, I didn't expect to win the thing! I just thought I'd be in it for a few weeks and then come home, but that was pretty cool.
To read more from Casey, including how she's keeping up with her fitness and what it's like running into fans while doing errands, pick up the latest issue of WHO on newsstands today.