Donkey Coffee Hosting Athens Wunderkind, U.K. Songstress This Weekend

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For over 10 years, Donkey Coffee has hosted up-and-coming songwriters in its back room. This Saturday the coffeehouse will showcase two more extraordinary artists: 12 year-old Aubree Riley from Athens, Ohio, and Lucie Zara from London, England.

Both young ladies are quirky singer-songwriters with a unique musical quality all their own.

To all outward appearances, Aubree Riley is an average sixth-grader. Yet to her family and close friends, she's a self-taught songbird with a yearning for the spotlight.

"I’ve always been a singer," she said. "One day, I just picked up a guitar book and taught myself the chords."

Riley spent just one year mastering her guitar technique before taking the stage to perform at Donkey Coffee. 

Troy Gregorino, Donkey's booking manager, was suitably impressed when he first heard young Aubree play.

"One of the things that is most remarkable about her music is that it’s not just good for being a kid—it’s just good, period," he said. "I think a lot of people probably expect a gimmick or a novelty act, but when she opens her mouth and begins to sing, you realize that you’re watching something really special."

Riley's music has been described as very honest, unrefined, and—at times—heartbreaking. This Saturday, she plans to sing the first song she wrote (at age 11). The subject matter: A young girl really wants a boy to notice her, but he's oblivious.

"It’s not about me; I can write about others’ stories," she explained. "I write songs about life. And when people tell me a story, I’ll write it down. Then I’ll write lyrics that describe the situation personally, and then write the music for those words… I think that my music speaks louder than my words ever will."

Riley will be sharing the bill with another strong female artist, Lucie Zara. Zara hails from London, England, where she studies performance design at Central St. Martin’s School of Art. A cultural exchange program brought her to Ohio University for two months.

"I love the design stuff but would love to play music as a career. I've always sung," she said.

Zara's love for music brought her to Donkey's Open Stage earlier this year. As Gregorino recalls, it was a slow night and a few scheduled acts did not show. Just he was asking the crowd if anyone wanted to perform a few songs, Zara entered the room with her guitar. She volunteered and wowed him with her unique sound.

"Her music is quirky, off-kilter, really unique, innovative—these illustrative acoustic songs," raved Gregorino. "I knew I had to get her in for a show before she leaves the continent."

Zara revealed that she will be playing the most recent song she has written, titled "Change."

"It’s a bit dark," she admitted. "The song is about a girl who breaks lots of hearts, and then cuts herself on the pieces that she leaves lying around…I loved that image of a broken heart being real and shattered like glass."

Gregorino explained his reasoning for booking both Riley and Zara on the same night.

"I like the idea of combining different artists who are complimentary, but different enough to create an intriguing lineup," he said. "I think anybody who appreciates acoustic music that is creatively arranged and down-to-earth will enjoy [Aubree and Lucie]. I think the appeal for both of them will be pretty broad."

Saturday's show begins at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.donkeycoffee.com.