Eileen Doan is a singer, songwriter and an actress with a lust for adventure and self-discovery. Eileen recently moved to Sarasota to pursue an acting apprenticeship with Florida Studio Theatre. Between her rigorous schedule with the theatre and open mic performances, she is constantly working to improve her songwriting career. We caught up with Eileen to hear more about her pursuit of self-expression and how her love of the arts truly exemplifies the spirit of the Rosemary District.
Are you from Sarasota? If not where are you from and what brought you here to Sarasota?
No, I’m not. I recently moved here from Kentucky. I auditioned and was offered a position here in Sarasota working with Florida Studio Theatre as an acting apprentice.
What were you interested in growing up? Have you always been interested in the arts?
Yeah, I knew I always wanted to be a performer of some kind. I was always interested in music. I loved theater, but I never had the courage to pursue it until maybe my junior year in college. I decided I had to do, otherwise, I knew I would be really upset with myself in the future. I knew I had to give it a shot. When I was studying abroad, it kind of solidified in my mind that this was something I needed to do. I had always been really musical and really theater oriented, but never serious about it. It was always more of a hobby.
When did you first get your start in singing and acting?
I was in fourth grade and I got a role in my school choir’s musical and I got to sing an entire song a stage by myself, so that was kind of exciting! That was really the first performance I ever did, but then I took a really long break until 8th grade when I took a role in High School Musical. I took another long break after that, then the next big thing I was in was a role in Hair during my sophomore year of college. Hair was almost the tipping point of my decision to become a performer, then when I was in a few productions abroad I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Do you ever find yourself getting stage fright?
Honestly, not really. Before you go up on stage it’s always a concern that what if this time your voice cracks and then die of embarrassment. But once I’m up there, I usually just go. It’s almost like I’m on autopilot. I spend so much time in my room singing and practicing, I just pretend I’m in my room and have fun with it. I perform a lot at open mic nights at the Reserve here in Sarasota. Last week I had a guy named Carlos who I had never met, come up on stage and perform with me. It’s amazing how great we sounded together considering we both had never played together and just went with it.
Aside from guitar, what other instruments do you play?
I actually played piano first. I’ve been playing since I was about 7 years old and I hated it at first. Then freshman year of college I began writing music and I really appreciated the skill. I started playing the guitar in high school and recently I just got a mandolin that I’m learning to play. I can kind of play the ukulele and just a week ago I bought a violin, which I’m learning how to play now too. My main reason for wanting to learn how to play all of these instruments is because I want to try new things and challenge myself. I enjoy it. Learning the violin now is so hard, I’m so glad I can already read music really well. I’m skilled in the sense that I’m now able to hear something and then duplicate it. My next instrument I’m looking into learning is the harmonica, it’s kind of fun.
You mentioned that you write music, what are some of your favorite original songs that you’ve written?
I wrote a song called Lucky my sophomore year of college. I was in a creative mood, but I didn’t know what to write about. I played this chord progression that I really liked, it made me feel really happy. It wasn’t until I saw this meme of a text conversation that I got inspired. A guy had gotten a tattoo of a dog wearing an astronaut helmet. When his sister questioned him about the tattoo, he basically said well we’re all going to die anyway, so might as well do what I want. I thought, wow that is so true… then the song just came to me, serendipitous and out of the blue. That was at a time when I was just being sassy and experimenting with my songwriting. Another song I really like to sing is one that I wrote in England called Boyfriend. It’s about a crush of mine. I had just bought a new guitar and had all these feelings I needed to get out. I started playing something and loved what came out.
Tell us about your training and anyone who inspires you?
I’ve never really had formal training outside of my piano lessons, although I did take a vocal class the last semester of college. I knew the teacher and saw that the class was available so I figured why not. Other than that, I’ve never really had arts training. Everything else I’ve been learning as I go and copying other’s success. I learned how to do vocal runs by trying to emulate Christina Aguilera and a lot of my songwriting style is influenced by Sara Bareilles. She’s my number one inspiration, she just inspires me in every way. Just recently, she wrote a musical called Waitress and actually starred in it as well. It was my dream to be able to see her perform, so I flew up to New York the week before my graduation and got a chance to see it.
How does music make you feel? What is it that makes you so passionate when it comes to music and performing arts?
I’ve been thinking about this lately. Since being down here I’ve realized how much music and theater mean to me. I need it. I don’t know exactly what makes me feel this way, but it makes me feel free and empowered. I’m able to express myself in a way that not a lot of other people can. Before I was a songwriter or a performer, I would always listen to music and it would make me feel more than just spoken words. That’s the point of music, it shows the things that you can’t express without it. It just feels really invigorating to be able to do that, it makes me feel really strong.
Have you traveled elsewhere for performing opportunities? If so, tell us about them and some of your favorite places?
Well, I studied abroad when I was a junior in college, I went to England for the entire school year. When I was there I got to travel a lot. During the break, I left England and I took a month-long backpacking trip by myself through Europe. I went to Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Greece, Bratislava, Czech Republic, Hungary, Denmark, and Amsterdam. Outside of the backpacking trip, I went to France, Norway and Northern Ireland. Once you’re over there, it’s so cheap to travel. Rome and Florence were my favorite places that I visited though, they were just really beautiful. I’ve also traveled a bit in within the US. I’ve had opportunities all around Kentucky, Arizona, New York, North Carolina and now Florida.
What made you decide to take the internship here at Florida Studio Theater in Sarasota?
I got a few other internship offers, but I decided to take this one because I really enjoy FST’s mission to bring theater to underserved populations that wouldn’t necessarily get theater otherwise. I also love that they’re doing so much. I knew if I came here that I would be non-stop doing something. Every single thing they do here, I know I can learn a lot from. I just wanted to cram as much as I could into my body and mind and come to a place where I could learn and soak in as much as I could. I knew FST was the place for me to do that. Everyone is so helpful and willing to talk to you here, even the actors.
There’s a creative culture here in Sarasota, especially in the Rosemary District. How do you feel as though you contribute to it?
I’ve always been very artsy. Seeing everything, all of the opportunities around, there’s a ballroom dancing studio a block away from my housing and shops and galleries. I contribute to the culture in my own tiny way, just because I’m not necessarily a planted thing that people come to, I need to go out and show them. Being around this culture and in the arts, it’s a good place to be. I feel like I’m in premiere housing at FST, being able to live in the Rosemary District in Downtown Sarasota.
What is it that you enjoy about living in Sarasota and the Rosemary District?
I just love the city for what it is, it’s so artsy. I kind of never want to leave because there’s always so much going on. I love the arts and the people and how it’s beautiful here all of the time. Even on grey days it still feels like there is a glow. There’s this little spot I found recently that I go to, to watch sunsets and see the water which is just so cool.
How do you feel about all the changes and transformations happening in the neighborhood?
I’m not really concerned, I love seeing the art shops pop up because I know they’ll contribute to the area. It’s an opportunity for people to be able to see more outside of the Ringling and Main Street. I feel like the housing is going to bring more people in and they’ll be buying the art from the local galleries. Having more shops here and housing is going to be able to showcase more people more things.
What does the future look like for you?
Right now I know I’ll be here at least until May. After that, I’m really not sure. Making a career for myself in something as unpredictable as theater, especially as an actor, I can’t really plan things for anything further out than a year. If an opportunity arises in Sarasota, I would absolutely love to stay in Sarasota just because I feel really good being here. In the future, I’d love to move to New York, but I have no clue where performing opportunities will take me. I’ve told myself that I’m going to try to pursue both music and theater equally. I don’t know either business too much yet, so I’m just trying to take small steps each week. Whether it be submitting to playlist curators or contacting small shops to play sets at, we’ll see how it goes. With the theater aspect, FST has kind of taken over. I’m learning as much as I can while I’m there. My extra time has been more focused on how to better my music.
–Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
Just that this city has been a really great city for me artistically. Personally and mentally it feels really good to be in a place where there’s so much going on. It’s not so much that it’s overwhelming, it’s more that there are endless possibilities here.