It’s been an energizing year for musician Donnie Emerson, whose story is the subject of a film that recently debuted at the Venice, Toronto and Zurich International Film Festivals and opened in Theaters nationwide August 4th.

Emerson’s story is unique to say the least. It’s been over 40 years since he and his brother Joe were teenagers and released their debut album “Dreamin’ Wild.” It went nowhere at the time but has been rescued by music fans in recent years, and the family’s improbable story is the subject of a film that was shot in Spokane last year starring Casey Affleck.

Through it all, Emerson has continued to make music.

When his father Don Emerson Sr. financed his sons Donnie and Joe Emerson’s debut album “Dreamin’ Wild,” it appeared that the teenage boys from Fruitland, Washington, had a chance to make it as recording artists.
The senior Emerson believed in his musical wunderkind of a son so much that he took a loan out against his farm, which produces hay, wheat and alfalfa.
“I’m not a musician but I could see that Donnie is just so talented,” he said recently at his Fruitland farm. “I had to help my boys. It’s what a father does.

By 15 Donnie could play guitar, piano, clarinet and trombone. Donnie Emerson was writing songs daily inspired by songs he heard on Spokane radio station KJRB. Such iconic recording artists as Hall & Oates and Smokey Robinson had a massive impact on Emerson.
“What I heard on the radio was so inspiring, I was moved to make music.”

With Donnie Emerson, then 17, on vocals and guitar and Joe Emerson, then 19, on drums, the tandem recorded the aptly titled “Dreamin’ Wild.” The album is raw but the songs are there, particularly the blue-eyed soul of the melodic “Baby,” and the moving “Give Me the Chance.”
The former sounded as if it could have catapulted the Emerson brothers out of Fruitland and obscurity. But the album, which features the Emerson boys in matching white jumpsuits, failed to launch upon its 1977 release.

There are many more misses than hits in the music industry. However, a music blogger, Charles Fleischer, found a copy of “Dreamin’ Wild” in 2008 and raved about the album as a gem that fell between the cracks.
In 2012, the album got a re-release from Seattle’s Light in the Attic Records.

But it was another example of the lack of control Emerson or any other artist has after a project drops. But the good, which came out of the critical acclaim, raves by Pitchfork and music bloggers, was undeniable since Hollywood was interested.

The buzz led to movie interest spearheaded by Bill Pohlad, who directed “Love & Mercy,” the bio-drama about the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. Pohlad is the writer, director and producer of the film “Dreamin’ Wild,” which was shot in Spokane and Fruitland last year and premiered last September at the Venice International Film Festival in Italy. In August of this year the movie will debut in Movie theatre’s throughout the USA.
“I’m excited,” Emerson said. “How can our family not be excited about this?”

Casey Affleck plays Donnie Emerson and Zooey Deschanel portrays Emerson’s wife, singer Nancy Sophia. “Casey is an intense actor, who is overshadowed by his brother (actor-director Ben Affleck) but Casey is the one who won the Academy Award (for best actor for “Manchester By the Sea”). “Zooey is amazing as well. The entire cast is tremendous”, he said, and also features Beau Bridges as Donnies Dad and Walton Goggins as brother Joe.

Joe Emerson says he’s ecstatic about the film and is thrilled that the world will learn about his brother. “People will learn about Donnie and how amazing he is,” “He really shines as a musician. Donnie is an Elton John type. When he sits down behind the piano Donnie is just as good as Elton.”
In the interim Donnie Emerson is writing, recording and performing with his wife Nancy Sophia and his “Dreamin’ Wild Band featuring some of the best musicians from around the Northwest.

It’s taken nearly a half century for the spotlight to arrive for Emerson but his hard work has paid off and now the singer-songwriter gets to do what he loves on a much bigger stage!