Donny Osmond Reflects on Childhood Fame Ahead of Solo Residency Debut: ‘I Was Just So Lonely’
Donny Osmond would never want to be 19 again. Despite his early success as a performer, he spent too much time by himself in empty hotel rooms far from home. “I was just so lonely,” he exclusively tells Closer. “You go back to the early 1970s, and you’ve got literally thousands of screaming girls at those concerts yelling your name, but then you go back to a very quiet hotel or the bus. I learned what loneliness is in life.”
Today, the 63-year-old is a husband, father of five and a grandfather — and those sad, solitary days are very far behind him. Still, he’s been thinking about the past and all that he’s experienced lately. “At this point in my life, I’ve got so much to talk about,” Donny says in the latest issue, on newsstands now.
Aside from making memories with his family, the “Puppy Love” crooner has spent the past three years writing the most personal music of his career. Start Again, his 65th album, will be released in September and is the first he has cowritten and coproduced in its entirety. “I asked myself, ‘OK, who am I right now?'” Donny proclaims. “And this is exactly who I am.”
In thinking about his life, Donny’s relationship with his wife, Debbie Osmond, whom he married in 1978, comes up a lot. She satisfied the yearning for connection he felt as a teenager and continues to provide a safe haven for her workaholic husband. “She’s been my saving grace. My confidante and friend,” marvels the Masked Singer alum, who says she inspired songs on the new album. “[One] night, we were out in the garden talking as we were pulling weeds and watering plants. In its own little way, it was a very romantic evening.”
The garden at Donny’s Utah home is his private oasis. “I have fruit trees that I planted in my orchard — one for each of my grandchildren. We have [an] apple, peach, nectarine, pear and cherry. When they come over, they like to go check their tree out,” he shares. “When I’m working really, really hard in the studio or I’m getting a little frustrated, I walk out, go in the garden, spend an hour and get back to nature. I built these massive waterfalls in my backyard, so I turn them on and I go to paradise.”
Donny has spent a lot of time in his garden over the past year contemplating his new solo headlining show opening at Harrah’s Las Vegas on August 31. He has a very tough act to follow! Donny’s last show on the Strip with his sister, Marie Osmond, was intended to run for six weeks, but its popularity kept it going for a remarkable 11 years. By the time it ended in 2019, more than 900,000 fans had seen it. “I don’t think you will ever find a duo more in sync than Donny and Marie,” he gushes.
“When we are on stage together, we can come up with improv lines that just crack each other up. [But] the Donny & Marie Show is over. We might get together and do some one-offs, but that was a very special moment in our lives, and now I am on to the next stage.”
Donny isn’t nervous about taking the Vegas stage alone. “Not at all. In fact, I wish we could start today! I’m very, very excited. I feel that I have had three careers: With the Osmond Brothers, as Donny & Marie and solo,” he says, adding that his whole life has been preparing for this moment. “I was about 12 when I decided that this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I had other options, but this has always been my dream and my goal. To have an opportunity to headline with my own show on the Strip is a lot of pressure, but I’ve been doing this for 60 years and I have a plethora of repertoire.”
In fact, every song that the former Dancing With the Stars contestant has ever recorded has the potential to be performed sometime during the run of the new show in the audience-request segment. “Anybody can pick any album, any song and we do it just like that,” he promises. There will also be the kind of glitzy production number that Las Vegas crowds love as Donny pays homage to his singing role as Li Shang in 1998’s animated feature Mulan. “We go into this whole dance routine to ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ from Mulan. It’s going to be spectacular!” he insists.
Donny has planned more intimate moments too. “I want people to feel like they’re in my living room talking to me.” And after the applause dies away and the audience empties out, Donny won’t be headed back to an empty hotel room. He’ll be going home to his wife and family. “This business can eat you up, so I try to live as normal a life as I possibly can,” he confides. “Yesterday, I had so much to get done, but the kids were all swimming in the pool. I said no, the work can wait.”