Dense: Mighty Oaks, the Band of Friends

By Jo Phillips


Three young men, all from different countries, met, became firm friends, moved to Berlin together, and eventually this friendship led to the creation of their band, Mighty Oaks. Ian Hooper, from the United States, is the lead singer who also plays the acoustic guitar, kick drum, mandolin, and tambourine.  Claudio Donzelli, from Italy, plays the banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboard/piano, mandolin, and sings.  Craig Saunders, from England, plays the bass and sings.  Together, they produced an indie-folk band that writes honest, authentic, and emotionally driven songs inspired by life and adventure in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.  Opening for Kings of Leon and playing gigs all across Europe has made this band a little more well known and shows the potential for a big break through in the music world.


We asked the band about how their firm, close friendship created the band and how they can continue being friends in a band.

How did you meet?

We are all originally from different places – I (Ian) am from the States, Craig is from England and Claudio is from Italy. Craig and I were living in Hamburg, had gotten to know one another, and we met Claudio at a small songwriter festival in the city, where we were all performing as solo artists. We ended up becoming friends and stayed in touch.


What made you want to become friends?

It doesn’t often happen that you see someone and say, “Man, I wanna be friends with THAT guy!” For Craig and me, that is how it transgressed, in a way. We were both ex-pats living in Hamburg, met at a show, and found solace in having a like-minded native-English speaker to spend time with. Who knows if we’d have hit it off so quickly under other circumstances. We met Claudio, and quickly realized that he’s just a super thoughtful, and extremely talented individual. It was clear that we all got along from the start, and our friendship has grown over many years into what it is today.


How do friends make music without falling out?
I think it is fair to say that making music is the reason that keeps us from falling out with one another. We differ greatly in our temperaments, our strengths, and our weaknesses, and music is the one aspect of our relationship that we all understand the same way together. Of course, vehement discussions about songs do arise, but they are never odious or hurtful.


How do you stay friends working making music, touring etc?

The fact that we were friends before we had the band has helped us through some tough times where the road has worn us down and made our spirits low, or our fuses short. Our relationship to one another is rooted in friendship, in brotherhood in a way, and not in some gluttonous quest for opulence and fame. We have grown so much over the course of the past 18 months as individuals, as friends, and especially as a band. We are closer now than we’ve ever been, and are thrilled about what’s ahead, for it is always an adventure.

Their debut studio recorded EP produced by Island Records, featuring the song ‘Brother’, comes out in the UK on 1st September.


“It’s a song about friendship – a nostalgic reflection upon the developmental stages in life and about having that one, true friend, that you know would do anything for you, and for whom you’d do anything. More generally, it is a celebration of the meaningful relationships in life”, Ian explains.

Check them out on YouTube & on 1st September when their EP debuts in the UK

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