Interview – Fefe Dobson

Fefe Dobson photo

Fefe Dobson brings Joy to Canada, gives advice to Rebecca Black

– by Shawn Conner

Though only 26, Fefe Dobson has already been through the music industry grinder. Her 2003 self-titled debut was a Juno-nominated, four-singles-strong smash but, when her label folded days before its release, her second never made it out of the record company vaults.

So there’s a lot riding on Joy, technically Dobson’s follow-up to her debut – though perhaps the stakes aren’t as high if she hadn’t found success as a songwriter in the interim, with Jordin Sparks, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus all recording her tunes. (Enter to win a copy of Joy by signing up to our newsletter. Draw: April 16)

Songwriting is definitely a strength on Joy, which has a little something for everyone; Top 40, glossy ballads and even some rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the latter that, to these ears, makes up the record’s strongest material. “I Want You” is a crunchy rock-guitar rush, “Watch Me Move” struts like a distaff version of Lenny Kravitz’ “Gonna Go My Way”, and “I’m a Lady” is what happens when Joan Jett fronts BTO. With a house-quaking chorus, the title song ends Joy on a world-vanquishing note.

We chatted with Dobson by phone, while she was on her way to the first show of her Canadian tour, in Ottawa. (The tour continues on ’til April 16, with a Vogue Theatre show in Vancouver.) She was with her band, and they’d be picking up the members of the tour’s opening act, These Kids Wear Crowns, making her the lone female on a bus of 12 guys.

Fefe Dobson photo

SC: Is this going to be a more rock ‘n’ roll tour for you?

Fefe Dobson: Well, the record shows two sides of me, my rock side and pop side. I’m a split personality, rock and pop. It’s definitely an energetic show. It’s rockin’, there are live instruments, we turn it up loud and we have fun.

SC: Do you feel like you lost some momentum when Sunday Love didn’t get released?

Fefe Dobson: Uhm [long pause]. I was always kind of behind the scenes. When I didn’t have a record out I was writing for other artists, so I was getting my music out there, it might not have been my voice, but it was my songs. But I’m actually glad I had some time off in the sense of not being in magazines. I needed some time to grow up and figure out what I wanted to do musically next. If things are always peachy-keen you don’t really have anything to write about. I need to go through life situations to write about them.

SC: Who are your fans?

Fefe Dobson: My fans in general are so supportive and patient. Thye’ve waited for this record for so long and they’ve been so cool. My fans range, you know, from age to gender, ethnicity, they range. It’s a beautiful sea of people when I’m at a show.

Fefe Dobson photo

SC: Who’s the competition out there for you now?

Fefe Dobson: I don’t know. I try not to think of things as negative. Looking at people as competition is how you create rivalries. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.

SC: What do you think of Rebecca Black?

Fefe Dobson: I mean it’s… [long pause] I feel bad for her because I don’t think she even knows what she’s representing in the musical world. It sucks for her, because I think she’s just following suit, and she has no clue of what she looks like, and what it comes across as. And I think music is a messed-up place in the mainstream world in the first place, and it puts her in a really tough spot. She’s a kid and she has no clue.

SC: Have you always been able to maintain your independence? You were just a kid when you were coming up, you probably had some illusions about the music industry…

Fefe Dobson: I always knew it was going to be tough. I’ve always have had to fight for survival. Even as a kid, it was always a fight at school, being bullied, being attacked. I was always used to working hard and trying to stick to my guns and not let someone pull me down with them. Independence always comes with a fight.

Fefe Dobson photo

SC: Getting back to Sunday Love for a moment, I was surprised to find out some of the songwriters you worked with included Nina Gordon, Billy Steinberg, Cyndi Lauper, Courtney Love…

Fefe Dobson: John Five.

SC: I don’t know who John Five is.

Fefe Dobson: John 5 is the guitar player for Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson.

SC: Oh. Okay. So what was the collaboration process like?

Fefe Dobson: Well, Courtney Love and I hung out and talked about music but we never got to collaborate. It’s an amazing process, especially when you write with people you really look up to. On Sunday Love there were so many writers – Nina Gordon, Tim Armstrong from Rancid, Joan Jett – it’s an amazing amazing feeling, it’s a pinch-me moment for sure.

SC: I know some of those songs got covered, but what about the rest of them?

Fefe Dobson: They’re going to wait until can release them. There are certain babies on there I could never have anyone sing, ‘cos they’re just too close to my life. But some of them have been covered, like “As a Blond” by Selena Gomez.

SC: Do you have any control over what happens to this song?

[Pamela the publicist breaks in: “Shawn this has to be the last question please”]

Fefe Dobson: Uh… I’m not sure. I can’t really answer that. I don’t know, I’m sorry. It’s really to do with timing and the means available to purchase them. I don’t really have the answer to that.

Fefe Dobson Joy album cover art

Fefe Dobson‘s second album Joy is in stores and available online now.

Fefe Dobson tour dates:

Tues/Mar-22 – Algonquin – The Observatory – Ottawa, ON
Wed/Mar-23 – Barracudas- St. Catharines, ON
Thur/Mar-24 – Bombshelter – Waterloo, ON
Mon/Mar-28 – Caruso Club – Sudbury, ON
Wed/Mar-30 – Lakehead – The Outpost – Thunder Bay, ON
Thur/Mar-31 – Townshend Theatre – Fort Frances, ON
Fri/Apr-1 – Dryden Cultural Centre – Dryden, ON
Sat/Apr-2 – Garrick Centre – Winnipeg, MB
Mon/Apr-4 – Broadway Theatre – Saskatoon, SK
Wed/Apr-6 – Red Deer College – Red Deer, AB
Thur/Apr-7 – Wyckham House Event Centre – Calgary, AB
Fri/Apr-8 – Esplanade – Medicine Hat, AB
Sat/Apr-9 – Edmonton Event Centre – Edmonton, AB
Sun/Apr-10 – Better Than Fred’s – Grand Prairie, AB
Tues/Apr-12 – Port Theatre – Nanaimo, BC
Wed/Apr-13 – Victoria Event Centre – Victoria, BC
Fri/Apr-15 – Tidemark Theatre – Campbell River, BC
Sat/Apr-16 – Vogue Theatre – Vancouver, BC

Watch – Fefe Dobson, “Ghost”:

Watch – Fefe Dobson, “Stuttering”:

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