While Canadian singer Fefe Dobson dressed up as a dead Amy Winehouse for Halloween this year, it was not too long ago that Dobson fought off critics about her own image and strived to stay true to herself in the music industry. In this interview, Dobson talks about her upcoming album, Joy, her single, “I Want You,” being featured on VH1 promotional spots for the reality show, “Megan Wants a Millionaire,” and so much more.
Racket Gail: How was your Halloween?
Fefe Dobson: It was amazing, I had such a blast. I got to hang out with my friends and party like it was 1999, it was great.
RG: [Laughs] What did you end up doing? Did you dress up?
FD: I did, I got to dress up. I was very happy.
RG: Did you want to tell me what you were…
FD: Yeah, yeah. Of course! I was a dead Amy Winehouse [laughs.]
RG: Oh wow! A dead Amy Winehouse! What did you have to wear?
FD: I have lots of pairs of skinny jeans because that’s the only pair of jeans I wear. So I wore skinny jeans and an oversized belt to make me look thinner…
FD: and a colorful bra and a Wife beater and the wig obviously.
RG: Oh yeah, yeah.
FD: A lot of blood and a white face… [Laughs] so I look dead.
RG: That’s so cool! So did you spend your Halloween on the West or East Coast?
FD: On the East Coast. I was in Toronto, so I stayed in Toronto with my friends.
RG: Oh cool, that’s great. First of all, congratulations on finishing your second album.
FD: Thank you.
RG: When can fans pick it up in stores?
FD: That’s in March, I believe. I don’t know the exact date.
RG: What was your reaction to the VH1 promo spots [for “Megan Wants a Millionaire”]?
FD: I think it’s great when people are interested in supporting my music and they want to be a part of my record and my single. I thought it was really super, it was really nice.
RG: Jordin Sparks too, covering your song [“Don’t Let it Get to Your Head”]. What was your reaction to that? Are you a fan of the show?
FD: I loved it. The fact that she did my song, that was really sweet. She did a really cool rendition of it. It was more towards her style and what felt comfortable to her…it was sweet.
RG: It’s a good compliment too because how do make that work for different artists? Some people were trying to see who was the better version and I’m like, “Well, that’s not really point.” So what is your reaction to people comparing both of you guys because I don’t think it’s very fair.
FD: When I wrote the song, you know I never thought someone would cover it. It was definitely a compliment to have a young artist cover my tunes, who’s relatively close to my age. So it was really awesome, regardless of who sounds better. I don’t think that really matters, it’s more about just the fact that it was song that gets getting a chance to be in a different genre completely.
RG: I agree. How do you think you’ve evolved on this album, “Joy?”
FD: Well, you know. I’m in my early 20s now and I wrote my first record when I was in my early teens, mid-teens and obviously you go through like different growing spurts and growing pains, different things like that. So, it’s going to reflect who you are as a person. So the first album was essentially me as a person, for what I was then and this album as what I am now. I feel this record is more raw and definitely I was more patient with myself while creating it. I didn’t put too much pressure that I gotta make this record, it’s gotta sound like this. I totally locked myself away from the media and everything to make it, so I think that’s why it’s different. I really, really became a hermit with the record.
RG: Did you do anything musically that you never tried before on this album?
FD: Yeah. First of all, I got to make it independently but in a musical note, I got to work with friends that I could really put my opinions on and they would really listen to it as producers. Sometimes, [you] don’t get that chance because it’s a big machine running things but I really got that chance which was stellar.
RG: How do you think you’ve changed as a person in this industry?
FD: I’m just kind of enjoying things a little bit more and just relaxing, not taking things so seriously like I said, being more patient with things. It’s not that I changed too much; I guess I’ve grown and I guess that comes with change.
RG: Speaking of evolution, how do you think releasing your two singles “I Want You,” and “Watch Me,” online has impacted your career and how you reach an audience?
FD: It’s huge. I mean, anyone can get your songs digitally and it can be streamed so fast on one computer to the next in a matter of seconds. I think that’s brilliant. When I first came out in 2003, when we say online stuff, it would be secondary to anything else. [Now the internet] is so humungous which is amazing because it’s easier to have access to things.
RG: How do you think the older outlets like radio and TV still factor into your career?
FD: I think different things can break different artists. I couldn’t say that oh, online’s gonna break this artist or TV’s gonna break this artist. I think it depends on whose championing the artist, if it’s radio or TV. If you have a big following online, that can also champion your career. I mean it depends on everyone.
RG: When you talked about making this album with your friends and they help you actualize your “joy.” What do you mean by that?
FD: Who doesn’t get joy by spending time with their friends?
RG: Yeah. How would you define that?
FD: Who doesn’t get joy from being around people that make you happy?
RG: I was just trying to flush out what you were saying about it but if you didn’t have a particular moment…
FD: I mean, honestly the joy came from making the record but it also came before that. Everyone goes through spurts of joy and I found the album name…I wanted something uplifting and represented how I was feeling in my few years.
RG: You alluded to it before [about breaking into the business and her personality not being changed as a result of it] was there something you found out about the music business that surprised you?
FD: No [laughs]. I knew it was going to come with hard work, I knew that it was going to come with moments of confusion. I knew that because I really studied everything before. When I was younger, I used to study interviews and watch people talk about things and watch people say it’s not always about the fame and glory. It’s about other stuff, so I was prepared and I really had a very strong, tough upbringing so I was ready for anything basically [laughs].
RG: That’s great! I have a huge respect for artists who stay true to themselves, so you were prepared for people to want to change the way you look or make you more marketable. You have more freedom now obviously from making this album, but do you think you still struggle with some of that in your career?
FD: People trying to change who I am?
RG: Yeah, for your image or [people trying to] make you sound more pop.
FD: No, not anymore. I think that’s what’s so great about making the record independently was that I was able to create my sound and do what I wanted to do and there weren’t so many cooks in the kitchen. I mean, I don’t think I could be unique if I had [people] telling me at every corner who I should be, you know, what’s normal or what works. Who really knows what works?
RG: So then who do you think inspired [you as an artist] staying true to yourself. Who were some of your influences growing up?
FD: Musically, staying true kind of thing was definitely John Lennon. I think you just have to be yourself, either people like it or not and not everyone’s gonna love you but not everyone’s gonna hate you or dislike you either.
RG: During the time when you were struggling and you had no label, the media was really harsh on you, how do you think that influenced your musical direction from this point on?
FD: I think it influenced me musically by the fact that I can create on my terms and so there were points were I felt I could be a little more free, which I think shows on the album. I think that at that point in my life when I was labeless, I think that was probably the best thing to enjoy being able to make this album. Now having such a big family on board again, having everybody who came before me is a [great thing] because I know I made the right decision.
RG: I’ve listened to some of your songs [on the new album]; I went online and [watched] the live performances of them. The subject material is a lot more introspective, so how do you think you approach songwriting now because you have so much to work with and a maturity level’s there too.
FD: Honestly, I just write when I feel like it or when the mood strikes or when someone frustrates me or someone makes me feel emotional in some regard. When it actually comes to recording stuff and writing some of that, we just kind of sit down and strum something on the guitar, jam out until [we] start hearing melodies and bring out words.
RG: For this album was it hard to pick and choose [songs] or did everything just kind of work out on its own?
FD: You know its funny I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult to choose what’s gonna be on the record, other than that, it’s actually a lot easier to choose because I just kind of thought [it] flowed together like a story: oh that should go there, that should go there and that should go there. It felt really good.
RG: Talking about lyrics and the album, do you consider yourself a good role model with what you learned in life professionally and what you’ve been through personally?
FD: Role model [pauses] I mean, to say “Oh yeah, I should be a role model,” is very, like you know…preachy. I think if you want to look up to somebody, look up to them. I think you don’t ever want to be somebody, look up to somebody so much that you actually forget who you are. If kids look up to me or teens look up to me or my best friend looks up to me for something I’ve done or something I’ve accomplished or something I’ve stood up for then that’s cool, you know?
RG: What do fans have to look forward from you for the rest of the year?
FD: I’m looking forward to touring. I can’t wait. I love to be on the road and I love to meet fans. I love being in vans. I love being in tour buses. I love waking up in the morning and having to be on stage. I’m looking forward to touring, for sure.
–Interview by Gail Navarro