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Issue 1101

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Fefe Dobson: Making moves

Fefe Dobson
Fefe Dobson Fefe Dobson Fefe Dobson Fefe Dobson

“A company in Canada paid some interest and they wanted to do a development deal with me. They had this vision of Brandy Spears as they put it because I was a black girl with a pop voice. That made me crazy because at fourteen I knew what I wanted.”

If I asked many people who Fefe Dobson is I am sure there would be a good few people that would not know however I have a feeling that this will soon change for the UK audience.

The Canadian singer/song writer from Scarborough Ontario is a national star back home and is a prodigious talent. Signed to Def Jam’s label/Island she is now embarking on her second album 'Joy' (2010) the follow up to her double Juno nominated and eponymous album in 2003.

Her mission is simple, to make herself a household name outside of Canada. This is of course a challenging prospect when we think of notable singers that have come from those shores: Melanie Fiona (a great Rn'B singer), Nelly Furtado whose manager Chris Smith now manages Fefe and of course Celine Dion who despite what others may say is a phenomenal and hugely talented global name.

So how does Fefe Dobson fit in there? I would say very nicely. She definitely has her own style that has elements Avril Lavigne, portions of Rihanna not because she happens to be the same colour but there is a seductive rawness, with a smattering of Pink for that in your face attitude.

“My music has the energy of rock and roll but it has the pop melodies but in general I just write about situations in my life it is almost like a girl’s diary in terms of relationships. I like to mix a lot of 60’s and 70’s and 90’s rock and roll influences and go from there”

Her song writing abilities have been recognised with big artists like Jordin Sparks on 'Don’t Let It Go', Seleana Gomez with 'As a Blond' (2009) and Miley Cyrus with 'Start All Over' (2008). It is a bitter sweet pill however with some of those tracks coming from the album 'Sunday Love' (2003) which had collaborations with Cyndi Lauper and Courtney Love that was never released: “For sure making an album is like a relationship and when it suddenly ends it is really difficult to deal with but it was however a blessing in disguise really. When the album was shelved and it did not come out, it gave me time to re-invent myself in every aspect and it made me really appreciate everything on a deeper level.”

Her journey into music has all the hall marks in some respects for success and indeed the proof is in her current success in her native homeland. It is strange that in many singers’ histories, the feature of a hard up-bringing and music being an escape from those hardships seems to feature regularly, “I think music got into me. It was my way of expressing me when I could not express myself verbally. I sang at music theatre high school and instead of going home and doing homework I would just make demo tapes. My mum saved up all her cash for this karaoke machine that was really cool. I would sing on top of the tracks and I would have twenty four songs on a cassette and then said it out to record companies”
What is striking with Fefe (and again a regular feature with successful singers) is the self belief with lines like, “it was my vision and I knew I had to have a career in music” and maturity that she displayed from an early age. “a company in Canada paid some interest and they wanted to do a development deal with me. They had this vision of Brandy Spears as they put it because I was a black girl with a pop voice. That made me crazy because at fourteen I knew what I wanted. I asked them if we could put some guitar in there or something live and they just did not want to do it. They took me to lunch and dropped a deal and I said no thanks.”
Even while we are sitting in her the hotel lobby the twenty six year old Fefe is a measure of maturity but this is permeated with a suitably fun character, once you ask the right questions. For instance her crush on one Justine Timberlake; she readily admits and laughs heartily when I ask: “were you a groupie then in for all that crying business?”

“I was definitely a groupie for N-Sync and indeed I cried when Justin sung this song called 'Gone' (2001) and I was like ‘one day you will know me’ [she feigns blubbering]. Everyone at school thought I was crazy for ever thinking that at some point Justin Timberlake would ever know my name but I had a vision” And indeed the vision proved to be right with Fefe’s first foray into the UK a supporting role touring with Justin Timberlake, “I came out here in 2003/2004 with Justin Timberlake and that was absolutely unbelievable. I grew up with N-Sync and they were huge and believe I went to every N-Sync concert around. He is such a hard worker but he was such an amazing person. You know it is nervous meeting someone you looked up to because when you meet them they might be really horrible but he was the sweetest guy ever so it was better than I thought it might have been.”

With her inspirations ranging from “Bob Marley, Nivana, Smashing Pumpkins and Fleetwood Mac” the suitably gorgeous Fefe, seems to have an album in 'Joy' (2010) that should entice many. The subject matter is largely based on relationships and is un-ashamedly pop and consequently it has that polished and refined radio feel. She has already had success in her homeland with this current album with the singles 'Ghost' and 'Stuttering' - achieving chart positions in the Canadian charts of 14th and 10th respectively. The omens look good for Fefe, who is doing her rounds via Universal, whom are handling her UK aspirations.

“I was doing some acoustic songs at Universal and just saying hello to the whole team who seem amazing. There seems to be a true appreciation of music out here in London so that is great.” And with that I have to quickly wrap up the interview. The time actually flew which is always a good sign...

Anyway, Fefe Dobson.....remember where you heard about her first.
Words Semper Azeez-Harris

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