Fefe Dobson Biography
Last updated: 02/08/2011 10:00:00 AM
You almost heard about Canadian-born fireball Fefe Dobson a couple of years ago when she considered signing to her first record deal north of the border. It’s not that she wasn’t ready then to enter the pop/rock arena but that she wanted to reach her full potential before bursting onto the scene. At the time, she was beginning to write on the piano, and though the melodic foundations of these pop songs were solid, something was missing. She knew what it was. “I just kept thinking, ‘There’s something wrong. I need more guitar’.”
So FeFe buckled down, scrapped her previous songs and began from scratch enlisting the talents of co-producer Jay Levine from Left Hook Productions. “I met Jay when I was just starting out and we wrote a song together within the first ten minutes of meeting each other. It was magic.”
This chemistry proved to be not only fruitful, but also very powerful. “We’d play something on the guitar, then I’d play something on the piano, and the parts would vibe off each other. I’d just think about my life, and my experiences, and start writing. Everyone can feel these songs, because everyone’s had the same problems. And choruses started coming to me all of a sudden—it was an adrenaline rush.”
The byproduct of this creative alchemy, Fefe Dobson, mixed by Tom Lord-Alge, crackles with the vitality of unmitigated emotion. It lures you in, then turns on a dime and hits you with the force of a drop kick.
Growing up in a musically diverse family, the sounds that permeated FeFe’s household pulled her in all directions at once. Her mother would regularly spin tunes by the likes of Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, while dancing around the house with abandon. “My mom was like a disco queen,” says FeFe with a laugh. “She was crazy. She’d always be dancing to Flashdance and stuff like that. I’d sit there and go, ‘She’s weird,’ but that’s how I learned to dance.” Meanwhile, another influence began to dictate FeFe’s rock aesthetic.
“My sister was a huge Nirvana freak,” she continues. “She used to close her door and blast ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on CD. She wouldn’t let me in, but I’d sit there at the bottom of the door with my ear at the crack and just listen. You hear a lot of experience in those songs—they went through things. That music came from Kurt Cobain’s mind, heart, and soul, and there’s a lot of pain in his singing. You can feel it, and go on that journey with him. When you’re young you don’t think, ‘This person is going to change your life.’ But when you start recording your own songs, it comes back and reminds you.”
While laying down the vocal tracks on her album, FeFe called on Cobain for inspiration, invoking some Seattle-inspired heft on some of the tunes on the album. “In the booth where I was singing, I had inspirational posters up: Coldplay, Jeff Buckley, the Vines, Judy Garland, and of course, Nirvana. I felt like, they’ve done it, and now I’m doing it. It gave me an extra boost. When I was recording vocals, I’d look at Kurt Cobain, and it sort of felt like he was telling me, ‘You can do it.’”
But there’s much more to Fefe Dobson than overcast alterna-angst. On her Island Records debut, FeFe manages to siphon the spirits of all her musical heroes into a truly original stew. “It’s a bunch of different influences, and different genres, pulled into one,” she explains. “Everything from Nirvana… to Madonna. And it has a taste of Red Hot Chili Peppers in there, too. It really ranges.”
On “Everything,” FeFe deftly bridges the worlds of the Bangles and the Chili Peppers, as her bracing vocals flutter over a snappy six-string riff. On the first single, the wistful “Take Me Away,” FeFe longs for romantic escapism through a ultra-catchy chorus amidst chugging guitars that drown you with an overwhelming emotional heft. The nu-metal stomper, “Unforgiven,” intersects music and vocals at the exact point where life experience and raw artistic expression cross - multiple guitar parts over a pulverizing pulse with a vocal delivery dipped in battery acid. “Daddy Daddy, why’d you break your promises to me…” echo repeatedly throughout the song providing a scathing cathartic release. And on the cutting “Bye Bye Boyfriend,” she takes swipes at her ex, setting up a devastating chorus.
And though FeFe wrestles with tumultuous relationships throughout her album, she also unveils some tongue-in-cheek and fist-in-face lyrics on the punkafied “Stupid Little Love Song,” with its frenetic guitar strumming. Add to all that the acoustic ballad “The Revolution Song” with its heartfelt and deeply meaningful lyrics, and you have an album that captures the wide ranging influences of FeFe Dobson, an album destined to flummox would be music labelers.
As FeFe asserts, “When I play a show, people can dance, they can groove, they can mosh, and they can head bang—whatever they want to do. But in the end—it’s just me. Basically, it rocks.”
Not only does it rock, but it’s chock full of the hard-rock guitars FeFe craves. In the studio, she and Jay Levine enlisted cats like bassist Jack Daly (Lenny Kravitz) to upholster FeFe’s raw riffs. Although she has two seasoned axe-slingers in tow, she continues to improve on the instrument herself. “I’m self-taught so far,” she says. “I played piano for four years when I was younger, and my guitar playing is catching up quickly. I’m working really hard at it, and I’m still growing with it. Hopefully soon you’ll see me on stage playing both instruments. It’s definitely something to look forward to.”
At this point, FeFe can look forward to lots of things. One would be playing live shows in front of newfound fans. She’s only had a handful of gigs with her band, but the heady experience has her hungry for more. “It’s great. With the guitars and drums, it’s all right there. You’re impacting people, and it’s loud, and they’re looking at the whole product. It’s liberating.”
As FeFe Dobson digs in and poises to spring Stateside, gone is the safe world of all things nice, clean and careful. Replaced with raw energy, sincerity and integrity, her renewed focus pulls no punches. This time, she’s amped to give the world her life experiences and understandings. This time, it’s her turn to break out of her shell. And this time, she’ll lead the charge – it’s a leadership position she’s dreamed of all her life.