Interview: Dozzi

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Brisbane trio Dozzi is made up of three sisters who are on the verge of releasing their debut album. I recently spoke to Andrea about the process of making that album and about their single recorded with Drew McAlister of McAlister Kemp. I was a bit slow with the interview, though, because their next single has been released – called ‘Weakness’, it’s already a staple of their live shows. Look out for Dozzi – live and recorded – near you.

So you’ve been in Nashville?
Yes.  We were in LA and Nashville, so got back yesterday.  
And was that to record the upcoming album, the Nashville trip?
We had some meetings and we did record some songs.  Yeah.
Did you have another trip a little while ago as well?
We haven’t been over in the States, I think, for a couple of years now for music.  I’ve gone for a holiday, but not for music.
Right, right.  And I saw a photo of you meeting Chip Esten from Nashville.
Mmhm.  Yep, yep, yep. One of the highlights [laughs].
That looked like it was backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, was it?
Yes. I saw him and I didn’t care if I was being cool or not — I was on a mission to get a photo with him.  And I did.  And I introduced myself and he was very nice, and he knew we were from Australia, obviously, and asked where were we up to in Australia?  And I said, “Oh, it’s only the first season.”  He said, “Oh, we’ve got so much to look forward to.”  And he was so nice, and then I smiled.
And it was a great photo as well.  He certainly didn’t look at all troubled by being seen with the three of you.
No [laughs].  No, I think he’s just such a nice guy that – just used to people asking for photos all the time now, since the show has just skyrocketed.
So  I don’t know the three of you started performing.  But I do know you’re from a heavily musical family.  So I was wondering if you could talk a bit about your family musical background and then how the band started?
We grew up with musicians as parents.  So they would write country songs, and they would learn and perform cover stuff.  So that’s what we grew up listening to.  And they were musicians until about – how long ago – about 10 years ago.  So our whole lives– our parents were out at night and home during the day.  There’s actually another three siblings as well, so we’ve got another two brothers and a small sister.  And our brother Caleb played about four gigs with us with Jesse and I, when we were younger.  And then he decided to get a real job [laughs]. Then when Nina finished high school she was playing piano and singing, so we just thought we might as well start a band, us three.  And that was about six, seven years ago now.
So have you been playing mostly in Brisbane?  Have you played in Tamworth yet?
Yeah.  We we’ve been at the last two Tamworths.
Oh, how did I miss you?  I don’t know.
The first Tamworth we were there we played – I think we did fourteen shows in seven days, or something. But this last Tamworth we started to cut it back, and I think we only did six, or something.  Maybe less than that. 
Well, clearly I just didn’t research the program well enough.
 [Laughs].  No.  God, how rude [laughs].  Well now you know next Tamworth you have to come and see us.
Absolutely.  But you must have started out in Brisbane.  And I do think Brisbane’s proving to be quite fertile ground for country music performers at the moment.
Well, there’s a few of us.  There’s not as many, obviously, as Sydney and stuff, but there’s a few of us.  And we all generally know each other as well [laughs], which is good.  So Seleen McAlister, whenever we see her we get a snap and have a good chat.  With a lot of the bands like that, though, you become friends. But, yes, we’ve been playing in Brisbane.  And we have been doing other festivals and gigs.  We’ve been to Mackay twice, Bundaberg once.  We’ll go to Bundaberg again this year.  And we’ve done a lot of miles in the car. Up and down, up and down, but the furthest down we’ve gone is Sydney.
That means there’s plenty of territory left for you to explore.  At least it’s a big country. 
Exactly.  There is, there is.  And we will.  Have to get a big bus so we can do it more comfortably [laughs].
Yes.  Because I actually would think three people in a car with instruments, let alone luggage, would be quite difficult.
Oh, you should see.  Whoever’s in the back we put pillows around you because it’s very squished and you can’t see out the back.  You can’t see out the side.  It’s full to the brim. So then it’s annoying, because half the time you don’t wear half the clothes you brought anyway.  Like, oh, it would have been so much easier if we didn’t bring everything.
Well you should maybe settle on a band uniform and that will take care of it.
[Laughs].  Yeah, no, maybe not.
In terms of how you arrange who does what between the three of you when you’re playing live, and this goes for the recording as well, is it a question of who’s been the main songwriter on a particular song, that’s – that person gets to sing it?
No.  We know where our strengths and weaknesses are in our voices, we generally know if it’s high I’ll do it, if it’s low Nina will do it, and to what part of what song.  Because in all our other songs we all share lead.  So we all have parts.  So we just work out what part suits who the best.  Because the song needs to sound the best it can, so there’s no point in getting someone to sing some part that’s wrong for them, because the song just won’t be what it could be.
It’s probably easier, I guess,– or maybe not – to get past ego when you’re related to each other.  Siblings if they’re close – if they’re that kind of close where you’re used to arguing with each other and getting past – you can probably negotiate things like that without too much drama.
That’s true.  And you also know that we have each other’s back, so we’re not trying to push the other one out, get the limelight to ourselves.  We do have each other’s back.  And when you know that deep down you are willing to accept something that you may have thought otherwise.
You mentioned earlier that you have another sister.  Is she feeling left out?
No [laughs]. We say, ‘You should sing something for us’, because I think she can sing, but she won’t. But she’s, like, ‘It’s just not a big dream of mine’.  So that’s fair enough.  She wants to do real estate, so she should go do it [laughs]. Our mum’s in real estate now, so we tend to copy each other. One does music, the others do music.  One does real estate, the other does real estate [laughs].
There must be a small amount or even a big amount of pride for your parents in the fact that the three of you are following what was, obviously, a passion of theirs for so many years.
Well, it’s good, because we do get a lot of support from our parents.  And they help us as much as they can.  So that – it’s really good to have that instead of doing it by yourself without their blessing. They want for everything to sound the best it can, and us to do the best we can as well.  You need that, I think.
Well, yes.  If you can start off from that grounding of knowing that you don’t have that to prove to your family, I think it does give you a really sturdy platform.  And obviously the McClymonts are a comparison, because they’re three sisters as well, but there was that there was that sense with them that family structure really gives them the ability to just think, okay, well, we’ve got each other, out we go into the world, and then we’ll – and we’ll see what comes, but we will always have each other at the end of the day.
Exactly.  And you know what?  Doing it with your family is a lot more fun than – well, than I would imagine doing it by yourself would be, considering you’ve got your family there.  So when you do travel for so long you don’t get so homesick, or lonely.  So having a family is the way to do it, I think.
So your album is in the bag.  It’s all recorded and it’s coming out in a month or so, is that right? 
We’re not sure at the moment.  We’re working with some people in the States, so it’s a bit up in the air when that’s coming out.  But we will let everyone know when it does come out.  We don’t want it go to unnoticed, obviously [laughs]. We’ve put a lot of hard work into it.  So we’re not 100% sure when, but we will let you know.
The reason for talking to you is the single off it, which you’ve recorded with Drew McAlister. Drew’s quite an in-demand person – apart from McAlister Kemp, he also does a lot of songwriting. He’s not as well known for doing guest vocals, I don’t think.  But, certainly, well, it’s appropriate for this song.  So how did that association come about?
Well, after we wrote the song and we recorded some of it in Nashville, we were trying to think of who would suit it, because it needed someone with an amazing voice that could do the song justice, and put the heart and soul it needed.  And he thought of Drew, because he knows how good his voice is.  And he sent the song to Drew.  And Drew, obviously, liked it enough that he said yes.
Did you record that vocal in the studio together, or was it one of those situations where he was separate?
It was done separately.  The magic of technology these days [laughs].
Well, hopefully, one day you’ll both be playing at the same festival and he can appear on stage and sing it with you.
I know.  We’re all looking forward to that day.  We are, because we’re used to saying, sorry, we don’t have a surprise from out the back.  Drew’s not going to walk out, so Jesse’s just going to i transform into a male halfway through.  [Laughs].
I’m sure she appreciates that. 
Oh, yeah.
And you also mentioned earlier on that you grew up with country music, that your parents played it.  So does it just seem natural that the three of you are in country music, or have you flirted with other genres?
Well, we didn’t grow up listening to music our parents liked.  We grew up listening to our parents writing country music.  And so that’s what we knew how to write.  And that’s where we learnt about the storytelling and stuff like that.  So whenever we have done our original stuff we’ve just done it our way, I guess.  It has never been hard rock.  It’s never been pop-pop. We also know that we have a natural, I guess, twang when we sing, which fits country.  And we love the story telling and meaning in country music.  There’s nothing else like that.  When you listen to a country song you can picture everything that’s happening.  And I love that.  And we love that everyone plays an instrument, and everyone loves to write.  And the harmonies ֪– we’re obviously big on harmonies.  So it’s kind of a natural thing for us to sing country.
Storytelling is always what I focus on with country as well, because it’s something that marks out the genre from other genres, but also it’s the Australian storytelling in song.  There’s no other way to get Australian stories in song, because rock and pop songs don’t really do it.  And I think you see that in Tamworth, how important that is for people to get those stories.
Yeah, exactly.  Music can be like therapy, in a way.  Or music touches you in a way that nothing else can.  So you need those stories in there to help you through, or just to brighten your day, or to do whatever you want the music to do.
I sometimes wonder, though, for songwriters and performers like yourselves, whether because you are telling stories, to an extent you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve.  Do you ever feel too exposed?
No.  It’s kind of therapy in a way, I guess.  And you want to write and put your heart on your sleeve.  We love getting out our feelings because you know you’re not the only one.  You may be having a really crappy day, or going through something horrible, or going through something amazing, and you’re not the only one who has done that.  You’re not the only person who has felt like that.  So we love writing something, and getting something out there, so that people also know others feel that way, or can relate to it.
When it comes to writing those stories down, and then writing the songs for the album, did you end up with more than you needed, so you’ve had to keep some back?
Yes.  It’s always the way.  We just write and write, and you end up picking the best ones [laughs], which is good.
I was going to say, it’s a good problem to have.  And I’m also curious because a lot of people, when they’re writing for albums, it would be quite structured:  ‘We’re doing it on this day for this long.’  But because the three of you are in the family together, I would think that there’s the opportunity for spontaneous songwriting to occur.
Well, we all write together, but we also write separately too.  Songwriting is always happening somewhere.  We do have rehearsal dates where if we need to rehearse something we’ll rehearse it, otherwise we’ll work on a new song, or whatever like that.  Normally you’ll bring what you’ve already done.  Or we could be out on the road and Nina will play us something she has just written, and then we’ll have listening with fresh ears and then start working on it.  But if you go to Nashville or something, you’ve got songwriting days booked in with people.  So they’re more structured, because you’ve got to do it then.
Is it hard to come up with things to, essentially, channel what you need to channel when you know you’ve got those set times?  Or does it make it easier?
Sometimes.  It really depends.  You’ve got to click with the person you’re writing with, and get along, and work well together.  So, and you don’t just come and go, ‘Okay, let’s now think of something.’  You normally come with something you’ve already written, or a title, or something that you want to write about.  But sometimes it’s easier than other times.  And sometimes you get better results than other times.
And just going back to something you said a couple of minutes ago about rehearsal days and organising it.  Country music people often make it look like it’s fun and easy.  But, invariably, you all work hard.  You’re all rehearsing a lot.  You’re all on the road a lot. And, really, there’s no substitute for that hard work.
Yeah.  Well, you’ve got to.  If you want to be good at something you have to put the hard work into it.  And it shows.  You can tell when bands or people have put the hard work into it.  And you get used to it.  We tell our sisters – our sister who’s not in the band, “Oh, tonight, tomorrow night, the next night and the next night I can’t do anything because we’re rehearsing, so …”  “Oh, I don’t know how you do that.” 
[Laughs].
But you do.  And you don’t have any problems doing that, because you know why you’re doing it.  And you know how much you need to do it.  And once you’re busy, it’s like anything.  You get into a routine.  So we try and create a routine.  It’s like eating healthy.  It’s like exercising.  It’s like everything you do.

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