Friday, March 16, 2007
SHE Magazine Q & A
I think that the closest genre that comes to mind to describe my music would be a 21st Century twist on 1970's Popular Vocal music.
When & how did you start in the music business? :
I actually began playing guitar and writing songs back in my native Philadelphia when I was nine. I started my first band with two guys that lived across the street when I was eleven. We were a rock trio playing Grand Funk Railroad covers.
My official entry in the music business was London in the 1980’s. A drummer friend of mine, Richie Stevens [Dido], got me my first session playing bass on a Boy George solo album in 1984. I think it was his first album post-Culture Club. I don’t think the tracks I played on ever made it on the final release, but that was definitely the beginning of my life as a session musician.
I played and sang in various jazz trios and big bands, including the original line up of The Charlie Watts Big Band [drummer for The Rolling Stones]. I became a regular on the London pub music scene and did live showcases for up and coming new acts and TV appearances with people like Donny Osmond and Julia Fordham.
My solo career finally took off when the producer of a popular music television program called ‘The Tube’ spotted me at a showcase in a London nightclub and approached me about appearing on the show in a segment about instruments. Each week they were featuring a musical instrument like the harmonica, or the trumpet, etcetera. They wanted me to play a 2-minute instrumental bass guitar piece for the “bass??? episode. Because I didn’t, and still don’t consider myself any kind of virtuoso on the bass, I asked if I could sing while I played. I sang Bobby Womack’s ‘Stop On By’ and accompanied myself on bass. This was a nationwide broadcast that went out live to something like a million viewers on a Friday evening! The next week, I was bombarded with offers for a solo recording contract.
I didn’t jump on it immediately, even though one of my reasons for going to London was to get a record deal. I kept touring with other bands and working on other peoples’ records. I was learning the ropes, gaining experience. It was thrilling to finally have the opportunity to make a living playing music!
It was 1987 that I eventually signed my first major-recording deal with WEA/Warner Brothers Records in London. My first album, ‘The Corporate World’ was released in the UK and Europe in 1988.
The last solo album I before my latest release was ‘Rude Blue’ on Island Records in 1992. I have been caught up in the session world for over a decade now, but I am planning an absolute and definitive return to my life as a solo artist.
When & how was the band formed? :
I haven’t had a regular band of my own since the release of my first album in the late 80’s. We put together a band for the recording of ‘I Used To Be…’ last spring 2003. It was the first time I had an A-list band playing my stuff in a long time, and it felt great!
My best friend, bassist Sara Lee [B-52’s, Indigo Girls] helped to recruit the players for the album, as well finding my co-producer/engineer Brandon Mason, and mixer Kevin Salem. Sara’s a brilliant organizer, hence the executive producer title on ‘I Used To Be…’.
All of the musicians were friends and neighbors of mine in Upstate New York. I live within the rich musical community of Woodstock, and I had a wealth of great musicians to choose from.
The core ensemble for ‘I Used To Be…’ is Zachary Alford [drums], Rob Arthur [keyboards, piano], Gail Ann Dorsey [vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards, programming], Adam Widoff [guitar, bass], and Antony Widoff [keyboards, piano]. My good friend Catherine Russell, who works with me in the David Bowie band graciously contributed some backing vocals with Eric Redd on a couple of songs. Sara Lee put on her musician hat and played bass with me on ‘The Big Decision’. Brandon Mason added some keyboards and percussion too!
Heart, Joni Mitchell, Beethoven, Barbra Streisand, Olivia Newton-John, Willie Nelson, Joan Armatrading, Earth, Wind & Fire, David Bowie, Chicago, Grace Jones, Bread, Roberta Flack, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, The Talking Heads, Queen, Annette Peacock, Janis Ian, Grand Funk Railroad, Burt Bacharach, The Carpenters… it's endless! All are unique contributors to the artistic excellence!
Favorite cover to perform :
Burt Bacharach’s ‘Alfie’. It’s one of the greatest songs ever written.
If you could record a duet with anyone, who would it be? :
Album you are most embarrassed to admit you own but secretly enjoy :
The Alessi Brothers ‘All For A Reason’ album. Ever heard of that one? How about Cheryl Ladd ‘Cheryl Ladd’? Try, Lynda Carter ‘Portrait’!
Why did you choose to work under an independent label rather than mainstream record labels? :
I had two major label record deals when it was still possible to get one, and when it was still beneficial to have one! Needless to say, the outcome of both was not particularly fruitful for me. After my second album with Island Records, I vowed never to make a record again. Roland Orzabal of the 80’s super group Tears For Fears quickly made me break that vow when he and I set out to make a Gail Ann Dorsey album in 1995. Some of the songs on ‘I Used To Be…’ are ones left over from that fabulous writing/recording period with Roland in the mid 90’s.
David Bowie called while Roland and I were in the thick of it, and I have been David’s tour bassist and vocalist for the past nine years. My solo career took an unintended hiatus. Today the mainstream record industry is practically unrecognizable from the last time I worked within that system as a solo artist. It really isn’t an appealing option now at all.
I would really like to sustain and celebrate a tradition of musical excellence, and I believe that requires a certain amount independence from today’s record industry. I feel I have a responsibility to uphold and pass on quality music. It is the least I can do to express my gratitude for the musical blessings I have received, and for the inspiration of the great artists before me.
If the opportunity presented itself, would you sign with a mainstream record label? :
I would sign with a mainstream record label only if it seemed beneficial for me to do so. So, it’s not likely that it will happen. I would, however, be interested in working with a smaller, independent label. It’s nice to have even just a little support. I’m not great at being the business woman/artist simultaneously. I’m learning, though, I’m trying!
Upcoming projects :
Whenever I get off the road with David, I want to play some live shows for ‘I Used To Be…’, then I want to settle down to write and record another album. It would be nice to have something else to release in early 2005.
Website information :
My website address is www.gailanndorsey.com. The website is currently under construction, but will be in full swing within the next couple of weeks. I have been meticulously trying to provide an informative, unique, and interesting website experience. It’s very time consuming, and I am already on the road with Bowie, but I hope that for whom it may concern, it’ll be well worth the wait.
Tour information :
I am currently touring with David Bowie on his 2004 “Reality World Tour???. We are hitting just about everywhere, and will be covering more of the US in April/May of this year. Look out for us in a town near you!
As for touring in support of ‘I Used To Be…’, I am hoping to hit the road on a little “coffee house??? tour this fall 2004. If I finish with David in time, I would love to play at The Michigan Women’s’ Festival in August. My friends tell me it’s a blast!
Source: SHE Magazine