The Idolator Interview: Fefe Dobson

Erika Brooks Adickman | June 21, 2010 12:40 pm

Back in 2003, teen pop punkette Fefe Dobson made a splash with her self-titled debut album with hits like “Everything”, “Bye Bye Boyfriend” and “Take Me Away”. Then much to her fans dismay, it seemed she had all but disappeared. Dobson, now 25, has grown up, survived the industry roller coaster, and is ready to let to world know she’s back back with her new album Joy. We chatted with the songstress about her new songs, her long emotional journey to her third album, and about fellow Canadian Justin Bieber. Hear some of Fefe’s new stuff below and decide for yourself if she’s ready to rock the comeback.

Following the success of her first album, the now Juno Award winner began working on her second Sunday Love in 2005. She collaborated with big name artists from Cyndi Lauper to Joan Jett, Courtney Love and Nina Gordon. But when her first two singles “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head” and “This Is My Life” failed to chart, she was dropped by her label Island Records mere days before the albums scheduled release.

That wasn’t going to stop Fefe from making music. Dobson signed under her manager’s independent label, 21 Music, and began working on her third album Joy. She used the time, she says, for “forgiveness and more relationships, ending and beginning.” And she channeled all of that into Joy. The timing couldn’t be better as it appears that the public is ready for more Fefe. Her single “I Want You” has popped up in promos everywhere from The Style Network, to VH1’s Basketball Wives, to Drew Barrymore’s flick Whip It. They weren’t the only ones who wanted Fefe back, Island Records resigned the songstress and now the album will be released under by both labels.

On your last album you worked with major musicians (Joan Jett, Courtney love, Nina Gordon) and on this album you worked with major producers. How is the final product and the process different on Joy?

It was a lot easier. You know my first record it was like, you’re kinda trying to figure out what—you know, when you’re 18 you’re trying to figure out what you even like, you know? You’re not even sure what kind of ice cream you like really. But on this record it, I know what I like and I know what I want to sound like on stage. I know the things I want to do. I’m still growing and I’m still figuring it out, but at least I have my head around it a little bit more than when I was 18. So the process was easier because I’m more patient with myself. I’m not as hard on myself. I think a lot of times we get really hard on ourselves and we’re like, ”Oh, this needs to be perfect! This needs to be perfect!” But, what is perfection, right?

How has your songwriting process changed for you over the years? Do you draw inspiration from different places or from different kinds of music?

Now, I write a lot more on guitar. I know that sounds weird, but I do. I find that I write on this record from guitar starting off. Also, I’m not this, like, tough on myself. When I was younger I used to write and go, “Oh, that’s not good enough.” “No. No. No. No one will like that.” “I can’t write that by myself because no one will understand.” And now, I put myself out there a little more. I take the risk of when I’m writing with somebody I’m not as afraid to say, “Hey, what about this idea?” When I was young I was a little bit more afraid to step out and to make a mistake .

Joy dropped by label then picked back up. What was that journey like?

You know, we were married and got divorced and then got remarried, but it was cool though. I mean, I’ve always been a fan of Island Def Jam and always been a fan of L.A. Reid and I was really excited to work with them again and do what we always dreamed to do and really make it a reality. Which was to have this record and get this record out—and a couple years later, yes— but it was better.

What is it like hearing Jordin Sparks’ take on your song “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head”?

It was really cool that she did that and she did it her way, you know? Jordin really took it on as her identity to reflect her musical style. I like that. I saw an interview about how my lyrics were a little racy and how she interpreted it as her own. And it was really cool. She was really cool about it she was like, “It doesn’t really mean that to me.” I think that’s what I love about music is that it’s an art. When you look at a painting, it means different things to different people. You know, the same painting. And that’s what it was like for her. For me the song is about you know, “Don’t let it go to your head. Just because I do all this stuff with you, you know, don’t let it go to your head. You know, don’t let your head blow up.” But for her I think it was more of a fantasy . Mine was actually realism, like, I will do this stuff. And for her it’s more like other things more innocent. I like that.

“Don’t Let It Go To Your Head”

What was it like having Miley Cyrus record your song “Start All Over” as Hannah Montana, a song you wrote but never recorded yourself? Is it weird to have a song come out of you that doesn’t feel right for you to sing yourself?

I think it’s more interesting and unique than weird. When [Miley] did it, it sounded amazing. I was so happy she did it and I was so into it. And I’m proud of it, you know? I’m sure there are a lot of people who when they hear an artist sing their songs they’re like, “Hmm,” But I was really into Miley’s version of “Start All Over”.

Is there any song right now that you’d like to cover and make your own? I’m not sure. I mean, there are tons of songs I love, There are some songs on Ke$ha’s record that are really great. I just got that record and I was really impressed with a song called “Stephen”. It reminds me of a really old school 80s track. It’s really cool.

Would you say that Joy is your favorite album? This is my favorite. This is my favorite album. I mean here are songs on Sunday Love that I love and are close to my heart and I will release some day but as an overall album and the experiences I’ve while had making this album I would say that this is my favorite.

Do you care to expand on those experiences? My father came back into my life and that really inspired a lot of songs on this album where like now I have a father figure in my life which I’ve never had before and that’s amazing. You know forgiveness and more relationships you know ending, beginning, growing from your best friend having fights with your best friend and still being in each others lives and loving her more than ever. Starting again with a new label with my manager’s label and going through with the obstacles and coming through.

[wpaudio url=”//″ text=”Fefe Dobson – Ghost” dl=”0″]

You’re 25. Having the dreaded “Quarter Life Crisis” yet? I felt that way before I started the record. I think I went through my crisis when I was 21/22. And now I’m kind of through the storm and trying to be positive, find good things

Any thoughts on fellow Canadian Justin Bieber? He’s a really super sweet kid and all the power to him. I think he’s really talented and I hope that he surrounds himself with good people as he gets older. So far he has a really good team. He’s got Usher and stuff and Usher’s amazing. When you’re young and you start out you meet a lot of plastic people and hopefully he can let those people surround him.

Do you have a favorite track on Joy? It’s really hard because they’re all like my babies, but there’s a song called “Can’t Breathe” that I really love. That was produced by a producer actually he’s a legendary producer in Canada and he’s done Pink Floyd’s The Wall and he produced “Destroyer” for Kiss and a lot of stuff. And Orianthi actually features guitar on the solo.


Were “I want you” or “You Bitch” about real people or drawn from real life experiences? Well “I Want You” is about hormones and wanted someone really bad. And I think we can all feel that way many times of the day maybe or somebody that you really care about. And I wanted to make it really playful almost like a Dr. Seuss book, very youthful and young and dumb and almost sarcastic. With “You Bitch” we’ve all been there too. It’s like, I can love this guy better. Give him to me. Stay away from him. I want him.

“I Want You” and “Watch Me Move”

What are you most excited for fans to hear on this album ? I’m most excited that they get to hear a side of me that I don’t think they’ve really heard you know singing-wise. Like on my ballads and stuff I’m really excited to see what they think of that. And also I’m excited for them to get the album in general. A lot of my fans have been waiting for a long time and have been really super patient and really cool and supportive and so I just want to give back to them.