Interview with Justine Dorsey
Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins
You may not have heard about Justine Dorsey yet. (Or, perhaps you have. She’s an actress as well.) But let’s introduce you to Justine, the singer/songwriter. If you like your music to tell you the stories of your own life, but in ways you wish you had been able to tell them; if you like your music to comfort you, yet stir up all your emotions in an I-can’t-believe-you’ve-experienced-that-too kind of way; if you like to sing along and pretend that certain someone knew that this song is exactly how you feel, read on. Or, if you’re not sure that you do, read on anyway. Justine is a two-time 2012 LA Music Awards Nominee for Best Female Singer/Songwriter and Hot Contemporary Single and Semi-Finalist for this years Unsigned Music Competition which is being judged by songwriters Kelly Clarkson and Cyndi Lauper, among others. She’s writing songs that are beautiful, creative, and honest. Music like that not only wins competitions, but hearts as well.
Relate: Tell us about the songs on the EP and what inspired them:
Justine: There are four songs on the EP: “Unsaid”, “Everything That’s Beautiful”, “Cliché”, and “Mama’s Song”. “Unsaid” is my most defining song. It was written after I met this guy at a coffeehouse open mic, and he left such a big impression on me. Just as soon as our paths crossed, they parted, and we went our separate ways. And I will never get to tell him just how much he meant to me. There are people that we will meet that won’t be in our lives forever, but somehow in that tiny blip on the screen of our lives, they change us. It fascinates me. “Everything That’s Beautiful” is basically me wanting to write I really fun, windows-rolled-down, music-blaring road trip song. It’s about that person that makes you feel the way all your favorite things do. “Cliché” was actually born out of a first draft of “Unsaid”. It’s for when you’re falling in love, and this person has consumed most of your thoughts so much that you actually sort of hate yourself for it. The last track is “Mama’s Song”, and it’s one that pretty much makes me cry whenever I play it. I had written it as a gift for my mom on Mother’s Day, and it reminds me so much of being a little girl and the adventures we’ve had together… Okay, I think I’m going to cry now…
Relate: First memory of music:
Justine: This is sort of embarrassing, but the first things that pops into my head is this: my dad used to have this beat-up white Ford truck that had no air-conditioning, so it was always boiling, and he’d take my sister and I on a drive; we’d roll down all the windows and blast- wait for it- “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry. So weird. But we’d have so much fun doing that.
R: The comparisons to Taylor Swift are in your music, but you are definitely your own artist. Tell readers who aren’t familiar with your music what sets you apart from other singer/songwriters.
J: Well thanks! This question is harder for me to answer…All I know is that I’m writing music that is 100% me, and coming from an honest place. I am unable to write about something I’m not connected to emotionally. Also, I think some artists in the folk/pop genre can get in the habit of writing songs that sound very similar, and every time I write a song, I want it to be completely different than the last one I wrote. Obviously I’m not going to start writing, like, I don’t know, a salsa song or something, but I want all my songs to be different characters and colors.
R: I read that you’ve been acting for awhile. How have those experiences affected your current dreams of pursuing music?
J: I’ve been acting longer than I’ve been a singer/songwriter- I’ve been acting since I was five! It’s had a positive effect on how I go about pursuing music, because I’m used to rejection. I have a backbone. This is such a competitive industry that you sorta-kinda need one of those if you want to keep going. I haven’t had to compromise on anything- I’m able to pursue both without one being a hindrance to the other. And they bleed into each other because they’re so emotionally based! I feel very lucky that I’m able to do both.
R: You’ve been winning awards and a lot of recognition for your songwriting talents and are a semi-finalist for the Unsigned Music Competition that is judged by some great talents like Kelly Clarkson and Cyndi Lauper. What songwriters are you inspired by, and if you were judging the competition, what qualities in a song would you look for?
J: I’m inspired by Ingrid Michaelson, KT Tunstall, Carole King, and of course, The Beatles. And most recently, Joni Mitchell and Damien Rice! If I were judging the competition, I’d be looking for originality, first of all. Someone that is doing what others are not. You hear a lot of that right now on the radio- song after song sounds the same, and it’s boring! (Slowly but surely, that’s starting to change, I’m noticing. Yay!) I also would look for lyrics that are honest and say common things in a completely new way- that’s the best! And lastly, it has to stir emotion in me. Does it give me chills? Does it make me cry? Does it make me smile or laugh? “Dear Prudence” by The Beatles is one of those songs that is doing that for me. Once the bridge hits and everything picks up and it’s this giant blur of colors, I listen to it and will literally start laughing my head off because it’s just so brilliant. And then it all falls out and is just that little tag that plays at the beginning, and it’s so pure and beautiful that it brings me to tears. That’s what I want a song to do for me.
R: Besides music, what are your other interests? What do you like to do just for fun?
J: I love reading. Love it. I have so many books lined up to read for summer. I just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. He somehow manages to take these beautiful poignant moments and sandwich them between these very ordinary ones, and it makes them all the more beautiful because they’re like little hidden treasures. I also love the beach and doing crafts. And laughing with my sister- a lot.
R: Most recent song played on your iPod?
J: Well whaddya know, “Dear Prudence” by The Beatles! How funny!
R: Favorite store to shop at and what do you like to shop for?
J: You just asked me the toughest question. Okay, hold on, I need to decide…
Nope. Can’t. My favorites are Free People and Anthropologie. They both fit me because there’s the side of me that loves to be slightly off-kilter, bohemian-y, but there’s also the part where love dressing like I’m in a J Crew catalogue. Oh wait! Nooooo, how could I forget, I love J Crew too! Honestly, my personal style is all over the place that it’s pretty impossible for me to pick just one. Right now, probably because it’s summer, I’m looking for unique pieces in bright colors. They are such mood-lifters.
R: An interesting fact about you that most people wouldn’t expect?
J: Hm. I love action movies. Especially the Jason Bourne trilogy. I’m kind of freaking out over the new one coming out with Jeremy Renner. The Bourne Legacy. Yeah. That one’s going to be good.
Please visit http://www.justinedorsey.com/ for more information and be sure download the EP from iTunes.