Dorothy Felt She Was ‘Born Again’ Making Guitar-Driven New Record
Dorothy's third studio album Gifts From the Holy Ghost is finally here, and in addition to the release of the album, the rocker has dropped a new music video for the song "A Beautiful Life." We recently caught up with the singer to learn more about her return to her hard rock roots.
After exploring California desert rock both sonically and aesthetically on her sophomore effort 28 Days in the Valley, Gifts From the Holy Ghost marks Dorothy's return to the high voltage rock 'n' roll she became known for with her 2016 debut Rockisdead. Featuring collaborations with former Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Jason Hook, Breaking Benjamin's Keith Wallen, Trevor Lukather and more, this new release is guitar heavy and bursting with energy.
"I wanted it to just have teeth and more bite to it because I felt like that was true to who I am," Dorothy told us in an exclusive interview ahead of the release of the album. "I was always open to suggestions and experimenting, hence 28 Days in the Valley. But I was like, 'You know it's just time for me to really lean into what I enjoy.' And that's what I did."
"A Beautiful Life" features the vocalist's absolute favorite lyric on the album — "Don't let the demons get you down" — and it's become somewhat of a mantra for her in recent years.
Check out the video below, and read our exclusive interview with Dorothy underneath for more details about Gifts From the Holy Ghost. Order your copy of the record here, and check out the rest of the singer's 2022 tour dates to see if she's hitting a city near you.
Dorothy, "A Beautiful Life"
What major things, aside from the pandemic of course, have happened in your life since 28 Days in the Valley that have made their way onto this record?
Well, I got to write with the most incredible people. I'm just amazed at the talent that converged on this album. Keith Wallen and I wrote a bunch of songs, Jason Hook, Trevor Lukather, Chris Trayor, Scott Stevens and the 4 Horsemen, and then Chris Lord-Alge and Phil X got involved.
It's just such an amazing record in my opinion, some of the best stuff I've ever done and I'm really proud of it. There's just a lot of really talented people that came together on this.
Did your songwriting process or anything change at all this time around when you were going into the studio compared to the last two albums?
I had less opinions and cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, telling me what it should be. I sort of captained the ship on this one more. I've always been very heavily involved obviously, but it was more... I felt more alone in a sense, but yet I was surrounded by so much support.
So I was like, 'I'm gonna make the album I want to make, the way I want to make it, without any interference.' And I think my songwriting has definitely improved, I think it had more depth and substance and honesty. So it's been great, it' just been all about growth.
For the last album, you had more of a '70s, California-esque kind of vibe. Can you explain the aesthetic change from then to now? You seem like you kind of returned to your Rockisdead style.
Yes! I think that's my true DNA. Yeah, the second album, 28 Days in the Valley, I said we took a hard right turn off of a highway into California desert rock and LSD-fueled — not that we were dropping LSD or anything, we were not dropping acid — but we were influenced heavily by Jefferson Airplane and The Eagles, always Black Sabbath, whether or not it's heavy or more dreamy.
It was just a risk-taking adventure as far as experimenting with sound. Linda Perry was involved in that project, and then we parted ways and I was ready to make a third album. I was like, 'You know, I just love hard rock, I love metal. I'm going to incorporate more sounds into this album.'
Rockisdead was not produced by rock producers. Again, I don't think that matters, it was my first album and every album cycle is just an opportunity to learn and grow. So on my third album, Gifts From the Holy Ghost, Trevor Lukather is a friend of mine and we did three songs together.
I just wanted really strong guitars, and there's so much guitar talent on this record it blows my mind. I wanted it to just have teeth and more bite to it because I felt like that was true to who I am. I'm like, 'You know what, I'm gonna dress the way I love to dress.'
I'm all for experimenting and changing it up. Madonna has done it for decades, so there's nothing wrong with that, it's fun. But I don't know, I feel like I shed everything and kind of was born again, and not afraid to really speak my mind and put my foot down on everything — sonically, aesthetically, all of it.
What does it take to make that decision? To step up and say, 'No, I'm gonna do this my way,' and do you feel like as a woman that's been more of a challenge for you?
I just think you have to realize that you're the artist, and art is an expression of your personality and your soul, and no one can take that away from you. People will try to mold you or influence you one way or another. Some artists out there are really just actors that are playing a part, and others are truly... like for example, Kurt Cobain — he was just being Kurt Cobain.
I feel like being yourself can be hard when you're surrounded by a lot of voices and a lot of opinions, but you just have to love yourself. This is who I am, I love myself, and I believe in this when other people might be saying something else. I just came to the realization — not that it was bad before, I was always myself. I was always open to suggestions and experimenting, hence 28 Days in the Valley. But I was like, 'You know it's just time for me to really lean into what I enjoy.' And that's what I did.
Rockisdead had such a powerful response that I don't think any of your fans are gonna be scratching their heads at this record.
I think they won't be, they're gonna be stoked!
Just out of curiosity, what's the reasoning behind "What's Coming to Me" not being included on the album?
It was more of a bridge track. We wanted to put something out, like when we put out "Down to the Bottom," for example, we were in between Rockisdead and 28 Days in the Valley. Same sort of concept, we put out "What's Coming to Me," put some music out, get people excited, 'There's an album coming out later next year.'
We weren't really sure what that would do, but when we had "Rest in Peace," we knew this was the radio song to lead with into tour. "Rest in Peace" is doing great at radio, and we're just so grateful for it.
Dorothy, "Rest in Peace"
Which influences do you think that you were channeling the most when you went into making Gifts From the Holy Ghost?
Oh, wow. It's funny, there's a song I did with Trevor Lukather called "Top of the World," and when I listen back to my vocal, I'm like, 'Wow, I can really hear some of the Michael Jackson I used to listen to.' He's got a great rock 'n' roll voice even though he was the "King of Pop." It doesn't matter, he was a rock star in my opinion.
I could hear some of the little subtle nuances there in my vocal performance that might've been influenced by Michael. Sonically, as far as the instruments, that all varied with the camp that I was writing with. The Keith Wallen song is like an emo, hard rock love song, and then there's "Gifts From the Holy Ghost," which I actually wrote with my 28 Days in the Valley band on tour during soundcheck, and that sounds much more classic rock.
Each song is different, and I did that on purpose. It's a very eclectic album. But vocally, I would say I really just tried to focus on being myself and making sure that the energy was there, and that the performance felt good and that you would believe it, because I believed it when I was singing it.
Can you tell the story about your guitar tech that overdosed on your tour?
Yeah, we had a new guitar tech, I want to say it was either in 2018 or 2019. We were on tour and I'm in recovery, and it's a "dry bus," meaning no drugs or alcohol on the bus or green room. If people want to drink when they're not working, I can't say anything, that's not my business.
Well, this guy was apparently using, he picked up heroin in Philadelphia. He OD'd in his bunk and — it's the craziest story — it permanently changed me. I basically witnessed a death and resurrection. The whole time, I wasn't fearful, I just felt this amazing, loving presence, and this inner-voice said to me to pray for him. He was for sure dead, the paramedics were working on him, my manager was doing CPR on him for a long time without being able to revive him. The whole thing was so crazy, and this voice kind of said to me, "Just pray."
So we're praying for him, and I'm praying like, 'Please give him another chance and send him back.' The thought that came to me was, 'Okay, we're sending him back now.' I know that sounds crazy, but it wasn't audible, it was like inside me. And when I opened my eyes, he was alive.
And it's crazy because the night before, I was like... you know in recovery, they say you have to have a higher power. I didn't have a concept of a higher power, I wanted to know what it was. I was always like asking those questions, like, 'Why am I here? What's my purpose? What's the truth?' I was in my bunk like, 'Hey, if you can hear me, I need you to reveal yourself to me.' That's the prayer I said.
Then the next day, this happened, and it's just like... I don't think that's a coincidence. I don't think there's such a thing as coincidences anymore. It changed me for good and life has just gotten really interesting since then.
And you've been involved in religion since then?
No, you know, I've always had kind of an issue with religion. I think what's important is having a relationship with God or the universe — these are all just words for the same thing, like your creator — and being of service. Every day I wake up now, and I try not to be selfishly-focused. I try to be like, what can I do to help? What's my assignment for the day? Can I influence in a good way or assist in a good way?
It's a much more fulfilling way to live, and I feel like from that position, you're living life from that position. That's having conscious contact with your higher power, your creator or whatever you want to call it.
You've said a couple of times that your favorite lyric on the album is, "Don't let the demons get you down." Do you think that you singing and recording those words has helped your mentality and helped you deal with mental health at all?
Oh yeah, 100 percent. If I'm gonna do music and I have this microphone and this platform, I'm gonna try to say something inspiring because there have been times where I, myself, really needed to hear it. So sure, I'm thinking about the teenager that's overdosing on fentanyl in their room, I'm thinking about the kids that feel so isolated and having to go to school with this weird experience that we've all had the last couple of years, feeling really isolated from their friends and, this is what the media's not talking about, so much overdose, relapse, suicide.
Kids are kind of screwed up from all of this. My intention was to put these messages in the album that would give them some relief and feel like they're not alone. I see you, I hear you and we're here for you. We're writing this music to help, and that's the only way I can do it now. And I for sure, myself, needed to hear it.
Rock 'n' roll, in the last couple of years especially, has started to discuss mental health more and made it more of a topic that people are aware of and conscious of now.
Yeah, it's wonderful. We have a responsibility to use our platform, and you can use it for good or evil. You can use it for darkness or light, the choice is up to you and I've chosen to try to be helpful.
Let's talk about the ballad — "Close to Me Always" is the one ballad on the album. Can you share anything about that song?
I'm honored to have this song for the record, that was written by Audra Mae in Nashville. She wrote it for a friend of hers whose father had passed away. When I heard the song, I was like, this is 100 percent the ballad for the album. Chris Lord-Alge produced it, and I tracked my vocals with Joseph McQueen. It was vocally pretty challenging, I wanted it to feel big like Adele or Celine Dion. That's what I'm reaching for while still staying true to myself.
It's such a bittersweet song, I think so many people will relate to it. It's so tender, and we needed a ballad to kind of balance out the album. There's so much face-melting going on, I think we needed a tender moment. So I'm really proud of my performance on that one, I think the production is great. Audra is just an amazing songwriter, she's so talented, she actually wrote "What's Coming to Me" as well, so props to her. I'm just honored that she was willing to collaborate with me.
Rock 'n' roll has become a bit of a broad term to describe genre in recent years because of the introduction of new technology and popular artists experimenting with guitars, such as Miley Cyrus and Machine Gun Kelly. But Gifts From the Holy Ghost sounds like an authentic, guitar-driven, classic rock record — so what does it mean to you to be "rock 'n' roll," and what is your take on genres nowadays?
I mean there are so many subgenres under the umbrella, so many styles. I feel like rock 'n' roll is an attitude and a lifestyle. For me personally, you gotta have a band, you have to have real instruments and I like to keep it as organic as possible, meaning we don't really use tracks. We keep it pretty organic.
Of course, you know, there are so many ways to approach it. One of my favorite bands is Linkin Park, and they had a lot of cool electronics and other things that they incorporated into being a heavy band. So I don't know if there's any wrong way to do it, I just feel like as long as it's good music and it's driven by a band... I feel like you always need a really strong frontperson. That's the key for me, that's rock 'n' roll.
You guys are on tour with Joyous Wolf and Classless Act. How did you go about choosing them as your openers and who are some other rising bands that you have your eyes on?
We're rooting for Joyous Wolf and Dirty Honey, Classless Act — those guys have great energy. Mammoth WVH is doing amazing. I feel like in rock we're all just really kind of supportive of each other, and I love that. We have a song for the rock community and the fans called "Black Sheep," and the lyric that I love most in the song is, "We are blood / We are family." There's a sense of camaraderie and support that's so beautiful in our community.