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Sarah Dossey on her “glitter-soaked” style of music

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Summer 2020 Issue

By Enmaria Cuminsky

Dossey likes funk, pop, electro, and Andrew Lloyd Webber and says she likes to “make a weird blend of those things,” describing it as “glitter-soaked.” Growing up listening to Mariah Carey and Madonna, she would create mixtapes to sing along to, over and over. She has recently gotten into funk music, which she says, “I can tell you, I am obsessed.”

Sarah Dossey began playing guitar at the age of twelve, and also plays synths, piano, and banjo, and recently began DJing. She plays banjo with the folk/bluegrass band Indian & the Jones. As a solo artist, Dossey’s music merges her influences of 1980s synth-pop and new wave on her debut EP, Electric, in 2017, followed by singles, “Heartbeats,” “Plastic Diamond,” and “Better Run.” She will be releasing a new single titled “Someone to Love” on July 3, as well as live streaming every Thursday starting July 2 through September 2. The big finale will be held on September 12.

We caught up with Dossey to learn more about her musical influences and how they impact her unique style of music, being a pop artist in Austin, the community called Pop Union that she created for likeminded musicians, and her music, gear, and more.

You have a very unique, magnetic sound that you describe as “glitter-soaked.” What attracted you to this style of music?
Thank you! Like so many others, I’ve loved pop music since I was a kid. I would sit at my tape machine, listening to 104 KRBE on my little boom box, and hit the record button as fast as I could anytime a Mariah or Madonna song came on. By the end of the day, I would have spent a whole day soaking in music and have a little mixtape for myself; then I would keep it running on my karaoke machine and sing along to every single song, over and over. It’s only been recent that I got into funk music, but I can tell you, I am obsessed. I started DJing a little over a year ago, and nothing makes people smile like a boppy bassline over a kick-snare and Nile Rodgers’ crisp, choppy guitar. Playing Prince and Nile tracks at parties inspire me to make music that makes people smile and get their shoulders moving.

Your music is so unique and blends some older techniques with some very modern styles. Are you bridging the gap between these genres, or do you consider your music something completely different?
The soundtrack of every long road trip in my family growing up was either Fleetwood Mac or The Phantom of the Opera Broadway cast performance. I feel lucky to have grown up hearing those records so much. I’ve been a part of a lot of different musical projects since I was a kid—from classical to bluegrass to country to Christian to basically everything. I want my music to just be me at its core. There are things that are important to me in terms of writing the song and the instruments that are used in the track, but for the most part, I just try to do whatever makes me feel really good to make. I don’t think my growing up with Fleetwood and Phantom is lost at all in my music. I love songs—it’s always my focus to make sure the song shines even without all the production elements (like Fleetwood Mac’s songs always do!)—and I love the drama that production and arrangement choices can add (Phantom is seriously an arpeggiated synth-rock masterpiece—hooks on hooks on hooks—I will go to my grave saying that!).

To go along with your music, your personal style is also somewhat eclectic. Where do you find inspiration for your look?
Hey, thanks! I’ve always been into fashion. When I didn’t have my ear to my little radio, I was rifling through my costume trunk. I am not an only child, but I am the youngest by six years, so I had a lot of time alone. I would spend so much time alone in my room, building a world and a whole storyline for myself. I moved my furniture around all the time, and the outfits I put together literally NEVER matched. I liked it when people would comment on it / judge me for it. Meant, I made an impact!

You’re labeled as a pop artist, yet you choose to live in Austin, TX, a city historically known for country and blues music. Did you, and do you still, find it challenging to create and maintain your unique sound in a city that might not be overtly supported by that genre?
I did for a while, for sure. I remember my first couple of years trying to perform with this project were such a challenge. I have been told that I won’t get booked again if I don’t bring a band with me (at the beginning, it was always me, my synth, and my laptop). I’ve had all the tracks I was sending from my laptop only sent back to my monitors—and not in the house—which is a pretty big chunk of the music I make live. But I will tell you, things are changing here a lot. I think people are starting to realize that pop music is fun and fills up the bar! It’s nice to see folks in town taking themselves a little less seriously when it comes to music. There are so many bands and pop artists and producers here now, and the scene is growing.

You started Pop Union to unite pop artists and producers in Austin. Can you tell me a little more about that and how it’s going?
Just a couple years ago, the few pop artists that were playing shows would all come support one another and commiserate about how disrespected we were, how we couldn’t’ get booked, and how sound guys hated mixing us. So, a couple of us decided to do something about it. Pop Union was born out of a sheer need to connect with others going through the same things in Austin. Pretty quickly, I realized, too, that by starting this community and seeing it grow, we were literally creating the scene for ourselves. In a weird way, we needed a publicist, and being a unified force did it for us. I only started the group on Facebook and Instagram a year ago. So far, we have almost one hundred members on our Facebook group. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s full of artists, bands, promoters, musicians, managers, photographers, and producers who all want to see the scene grow. They’re engaging with each other, going to each other’s shows, and promoting each other’s music. It’s pretty cool.

Aside from being a songwriter, I know you’re a multi-instrumentalist. What instruments do you play, and do you have a favorite?
I play guitar (acoustic and electric), synths, piano, and banjo. I don’t actually have a favorite right now, but I’ve played guitar since I was twelve. I’ve been playing acoustic a lot lately for live streams and other ways, but I haven’t really played it this much in years! Although I did start playing electric a couple years ago, and I am in love. In a weird way, it makes me feel like I am super powerful, but also terrible at the same time. I like the challenge of mastering something new.

You’ve collaborated with Canadian EDM producer Disero. Are there any other producers or artists that you would love to collaborate with?
Oh, yeah! My dream songwriters/producers to work with right now are Jack Antonoff and Theo Katzman. I would die. Actually, I’d cry first, then die.


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