Fefe Dobson’s back catalog shows little signs of hip-hop fare, but that doesn’t mean her iPod isn’t filled with some good boom bap. The spunky songstress has a fondness for some of the industry’s major players. “Drake, I support,” Fefe tells Rap-Up.com. “We’re fellow Canadians; we’re both from the same city. [And] I’ve been digging Wiz Khalifa.” But Dobson, whose latest album Joy, is soaked in the same pop liquid as her previous efforts, still keeps the tunes of classic acts close to her soul. “I love Fleetwood Mac and Johnny Cash.”
The self-described music lover gave fans and critics a nice surprise last month when she debuted the remix to her J.R. Rotem-produced single “Stuttering,” which featured a verse from an “amazing” artist she’s been a loyal supporter of over the years: Pusha T. Perhaps the Fefe Dobson of 2003 wouldn’t have tapped into the rap spectrum, but seven years later, she’s earned a welcomed reception after serving it to the masses.
While the 25-year-old sits on a plush chair tucked in a conference room at Def Jam’s New York City headquarters, she’s vocal in discussing her journey to musical adulthood. She’s written songs for the Disney Channel set, saw an album get shelved, and returned to the label that brought her to the forefront. Read on as the ever-smiling Torontonian explains to Rap-Up.com why Kanye West is a genius, what a collaboration with Nicki Minaj would sound like, and what really comes to mind when the Rihanna comparisons pop up.
1. Joy is the name of this album. Name three things that bring you joy. I have to say my dog Pepper. She’s a Chihuahua-Pomeranian. I actually thank her on the album. She just made me laugh all the time. When I was bummed out, sometimes she would just make me smile. She’s awesome, she’s a great dog. [Also], music, good music. That’s my world, so definitely that brings me a lot of joy. Hmm, what else? Love. That’s self-explanatory.
2. It’s been about seven years since your self-titled debut album. How does that record differ from your new one? The first album came out in December 2003. Now it’s 2010, about to be 2011. So it’s been awhile. When I came out I was 18. I toured the first album for two-and-a-half years. And after that, started working on another record. And then after that, I really just took some time to grow up and go through my teenage growing pains. As I did that, my musical taste changed. Naturally you have to change. If you’re the same person you were when you’re 18, and now I’m in my early 20s, if I was the same person there’d be a problem. So I had to change that up as well as my music.
3. Your second album Sunday Love was never released. How did you get past that and not get discouraged to create a third album? When Sunday Love didn’t come out, it definitely was hard at first. Like anyone, your dream kinda gets squashed and then you feel like, “Oh I have to start again. What is that gonna entail? How is that gonna feel? Are people gonna still believe in me?” After awhile you kinda get over that hump. Actually what got me over that hump was when [I wrote] Miley Cyrus’ song called “Start All Over.” And that really helped because that song was actually gonna be on Sunday Love and we decided not to do it. It just inspired me to know that there’s a place and time for those songs and maybe that place and that time wasn’t with me, but for sure it had a moment and that inspired me. Then I got in and started working on Joy.
4. Pusha T hopped on the remix to “Stuttering.” How did that come about? I was driving through America, New York state, doing radio and I got a call from my manager. He was like, “Guess what? Pusha just did a verse on your song. You gotta hear it.” So he sent it to me and I freaked out. I let my best friend hear it and she freaked out. Some of those lines on there are just… [recites Pusha's lyrics] “I lie just to spare ya… I double-dog dare ya.” I’m so happy he even did that. I’m just so happy for him to get noticed for his talent. There’s something about his rapping style that I find very emotional. His words are very honest.
5. Word is that you want to collaborate with Kanye West. What about him draws you to his work? Why would I want to work with Kanye? I mean just listen to the latest record—it’s amazing. He’s a genius. Musically, he’s on a level I think is insane. “Monster” is my favorite song on [My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy]. I heard it once and I put it on, turned it up loud, and the beat kicked in. Nicki Minaj’s verse is crazy. She really reminds me of Nina Hagen.
6. If you did a collaboration with Nicki Minaj, what would it sound like? I love Nicki Minaj. I think she’s amazing. I like her power, but she’s also playful. If we collaborated, it would be cool to do like “The Boy Is Mine” of this generation, but her spitting and me singing.
7. In the past, you’ve penned songs for teen pop stars Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. Do you work one-on-one with an artist when you write for them? I actually haven’t been in the studio with any of those girls—Selena, Miley, or even Jordin [Sparks]—when they sang those tracks. For “Round and Round” that Selena Gomez did, it was really cool ’cause I got to work with Kevin Rudolf. I love Kevin Rudolf. He also produced my first single “Ghost,” so it was just awesome. He’s a great writer, great musician. When I heard it [her sing it], I was just really excited. I was really stoked. I saw the video and everything. She’s grown up.
8. Are there any songwriters you’re particularly fond of? I really dig Claude Kelly. For a lot of my rock ‘n’ roll stuff on my album I worked with a guy named Dave Lichens, who’s a full rock guy. He looks like Dave Grohl and he always says “dude.” It gets a little tiring after awhile. It’s like, “Enough with the dude.” I worked with John 5 on my last record. He was in Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie and stuff. There’s a lot of cool people. I like to have the Claude Kellys and then have the Rob Zombies of the world.
9. Some people have accused Rihanna of “borrowing” your style, being that you’re on the same label, Island Def Jam. How do you feel about that? I think it’s a compliment that people say me and Rihanna are very similar. I think comparisons are very healthy. It happens all the time. That’s how we express ourselves. I’ll tell my friend, “Hey, you gotta check out the new whatever record. It sounds a lot like this and a bit of this and a bit of that.” It’s just natural to compare. I don’t really go to see all the comparisons, but I’ll have to check them out. I am a fan of Rihanna. We’re labelmates. I really think her music is actually very, very catchy.
10. Do you have a New Year’s resolution for 2011? I can’t believe we’re here again to even have a New Year’s resolution. It’s so crazy that a year’s gone by already. It’s insane. I don’t remember what I said last year. I hope I stuck by it. Probably to just spread joy—as much joy as I can.