A few years ago, Austin, TX musician Sarah Dossey teamed up with some friends to craft what she calls a “super lush, Massive Attack-meets-Chairlift mesh of songs.”
“Ultimately,” she tells American Songwriter in an interview featured below, “the song that ended up being my favorite was the one that got everyone dancing when I played it at clubs. So, after that project, I decided that I just wanted to learn how to make people move and be happy through music.”
Today, DOSSEY is back with a new single that will do exactly that. “Animal” is a fierce alt-pop number that shows the Austin singer-songwriter embracing her aggressive side. “The song is so much more a reminder of my own power, and the importance of my own voice,” she explains. “I co-wrote the song with my buddy Josh Merry (of Sweet Spirit), who I write with a lot, and who is, in his own way, constantly trying to encourage me to dig deeper, be fearless, and to not take myself too seriously. I think we ended up writing ‘Animal’ as an anthem for anyone feeling powerless.”
We caught up with DOSSEY about “Animal,” her recent influences, and her folk roots (she still plays in a folk band called Indian & the Jones). Check out the full interview and listen to “Animal” below.
American Songwriter: What’s the story or message behind your new single, “Animal”? What did the songwriting process look like?
DOSSEY: I’ve struggled my whole life with approval. I’ve always sought after it. Even when I was set on pursuing a career in music, which was definitely not something normal to most of my family or friends, I was always sort of asking for their “Yes.” “Do you think I should do this?” “Do I look OK in this?” “Does this sound cool?” I got in a really bad cycle, especially with my music, where I was always waiting for someone to tell me what was wrong or how to fix it, or that it could be better. But one day I realized that’s not right! My art is only as good as I believe it is. I am only as powerful as I believe I am.
The song is so much more a reminder of my own power, and the importance of my own voice. I co-wrote the song with my buddy Josh Merry (of Sweet Spirit), who I write with a lot, and who is, in his own way, constantly trying to encourage me to dig deeper, be fearless, and to not take myself too seriously. I think we ended up writing “Animal” as an anthem for anyone feeling powerless.
What was the vibe you were going for with the track? Did anybody help you craft “Animal” from the production side?
I really tried to dig deep into a much more aggressive sound with this one, because that’s where I’ve been lately, as a writer, as a human. I feel like I’m fighting all the time (and literally DID fight all the time for this song, specifically) for my voice to be heard. There was a lot of back and forth from the then “team” about this song. I probably re-wrote it about 25 times. But then, one day, I went back and listened to version TWO, and said, yes, that’s it. I don’t care what they think. This is exactly what I want to say.
It’s really important for me, sonically, to have the two sections of the song be so starkly different, where the verses are aggressive—mostly drums and bass and some yelling. The bridge is in a completely different key than the rest of the song, and features this soaring, verbed out, self-reflective vocal with super lush synth pads.
I make almost everything with my buddy Taylor Webb. He’s my favorite pop producer in Austin, and kills it every time. We worked on this one together from start to finish.
“Animal” is definitely something new. It’s one of the most recent songs (we wrote it in January of this year) to finish, but the message is so strong and important to me that I pushed it to get it ready to release now. I’ve been in a little bit of a retro moment for sure with “Someone to Love” and “This Feeling.” I love Blondie and Nile Rogers, so there you go, but I’m starting to explore more aggressive and modern sounds too. I’m becoming a huge fan of minimalism with production, mostly because I’ve always been a songwriter first and I think that’s what I should play up in my songs. I feel like “Animal” definitely meets the listener in the middle. Maybe [it] gives you an idea of where I’m headed.
I read that you used to play in some “Folk/Americana/Bluegrass bands.” When did you officially adopt the moniker DOSSEY? Did you know it would be a pop project from the start?
I still play in a folk band! It’s called Indian & the Jones—we play old-time, bluegrass, and folk / Americana music. I’ve been in some others as well. I’m a nerd about songs, and I have a brain that won’t turn off, so I really get into a lot of styles of music and want to challenge myself to learn them. I started the DOSSEY project a few years ago because I had some songs that wouldn’t work for the band I was in, and I had a couple buddies that really wanted to try something new together. We made this super lush, Massive Attack-meets-Chairlift mesh of songs. It was a huge experiment for the three of us, and ultimately, the song that ended up being my favorite was the one that got everyone dancing when I played it at clubs. So, after that project, I decided that I just wanted to learn how to make people move and be happy through music. I have absolutely fallen in love with pop music because of it.
What are some recent inspirations or influences?
Of late, my Spotify has been circulating between Hayley Williams, Blackpink, Dua Lipa, and Talking Heads. Pretty normal, right?
What have the last few months looked like for you beyond working on new music? Is there anything else you want to share about your world right now?
I’ve honestly been busier than ever. I used the first part of the shutdown to hone my production skills, and that has caused me to dig deeper than ever. With the shutdown came the loss of a lot of things (including whatever vague semblance of a ‘record deal’ I had), and I’ve really had to learn how to pick myself up by the bootstraps.
I’ve been pushing myself so hard, trying not to be afraid of something just because I got a “no” the first 20 times, and I’ve somehow rallied a group of super talented buddies and artists to help me. I am super humbled by my crew, and also so, so, excited about what we’ve done and what’s to come. I feel like there’s a general feeling of “Let’s just DO IT” that has driven us all to keep pushing and believing in the vision.
“Animal” is out now.