Joey Dosik: singer-songwriter's 'Inside Voice'

  • by Jim Gladstone
  • Wednesday August 22, 2018
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"Never in my wildest dreams did I think someone would hear my music coming out of a loudspeaker at a Wingstop in Jakarta," singer-songwriter Joey Dosik, still wide-eyed at the memory of a message he received from a fan.

"That's one of the greatest things about being a musician with today's technology, I think. On SoundCloud and Spotify, I can see who's listening to my music. It can be really surprising. Like, 'Where is that?' and it's some little island off the coast of Africa."

While the Los Angeles-based Dosik -who plays the Independent on Sunday night- has made the most of 21st-century digital tools in starting to build a far-flung fanbase, his music itself harkens back to eras before the 33-year-old was born.

"If 15-year-old Carole King had SoundCloud," says Dosik, who considers King among his greatest influences, "She would have been a bedroom sensation. Her songwriting was undeniable. But she was born in an era when, for a long time, she was kept behind the scenes."

Dosik takes inspiration from his elder musicians.

"Ever since I was a kid, I've felt drawn to music from the 1970s," says Dosik.

That will come as no surprise to anyone who listens to his debut album, Inside Voice, which releases tomorrow (August 24), or its predecessor, last year's Game Winner EP, on which all the songs are at least loosely related to basketball, another of Dosik's passions.

Dosik's sweet, soulful vocals and piano-based arrangements evoke the work of Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye. His songs are infectious without feeling insistent. Their hooks emerge from the writing rather than being tacked on with studio effects.

"I'm really interested in hummability," Dosik says, "Big, long chord-driven melodic lines."
His singing style is the antithesis of the American Idol belting so common to contemporary pop; Dosik's vulnerable tenor gently bobs atop a melody rather that working to zoom out in front of it.

Raised in a tight-knit Jewish family, the son of a sociology professor mother and physician father, Dosik started taking piano lessons at an early age. He fondly remembers performing in a third-grade talent show, imitating Little Richard hammering away at the keyboards on "Tutti Frutti" and, later, playing Chopin �tudes for his Polish grandmother.

"She would cry every time." (Dosik pays tribute to her on Inside Voice's "Grandma Song").
In junior high, Dosik took up the saxophone and joined the school jazz band.

Under the tutelage of a history teacher, he immersed himself in jazz history.
Dosik became a highly skilled, intellectually inquisitive sax player, even landing paid gigs while still in high school.

His saxophone prowess helped him win admission to music school at the University of Michigan, where he first connected with the founding members of Vulfpeck, the funk-rock band with whom he's previously played sax in San Francisco.

But while he was at college, Dosik says, "I guess I had an existential crisis. I had come so far playing saxophone, but was I going to spend the rest of my life playing jazz, being a sideman?

"I really love to sing. Growing up I was always playing piano and singing along with records. Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye."

Also, after years of studying and playing jazz, Dosik says, "I felt a bit scarred by the context in which live jazz is played these days. There can be a museum-like quality, where the audience sits there silently, almost reverential. I want to engage with audiences. When I play live, I want the audience to feel like the show is co-created by them."

And so, his musicianship sharpened by a sophisticated understanding of jazz, Dosik returned to the keyboards and slowly began to work on his own singing and songwriting.

"At first," he says, "I just dove into Stevie Wonder. I sat down with every record and listened to how the songs were crafted."

Wanting to be as serious about his musical change of direction as he'd been about sax, Dosik took five crafting new work before releasing any of it on the internet.

"I had been on this Ornette Coleman/John Coltrane mission for years. This was a big step."
Big, and ultimately successful.

Along with making its way to Jakarta, Dosik's new work made it on to the radar of mainstream media here in the U.S.

The title song from Game Winner was licensed for use in the Netflix series Easy and featured in the recent Nick Offerman film Hearts Beat Loud ("Its in a very cool make-out scene," he says).

Following hometown record-release shows in Los Angeles this week, Dosik's Sunday show at the Independent marks the start of his first headlining international tour.

Joey Dosik performs at The Independent, Sunday, August 24, 8pm. $16-$18. 628 Divisadero St.