With A Song On The New Disney Film, “Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day”, Singer-Songwriter, Justine Dorsey is Primed For Stardom!
Posted On 16 Oct 2014
Tag: Alex Turner, Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day, Alt-J, Arcade Fire, Artic Monkeys, Best Worst Day Ever, Disney, Do I Wanna Know?, HAIM, Hunger Of The Pine, Justine Dorsey, Kate Bush, Kerris Dorsey, Lana Del Rey, Liev Schreiber, Lorde, Malibu Music Awards, Miguel Arteta, Nikki Giovanni, Poetry, Ray Donovan, St. Vincent, The Beatles, Under Construction, Unison Music
The singer-songwriter, Justine Dorsey may be the sister of young actress, Kerris Dorsey (who we all watched in awe as the daughter of Liev Schreiber in Ray Donovan last season) but she is quickly making a name for herself. Her debut EP, Under Contruction is out now and it’s full of honest and thoughtful songs.
Most recently, along with her sister, she wrote the lead single for the Disney film, Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, called “Best Worst Day Ever”.
Learn more about this promising talented young singer in the following interview:
How did you get involved with the soundtrack to Disney’s Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day?
Well my sister, Kerris, is actually in the movie – she plays Emily, Alexander’s sister. Miguel Arteta, the director, knew that Kerris wrote music and sang, so he asked her if she wanted to write a song for the movie! And because she’s an amazing sister, she asked me if I wanted to write it with her. I’m always the person who quells any excitement in case a project falls through, but now that it’s officially in the movie I am absolutely giddy!! It was incredibly cool of Miguel to think of Kerris, and for Kerris to think of me.
I was! When Kerris auditioned, we were really excited because we had read the book when we were kids. It’s a classic.
You and your sister, Kerris, who stars in the film, wrote “Best Worst Day Ever” together. Tell me what that was like? Do you get along really well?
We had five days to write the song, and we’d never written a song under a deadline before. Kerris is my best friend, so the process was so fun! Writing together was great because there was no beating around the bush if we didn’t like something; we could just say, “nah, let’s try something else” and no one’s feelings would be hurt. And when we did like something, we would basically have a dance party. I loved it.
What was it like winning Singer/Songwriter of the Year at the Malibu Music Awards?
Very very cool! It was such a lovely surprise. There’s a lot of stuff in LA that operates under the “pay to play” sort of framework, and we hadn’t paid, so I wasn’t expecting it at all. I won because they truly loved my music. The award is still on my bookshelf, actually!
Tell me about “Under Construction”, a six song EP- your third project since you were 14 years old? What’s been the hardest/easiest thing about creating it and bringing it all together?
I’m so proud of “Under Construction” because it was my first project with my label, Unison Music, and because it finally felt like me. Since all the songs were written at varying points in my life, now I can kind of pick out who I was listening to at the time of writing a song, or where I was emotionally/mentally.
The hardest thing was probably just explaining to my producer, Bruce, what I envisioned for the songs. I’m very confusing because I’ll be like, “This song needs to sound like streetlights reflected in a passing car” but I don’t have the technical vocabulary to explain how to make it sound like streetlights. But after we worked through what I specifically wanted, it was surprisingly easy. I loved making that EP.
What things inspire you to write songs? How does your songwriting process work?
Everything and anything! Strangers’ conversations, books or poetry I’m reading, the way streetlights are reflected in passing cars (haha)… The songwriting process is still a bit mysterious to me, because there’s not like a to-do list that I check off. It’s not like I sit down and say, “Oh, first I have the lyrics, then the music…” I’ll start writing a song in the middle, or I’ll take something I thought was a chorus and turn in it into a bridge. One day I’ll have a lyric that has been floating around my brain and another I’ll have stumbled upon a chord progression that matches it perfectly. I never know where a song is going to come from.
I have read that you really loved dancing when you very little. How did singing fall into the mix? Do you think you chose one over the other?
I did! I still love dancing! I don’t take classes but I love the whole concept of expressing emotion through movement. It’s something we do naturally as humans, of course, but dance takes it to a whole other level. I’m really into Kate Bush right now, along with St. Vincent, and I love watching how they use dance as a sort of extension of their music. I started singing the same time I started dancing, because I did musical theater right off the bat. There was never a conscious decision to be a singer rather than a dancer- I guess I just gravitated toward singing more. But now I’m looking at ways I can work dance back in to my performances and videos.
What are you favorite songs to perform? Your favorite covers to perform?
My favorite songs to perform are always my newest ones. My songs are like my children, and I obviously love my older children and always will, but I’m used to them by now; the new ones are like newborns that I just can’t wait to show off to the world! This analogy is terrible! But I’m just going with it because I’ve had a green juice today, so I’m feeling pretty cah-razy. As for covers, I love playing “Do I Wanna Know?” by Arctic Monkeys, “Hunger of the Pine” by Alt-J, and this mash-up my sister and I do of “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire. They’re all on YouTube, for anyone who’s reading!
The ones I mentioned above! Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire especially are two bands that changed my life. I feel like I owe them for not just affecting me as a songwriter, but as a person.
Living or dead, who would you love to work with and why?
Since I’m on a roll with the Arctic Monkeys references here, I’m going to say Alex Turner, the lead singer. His lyrics absolutely kill me. I would love to see how he does what he does; he’s basically a word wizard. Is that a domain name for a website yet? Because it should be.
More times than not, influences tend to bleed through. What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
I swear to God I’m not just being lazy, but seriously, Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire. To add to it: St. Vincent, Haim, Lorde, The Beatles always. I’m starting to get into Nick Cave too. My music may not sound exactly like all of these musicians, but there is for sure something in them that encourages me to dig a little deeper into my own music. I’m also inspired by the way that Lorde, St. Vincent, and also Lana Del Rey are so in tune with their visual side. They don’t shy away from it at all; they use their videos, photos, clothes, artwork, etc. as a way to create a world for their songs to exist within. It’s the coolest thing.
I just read this poem called “Poetry” by Nikki Giovanni, and I’m obsessed with these lines where she says a poem doesn’t say “love me” or “accept me”… A poem “only says ‘i am’ / and therefore / you are too”. That’s what I want my songs to do. I don’t want them to beg the listener for something, or force the listener to feel a certain way. I want my songs to just be, and for the listener to just be with them. I hope people find something of themselves in my songs.
Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years?
Still making music, and making music that I really truly love. Honestly, I worry way too much about the future. I think I’m going to give it a rest for a little while. Today is good.