Q&A: Dorothy Martin on rock and roll without the sex and drugs

Dorothy Martin. Courtesy photo.

Dorothy is redefining modern rock. The Los Angeles band, helmed by lead vocalist Dorothy Martin, does not shy away from its rock and roll image, embracing comparisons to classic rock icons and putting on a live show to rival them.

“I’m proud to call myself a rock n’ roll artist, and if we are being compared to great classic rock bands, then I welcome the compliments,” Dorothy Martin said this week by email.

Spirit Animal

7 p.m., Thursday
The Fillmore
Tickets: $22.50+fees.

These compliments flooded in after the release of Dorothy’s 2014 debut album, ROCKISDEAD. Despite the ironic title, the album offered a rowdy and unhinged sound that drew legions of fans. Fast-forward to today and Dorothy is about to embark on its headlining “The Freedom Tour,” playing songs off its 2018 sophomore album, 28 Days in the Valley. This followed a run of shows with the much-hyped Greta Van Fleet, also purveyors of an earlier sound.

While Dorothy’s latest album didn’t stray away from its roots, it saw Martin explore a variety of new sounds. Folk and psychedelic influences abounded, providing a backdrop for a more introspective Martin, who battled her inner demons, including alcohol and her fight to get sober, which she eventually won.

Martin’s sobriety informs her songwriting, causing her to reconsider some of the values that rock has traditionally championed.

“My aim is not to sell sex, drugs or violence,” she said. “As a culture we are beyond-inundated with those things. We need more compassion and spirituality.”

We spoke to Martin ahead of Dorothy’s Thursday show at The Fillmore.

RIFF: Where are you right now and what is the most fun thing you’ve done in the last 48 hours?

Dorothy MartinI am at home in Los Angeles getting ready to go out and last night I saw a guy walking down the street in ass-less leather chaps, no joke.

I read that you spent the holidays in Nashville. What drew you over there?

I really wanted Nashville hot chicken. I also got invited to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

You recently worked with Nashville country legend Dolly Parton on a song for the Netflix film Dumplin.’ What was the experience like?

Dolly Parton was a dream to work with! She was so warm, down to earth and positive. I came off the road and jumped into the studio the very next day to record “Two Doors Down,” and she was nothing but welcoming.

How would you describe the evolution of your sound? Was it a manifestation of personal growth or revelation?

I grew up on my dad’s rock and folk records, so I think some of those elements were naturally in my voice and it just made sense to explore that direction. Linda Perry and I sat down and brainstormed the album [2018’s 28 Days in the Valley] with our musicians, and started writing songs from the heart. My personal growth directly influenced the album and my songwriting.

What are you most proud about from making your sophomore album?

I was proud of the band’s ability to create a sonic bridge between the first and second album, and I was proud that I was able to open up about my life through my storytelling.

What do you feel like your identity is as a live band? How has this developed throughout your career?

I feel the most powerful when I am on stage. As a live band we are bringing people a message of peace, hope and empowerment. I want people to push beyond the reality they’ve been conditioned to exist within. Therefore, I tend to stay away from labeling myself and my band and choose to embody freedom as much as I can.

Are there any venues that are you especially excited to play?

The Fillmore in San Francisco is calling my name.

Follow writer Matthew Eaton at Twitter.com/MattnSoCal.

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