Dominic Dunn’s punchy, exciting songs show maturity far beyond his years.
The 17 year old from Liverpool, UK is a hardworking musician whose extensive gigging has garnered interest from many. His recent successes include playing at the Liverpool Music Awards, Threshold, Liverpool Sound City and the London Paralympics.
He has shared stages with Miles Hunt & Erica Nockalls of The Wonderstuff, Daniel Bedingfield, Ian Prowse, and Zappa guitarist Denny Walley. He supported Toyah Willcox on the Liverpool leg of her Greatest Hits Tour and Luka Bloom & Damien Dempsey as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival 2013.
He has been named one of Liverpool Echo’s One’s To Watch for 2014 by both Liverpool Echo’s Jade Wright and by Liverpool Post’s Peter Guy who wrote about Dominic in his award winning blog ‘GetIntoThis’, “One song – I’m on my way – felt like a prophecy that he seems destined to fulfil.”
Dominic recently wrote a charity single “The Angel” as a tribute to the Hillsborough Disaster campaigner Anne Williams. The song entered the iTunes singer/songwriter chart at number 2 and the UK Official Indie Chart at number 25 upon its release.
He has also gained attention further afield: The official video for his song ‘Keep Them Tight’ was debuted on international TV on Sky TV’s Box Nation and has been featured as ‘Video of the Day’ by BBC Radio 6’s Tom Robinson on Fresh on the Net. Robinson described the song as ‘an assured debut’ and concurred that Dominic is ‘one to watch’ while Guardian journalist Sachin Nakrani recently tweeted, ‘Dominic is the Coutinho of music, young gifted and from Liverpool.’
iSing chatted up Dominic and his management on the process of artist development in today’s music industry climate.
iSing: Why did you start singing and songwriting?
DD: My granddad bought me a guitar when I was about eight and I messed about with tunes and lyrics from then really. There was no specific reason I can remember to start song writing other than putting my lyrics to my music. I’ve always sung. Even from being a little kid, my great-grandmother always sang to me. My mum says when other kids woke up crying, I woke up singing.
iSing: How does a Dominic Dunn song come to be?
DD: I tend to take the usual chord progressions and invert them by throwing a few minor and seventh chords into the mix. Then I’ll work on finding a vocal melody. Once I’m happy with everything musically I then work on syllable structure to fit the vocal melody. When I’ve added lyrics, I then finesse the entire song and revisit it for however long it takes until I’m fully content with the song as a whole.
iSing: How has or hasn’t your experience of the music industry to date met expectations you had from when you first set out? What’s been easier and what’s been more difficult?
DD: I’ve been actively gigging since I was fourteen so at that point I don’t think I had any real expectations of music as an industry, back then it was all just about playing for my own enjoyment. The more I’ve gigged the more serious my commitment to my music has become, and with that I’ve learned very quickly that this is called the music ‘business’ because it is 100% a business. You have to have a broader knowledge of how the business works with regard to areas like marketing, promoting etc. to have any chance of making an income from doing what you love. What’s been easier? I’ve now become very adept at changing strings on my guitar when they snap mid-set. My record is just under a minute!
What’s been more difficult? I’d say the move from being a solo act to working with a full band has been a bit of a difficult transition for me, although the sound we get is worth any hassle of course! The difficulties are in the fact that I’m used to just saying yes to gig offers and having to get myself sorted whereas now I have to co-ordinate rehearsal times and gig dates which suit seven individuals who all have other commitments. That’s definitely proved difficult as times!
iSing: Do you think you missed out on being a ‘normal’ teenager by choosing to be a singer/songwriter?
DD: I do make my music my priority so I will regularly choose a gig over a night out with my mates, but I don’t feel I’ve missed out on being a teenager by doing that. I still get to spend time with my friends and I always get to meet and chat to girls at my gigs!
iSing: Why did you recently collaborate with a couple of local rappers?
DD: I’m an ambassador for an organization called AddAction that helps educate young people about drugs and alcohol, and the rappers I collaborated with are ambassadors too. We had played at a few gigs together in Manchester and Bristol with the Amy Winehouse Foundation and while we were at those gigs, we spent a fair bit of time together messing around with me playing the guitar and them rapping. It sounded OK so we decided to have a go at collaborating (“Keep Me Down”) on a couple of tracks. We’ve got a second track coming soon. It’s been a great experience as it opened both of our styles of music up to each other’s audiences.
iSing: Any other kinds of unique collaborations or projects you’ve been involved with?
DD: I collaborated with Natalie McCool, another local artist at the Liverpool Music Awards in 2013. Our brief was to mash up two of our songs, which was difficult initially due to the fact that our genres are very different. We had to work hard to make the two songs we wanted to sing work well together. For example, I had to change the tempo of my song and Natalie had to change the tuning of hers and we amended the structure to make the two fit together. We then rehearsed a lot! It worked well in the end though and we were asked to play the mash up again at a Broken Men record launch.
I was also asked to write a song in memory of Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams recently. I was honoured to be asked and the song I wrote was not in my usual style but Anne’s family and friends liked it so much they asked me to record and release it. I signed 100% of the rights to the song over to Anne’s For Justice charity so every penny goes straight to that charity.
iSing: What kind of vocal routine do you follow & how does it help?
DD: I really like the VocalizeU app and I regularly use that as part of my vocal routine. I also do some exercises that Kaya has taught me, which make me look a bit odd, but really work. One of them is blowing through a straw into a glass of water and humming scales while keeping all water in the glass. This sounds, mad but it really helps balance my voice out. I do this a lot before gigs.” When I’m working with Kaya I do lots of scales to improve my range – there’s lots of face pulling involved to get some of the weird sounds she tells me to make. I think sometimes she just wants something to laugh at! Saying that, I have found these exercises really do help develop my voice.
iSing: Any advice to others who are thinking of trying to make it as a singer?
DD: I’d say ignore what you see on TV. If you want to make it as a singer you have to be prepared to put in a huge amount of time and effort in practicing your instruments, and I’m including your voice in that. You must also devote a ton of time to writing, rehearsing, performing live, recording and putting effort into the business side as well. Nothing is going to happen overnight. If you love singing and writing songs, then go for it, but be 100% committed to doing the work!
Keep Them Tight – Dominic Dunn
The Angel – Dominic Dunn
Feature Photo: Grethe Borsum