Dorothy’s Namesake Is More Than Just a Pretty Face

Raised on '90s alt-rock, Dorothy Martin is parking her SoCal quartet somewhere between rock and a hard place

DOROTHY2016 for web

Before Dorothy Martin became the rock goddess frontwoman of the L.A. outfit Dorothy, she was a San Diego choir all-star who sang the National Anthem at her high school graduation. It was one of her first live performances, and it didn’t go off quite as she had hoped.

“We’re on a football field,” she remembers. “There’s a shitty PA and a shitty microphone.” And then she starts to sing, and the sound reverberates off the bleachers, creating a delayed feedback and throwing her off her game. She managed to hit the high note, but the rest… “If I ever do that again, I’m going to fucking slay that shit so hard,” she says. “When I sing it at the Super Bowl, it’s going to be a Steven Tyler moment.”

A decade later, Martin hooked up with producers Mark Jackson and Ian Scott, who helped her craft the sound and assemble the musicians to create Dorothy, a hard-rocking bluesy crew ready to dominate the Sunset Strip.

Martin grew up on the SoCal beaches, listening to her dad’s Pink Floyd and CCR albums. She learned to sing by listening to Dolly Parton. She taught herself guitar by hanging out with the surfers and watching singer-songwriters in coffee shops. Gradually her tastes evolved. “I listened to nothing but 90s rock when I was in high school – Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus.” Then came the local hardcore bands like Thrice. Shortly after high school, she tried to launch a pop project, but it didn’t feel right.

And then along came Jackson. “The first couple songs we wrote together had that singer-songwriter vibe,” Martin says. “I was like, ‘I’m so bored right now. I want to break something.’” They naturally started to build a harder, edgier rock sound and, she says, “it just felt right.”

The result is Rock Is Dead, the band’s debut album released in late June, just before Dorothy embarks on a U.S. tour with British glam rockers The Struts. Martin can’t wait to get on the road to promote the album, and maybe learn a few things watching The Struts onstage. “They have their shit together. They really own their instruments and they really own their stage presence.” While The Struts are more of an arena, classic-rock band, with some synth-y electronic elements mixed in, according to Martin, “We’re a lot more stripped down and raw and grungy. We complement each other well because it’s two sides of the rock spectrum but both are electric and exciting.”

Martin is already busy writing material for the next album, and will head off on another tour with Halestorm and Lita Ford in the fall. It’s easy to see Martin as a direct descendent of a metal icon like Ford. “It’s not like I’m doing anything new,” Martin says, acknowledging the prevalence of females fronting rock bands. But maybe not everyone has the balls to make it work so convincingly. “I chose to steer my own ship, rather than work for somebody. I really had to go for my dreams and it was scary. But Lita was doing it when I was in diapers.” Martin would like to see more women doing the hard-core metal thing. “If we could have a female Nirvana,” she says, “that would be fucking cool.”

— Stephanie Wargin

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