Dolly Ave is the epitome of a creative, not just in all the things she does (singer, songwriter, photographer, etc.) but in how she continues to push herself in each of those things. Earlier this year, she released her debut EP, Sleep - whose woozy songs are at the intersection of bedroom pop and progressive R&B - to critical acclaim by publications ranging from Atwood Magazine to Forbes.
Rather than double down on the sound that made her "One To Watch", she has now released her new single, "Play With It", a flirty song that is much more carefree than the moody and vulnerable music on Sleep.
On "Play With It", Dolly confidently coos and giggles over an infectious mid-tempo beat: "This kind of snack is hard to find". It's not that she's done taking her music seriously, she's just having some well-earned recess time.
The track also includes an impressive yet goofy verse from rapper Charlie Curtis-Beard. Fans of Dolly Ave will recognize his voice from their first collaboration, "Sunlight, Quiet, Flowers", a song that trended #1 on TikTok’s Original Music charts for 7 days straight.
Dolly Ave has much more she plans on creating, but in the meantime, she caught up with us about her new music video, Sleep, and the amazing reception she's already received.
For the people that don't know you, where are you from and how did you first get into music?
I am from Kansas City, Missouri. I can remember music impacting me at a young age watching my favorite singers perform on television. My dad would play the guitar and I sat with a song for days called “Boats and Birds” by Gregory and the Hawk until I figured out how to play it. The same with piano. I obsessed over figuring out how to sing my favorite songs while playing at the same time. I know you were raised on YouTube. How did watching singers build their own careers on that platform inspire your music?
What I recognized was how important the internet was becoming and how creative you can get with the tools you had. I watched their quality from webcam to high-quality productions happen on screen and I wanted to see the same growth for myself.
Your debut project, Sleep, is super vibey. Was there any music in particular you'd been listening to that inspired it?
I listened to a lot of albums during this time which helped me get into the mindset of storytelling a complete project versus a single. George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” was on repeat. SZA’s “CTRL” album was such a special project for me during my challenging times with processing heartbreak.
The project came out during a particularly noteworthy AAPI (Asian American & Pacific Islander) Heritage Month. What was it like seeing Sleep get so much coverage as an example of all the great music the AAPI community makes?
The main feeling I had was support and belonging to a home. Music-making can sometimes be a lonely process, where very few people get to watch you write, record, and create the songs. When it’s finally out it’s a vulnerable feeling. To have a community rooting for me gives me so much more drive to continue to share this journey.
Your new single "Play With It" is really fun and flirtatious, which is in contrast to the more serious music on Sleep. Was that because you just wanted to let loose, or did you have to challenge yourself to tap into that?
This song was a challenge for me, but I am glad I ultimately decided to have fun with the track. I debated in my head for months whether this was something I wanted to share because I was afraid I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I made a bubbly pop track with silly lyrics. However, I believe making it made me recognize that to make art is to experiment and surprise yourself and most importantly push yourself out of your comfort zone.
This is your second time working with Charlie Curtis-Beard. Talk to me about your first collab and why you wanted to work with him again. Charlie had mentioned wanting to make a track with me in the past but the timing was never right. We met in Chicago and I moved to Los Angeles a few months after meeting him formally. He eventually moved out here and we finally got together. We attempted to make a song once that didn’t come to fruition, but later on, he sent me an idea of “Sunlight, Quiet, Flowers” and I really connected with it so I jumped on the track! Of course, the aftermath was unexpected when the song trended on Tik Tok, but I just really felt I needed Charlie’s personality on this “Play with It.” It’s fun and it wouldn’t have been where it is without his verse.
I love the dance at the end of the video! Who choreographed it and how did you enjoy learning it?
Leah Zieger choreographed the dance! She and Charlie worked together with me all day to learn this thirty-second portion. My gosh, I cannot dance and it took days on my own to understand it. I have so much respect for dancers because that was very difficult for me. I enjoyed learning it because it helped me get out of my head. I had made several music videos where I am stoic and the shots are impressive, but to own the camera with my own movement was exciting and freeing!
Your music has had a lot of success on TikTok. What was it like seeing a song like "Sunlight, Quiet, Flowers" top the Original Music chart?
I can only speak for myself but it was confusing, to be honest ha! The song had been out for two months and I just got a bunch of messages about the song on the front page. It was so sweet because I got to see the beautiful side of sharing a song. So many different people responded to the track, danced to the track, sang to the track, drew art to the track - it was so heartwarming to experience.
Do fans of Dolly Ave have anything more to look forward to in the near future?
Oh, you bet! Keep close watch, I’ll try and keep surprising myself and those listening.
Check out more of Dolly Ave: