Dubh Lee: “Sonically, I was inspired by Led Zep’s The Lemon Song”

by James Hendicott

Inspired by an interesting blend of influences that take in Janis Joplin to Led Zeppelin via Leonard Cohen, Niamh Dooley – who goes by the stage name Dubh Lee – has been active on the local music scene since 2018, and is growing in stature.

Her style is one that mixes blues, folk, and teenage rock influences into a distinct sound, one that grew vocally out of time busking on the streets in Germany and has slowly but surely established her on the Irish music scene.

Dubh Lee made the most of a surreal 2020, not least with the release of single subtle new single ‘Carousel’.

“Honestly I’ve been chomping at the bit to put out some music this year so I enjoyed releasing the track immensely,” she says. “I intended to have a whole EP out by the end of 2020 but the recording process got delayed due to COVID complications.”

“Carousel was recorded for the EP back in March before the first lockdown and I was excited to share it with the world so I decided to put it out as a single on November 20th in order to end this strange and trying year on a more positive note.”

“Usually I’d plan a couple of gigs around a release but obviously that couldn’t physically happen this time. Other than the lack of a single launch gig the process was the same as usual – lots of time spent in front of the computer sending emails, posting updates on social media and the likes.”

‘Carousel’ is self-described as a song about the whirlwind of post break-up misery, finding beauty in that haziness, and reflects where Dubh Lee’s life sat a year ago. Her musical routes, though, run far deeper, taking inspiration from her parents’ taste and time spent abroad.

“My parents have wonderful taste in music and introduced me to many artists on the gentler side that would go on to influence my fingerpicking and eventually my songwriting as well, artists like Leonard Cohen and John Prine.

“I started performing and writing songs from the age of 16 and would perform my songs with groups in my hometown, taking the role of guitarist and backup singer as I wasn’t a fan of my own singing voice.”

“It wasn’t until I moved to Germany in university that I took up the role of frontwoman of a band and took on lead singer responsibilities.

“I met some German musicians who loved Irish music and classic rock and we formed a five-piece rockabilly group, doing rowdy acoustic covers of Thin Lizzy songs, traditional Irish ballads and the odd Jethro Tull song.”

“We busked in various towns in Hessen unamplified, so I had to learn to really project my voice and become a stronger singer. On returning to Ireland I had a repertoire of my own blues and folk songs and the courage to actually sing them myself.”

The basis of a bright live career are all there, then, and as Dubh Lee develops her style and her catalogue, she already has that in mind.

“I love writing quieter acoustic tunes and I write a lot of songs in strophic form (i.e. ‘Matty Groves’ by Fairport Convention or ‘The Times They Are A Changin’ by Bob Dylan). I open my shows with a couple folkier tunes, just myself and the acoustic guitar, before picking up the electric and getting the drummer and bassist to join in.

“Upcoming releases of mine will include a healthy dose of folk in among roots-rock and blues!”

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