Jessica Dobson Is Abandoning Deep Sea Diver & Embracing Her Given Name Again: "I Feel Like It's Something I Can Own Now""/>
Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and recent Seattle resident Jessica Dobson has spent the last three years playing other people's music--she plays guitar in Beck's touring band and also did a tour playing keys and bass for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But before all that, Dobson started as a solo artist, and that's what she's back to focusing on these days.
Jessica Dobson performs with Beck at Bumbershoot '08.
At 18, Dobson was signed to Atlantic Records; she recorded two albums with the label, but after those records failed to generate any steam, she was let go. The bad experience caused her to balk from performing her music under her given name, and she subsequently started writing and performing with a cast of rotating backing musicians under the moniker Deep Sea Diver.
"I was really confused for a long time, having been signed at such a young age and kind of pouring out two records and seeing nothing of it," Dobson told me recently.
"The reason initially that I started having the itch to want to do something with a different moniker--like Cat Power/Chan Marshall, Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst--was because when I was 19, 20, that was when Fefe Dobson was out, Jessica Simpson," she added. "My actual name, it's no Bjork. So, being a little insecure 19- or 20-year-old, I wanted to hide underneath something."
(Dobson's not related to Fefe Dobson, a Canadian pop singer of middling fame. Nor is she related to the other, more controversial big-name Dobson: Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, of whom she says "When I was a kid, I used to be a bit of a tale-stretcher, and I thought it was cool to say that I was related to him. This is when I was 4 or 5 years old. I'd be, like, 'Yeah, he's my uncle and I swim in his pool.' I thought it was so awesome. Now, not so awesome.")
That was around 2007. Since then, things have changed for Dobson. For one thing, there's a German band also called Deep Sea Diver. Dobson's husband and drummer, Peter Mansen, says they e-mailed that band about a possible conflict and got a response saying, "VE had ze name FIRST!" And more important, Dobson's ready to own her given name again, which she calls "the truest expression" of herself. So this Wednesday, at the Comet Tavern, will be the last time she plays under Deep Sea Diver.
"I'm elated about it," she says. "I feel like it's something I can own now. I think I've finally gotten past the history that I've had of not knowing what I wanted musically, being signed from a very young age, being in that L.A. world, full of empty promises. I know who I am, where I want to go with my music, what my gifts are, and what my gifts aren't."
Check back on Reverb tomorrow for more on my conversation with Dobson and Mansen, including details on the couple's move from SoCal to Seattle and Dobson's forthcoming full-length. If you're not familiar with her mad skills, check her out below performing with Beck on David Letterman.