Dotan was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Amsterdam, where he has become a huge figure in music throughout Holland and is well on his way to repeating this success throughout Europe. Having reached double platinum status in both Belgium and Holland, and seen his shows sell-out at rapid speed, it’s clear his star is on the rise. We caught up with him during his current European tour.
Hi Dotan. How are you and what have you been up to this week?
I’m good thanks. I’m in Cologne right now, I have a show tonight and I played in Berlin last night. I’m in the middle of a European tour, so yeah it’s all good. Preparing for SXSW, leaving for Austin, TX next week and also playing London in two weeks.
How are you feeling ahead of SXSW?
Yeah, it’s cool, I’ve never played in the US before. I have been over to do some writing and stuff like that, but I’ve never actually played over there so I feel like it’s my first introduction on a live level and I’m super excited. I’ve never been to the festival either, so I’m also excited to check out some of the other bands that are playing.
Your latest single ‘Home’ is out in the UK on 22 March. What’s it about?
A lot of people ask me what ‘Home’ means to me, but I feel like it’s not an actual place. When I was writing and recording this record I was really looking for my place in life and in music in general. ‘Home’ to me is about finding your purpose in life and to me that is music; it’s about that but I guess people will relate to it in many different ways so it’s very much a universal theme I guess.
‘Home’ reached number one in both Belgium and Holland and has also gone double platinum in both countries. You were also number two in Billboard’s ‘Next Big Sound Top Ten’ in the US – how does it feel to be getting this kind of recognition on a global scale?
Yeah, it’s crazy. To be honest I never really expected it at all, because I decided I was going to produce everything myself and never really took any advice off anyone. I just wanted to make records that I wanted to make and I had already accepted the fact that it wasn’t going to do well on radio or on a commercial level. When it explodes like that it’s even more of a good feeling, because I never felt like it was going to happen and I feel very humbled and flattered that people all over the world write to me. That’s the good thing about the internet, people mostly found out about my music through Facebook and Twitter and things like that.
The album 7 Layers is due to be released in the UK on 6 April. What influenced the album?
I just wanted to make a very personal album, and the song ‘7 Layers’ is by far the most personal song I’ve ever written. I was watching this documentary on the Discovery Channel on the human body, and they explained that our skin is made out of seven layers and this woman explained the further we get through the seven layers the closer we are to our core, I picked my guitar up straight away and wrote the song in about an hour. I chose not to use it at first, I threw it in the bin because I couldn’t imagine putting it on a record and having my story up. Obviously it’s now the title of the album and I play it every night so that didn’t really work.
You played over one hundred gigs in people’s living rooms. what was that like as an experience?
It was weird sometimes to be honest! It was awkward at first going to people’s houses when you don’t know them. I did that because I had real problems with performing; I was really nervous and also cautious when I was performing onstage. I had stage-fright for sure, so I thought of the scariest thing I could think about in terms of performances and I came up with this crazy idea of playing at random people’s houses, which I arranged via Facebook. I got a lot of responses, so I went and played all these people’s houses, and when you’re playing them you don’t have anything to hide behind; there’s just you and your guitar and a bunch of strangers looking at you in a very intimate way. After the house gigs I went and played a gig in Amsterdam, and it actually felt really normal to be onstage again, so I think that really helped.
You’ve got a number of festival appearances coming up in the summer. How do you find playing festivals in comparison to your own gigs?
It’s different for sure, because obviously not everyone will be there to see you, but I think it’s very good to be able to reach out to people who wouldn’t perhaps know you. I do like the fact that there is more room for singer/songwriter stuff. I also think it’s really good that you get to see many different parts of the world. I think we’re going to be playing almost 50/60 festivals this summer so it’s going to be very busy.
What’s it like playing in the UK in comparison to the Netherlands?
I’ve only ever played in the UK once, and when I did I don’t think I even had a single out, so it was very much a warm-up show. I thought it was really cool because people just showed up who found me online. It was a really small crowd and it just felt good to almost start over again. Every show is selling out so quickly in Holland and it just feels nice to be able to experience that beginning again in new places.
Who are your influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of singer/songwriters from back in the day, like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, and also the Beatles of course. I think these days one of my heroes is definitely Bon Iver; I love his psychedelic sound, melancholic feeling and his bizarre song writing. There are so many good things popping up. I’m a big fan of Alt J, and there’s also a lot of Scandinavian music that I love. But when it came to the album, I didn’t actually listen to any music because I just wanted to make something that sounded like me.
What else can we expect from you in 2015?
We’re going to be doing a bigger European tour over fall and winter. I’m also playing my biggest show ever in the Ziggo Dome, a big stadium in Holland. In the summer I’m going to try and record new material, so I’ll be trying some new stuff out on that tour.