It took Abby Dobson 15 years to write her latest single - but it's worth it

It took Abby Dobson 15 years to finish writing her latest single Everything's gonna be alright. Why? The answer is simple. Things weren't all right.

"I started writing it in 2004. I actually calculated the date the other day because I was wondering how long I had been dragging this thing around with me," she says, laughing.

SOUL SEARCHING: Abby Dobson released crowdfunded album It's Okay Sweetheart last October.

SOUL SEARCHING: Abby Dobson released crowdfunded album It's Okay Sweetheart last October.

"Since 2004 I've lived in several different cities, in different houses and had different partners. It's a long time in the life of a mixed-up kid."

Dobson, best known for her band Leonardo's Bride and their multi-award-winning 1997 song Even When I'm Sleeping, is refreshingly but brutally honest. She is a sensitive soul and her own harshest critic. She has had to learn to look for the positives and embrace them.

"I had those lyrics - everything's gonna be all right - but I just couldn't make it work. If I can't make a song work I usually put them aside forever," she says.

"But with this song I would sit at the piano and try a different way and in a different time signature until eventually I thought 'I'll just leave this'. It was mainly a lyrical challenge because I didn't believe that everything was going to be all right. To make verses to back that sentiment up seemed impossible without lying."

Even When I'm Sleeping - Leonardo's Bride

While the troublesome song was on the backburner, Dobson toured with dance producer Paul Mac, sang duets with Neil Finn, Daniel Johns, Alex Lloyd, Mark Seymour and Leo Sayer, and was commissioned to record her songs for the hit TV series The Secret Life of Us. She also released solo album Rise Up and was nominated for an ARIA award for her side project Baby et Lulu where she sings French songs in harmony with Lara Goodridge.

She was busy, she was working, but she wasn't "all right". Behind the scenes, Dobson was battling chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Then, in 2013, she made what she has since described as a "whacko decision" to audition for The Voice Australia.

"I am a heady type of person and perhaps I over-complicate things," she says.

"I had such outrage over things that I couldn't control but were breaking my heart, like the refugees on Manus Island. It totally wore me down and made me think that everything was not going to be all right.

"From that place I'm no good to anyone. You can't be on the frontline all the time. I have been been slowly dismantling my beliefs, which has been quite liberating. I've been making life a bit more simple; turning off the news.

"I don't think there was any dramatic turnaround but I do now believe that everything is going to be all right. And I finally finished writing that song."

Dobson's 2018 album It's Okay Sweetheart is her first solo album in a decade. It was also crowdfunded.

ON TRACK: Dobson and Lara Goodridge perform together as Baby et Lulu.

ON TRACK: Dobson and Lara Goodridge perform together as Baby et Lulu.

"It's the first time I've put out an album this way and it was such a huge leap of faith for me," she says. "The response was beautiful. I am so thankful."

Dobson is only half joking when she says: "And then when the album came out it was like 'Hi, the album I've been working on for the last 10 years is here but hey, you can have it for free on Spotify'.

"It doesn't cross people's minds that you are offering up this thing for free, basically, when they listen to it on Spotify. Most people think that you get money for it but unless you're Beyonce you don't really see anything.

"I did a tour at the end of last year with a six-piece band and it was beautiful - cello and violin, piano and bass, guitar and four-part harmonies - and I'm so glad I did it but I know it cost me money to do it. I didn't want to add up how much. I just gave it a cursory glance."

Fortunately these days Dobson prefers to focus on the positives.

"A lot of people were very happy to hear my new song and they tell me they have listened to it over and over again. People like to hear that everything is going to be all right," she says.

"There was a story I saw the other day where New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was mobbed by children who wanted to give her a hug. It was beautiful. That's the sort of thing I watch these days. Otherwise I just turn off the news.

"I am a little bit dumb about world affairs these days but I have smart friends and occasionally I ask them what's going on. I know how miserable I was."

UNSURE: Dobson at her 2013 blind audition for The Voice.

UNSURE: Dobson at her 2013 blind audition for The Voice.

She's not against technology or current affairs - or Spotify, for that matter. Dobson just prefers the way things were.

"Even now when I find an artist on Spotify that I love, I will listen to them on my headphones or walk around the house with it playing on my phone but I'd rather not have to go through a digital pathway to find the music in the first place," she explains.

"I suppose it's how I grew up - vinyl was how people listened to music in my childhood. I would love a turntable."

As for the future, Dobson will continue to keep things simple.

"I know I am doing this tour in May and I am looking forward to that. I've kind of got loose plans. Baby et Lulu is making inroads towards our first album, so that's in the works as well.

"I'm going to try to go to Europe in July and August just because I haven't really had a holiday adventure in about 10 years - I'm going to reboot. To escape the winter and do some more writing and start the cycle again.

"I never make long-term plans and I never have. My brain doesn't work that way. I always judged myself quite harshly for not having a big picture like a lot of people seem to have. But I've stopped doing that now. I've stopped giving myself a hard time for that. Everything works out."

  • Abby Dobson performs at Smith's Alternative on May 24. Tickets are on sale now.