‘This is Her Time’ : In Conversation with Dolly Ave

This is Dolly Ave, a Vietnamese-American singer and songwriter based in LA. This Billboard Vietnam rising star wasn’t originally born for the glare of stadium lights! Her Midwestern upbringing was a symphony of sound, a beautiful collision between the soulful strains of Vietnamese folk music hummed by her mother and the operatic arias her father coaxed from his guitar. These seemingly disparate influences seeped into Dolly’s soul, shaping a unique artistic identity that transcends cultural borders.

Transitioning from aspirations in photography to studying business, one thing remained constant for her: music. “There was always music,” she recalls fondly, her voice brimming with warmth. “It felt like a secret language back then, this captivating world I admired from afar. But my parents’ love for music was undeniable, and it fostered a deep sense of comfort and creativity within me.”

This exposure to diverse musical traditions became the foundation for Dolly’s own sound. Her music is a tapestry woven from the vibrant threads of her Vietnamese heritage and a love for storytelling that resonates on a universal level.

“I want my music to evoke emotions,” she explains, her eyes sparkling with passion. “Taking people on a journey that resonates with their own experiences, regardless of where they come from.”

“I want my music to evoke emotions”

Dolly’s debut album was a burst of infectious optimism, a vibrant showcase of her musical fusion. But her creative spirit is constantly evolving. “There’s a depth I want to explore now,” she confesses, “but it’s still captivating, still true to who I am.”

For instance, her song “Crash” delves deeper, exploring the raw vulnerability of loss. “It started with a single line,” she reveals, a hint of melancholy colouring her voice. “‘We’re gonna die with age, what is the meaning of life?’ It was a question that kept swirling in my head after losing my mom. The song explores the anxieties and uncertainties we all face, but it also whispers a message of hope.”

Beyond the music itself, Dolly finds a deep sense of community within her Vietnamese musical heritage. “Vietnamese folk music has this incredible storytelling tradition,” she shares, her voice filled with enthusiasm. “It’s about sharing experiences, connecting with your roots, and finding solace in shared history.” This emphasis on storytelling permeates Dolly’s song writing process.

“Sometimes the melody comes first,” she reveals, a thoughtful expression gracing her features. “A catchy tune that sticks in my head and refuses to let go. Other times, it’s a word, a phrase I find myself repeating over and over again. It sparks a story, and the music builds around it, giving voice to the emotions the words evoke.”

This focus on storytelling wasn’t always embraced by the industry. As an Asian-American woman, Dolly faced pressure to conform to pre-defined genres. “There were moments,” she recalls, a flicker of defiance in her eyes, “when people tried to tell me what kind of music I should be singing. But music shouldn’t be about labels. It should be about connection. ‘Sharing stories that resonate with everyone,’ that’s what I kept telling myself.”

“The stories, the characters, the music – they all come together to create something truly magical.”

The music she creates is a testament to this philosophy. It’s a sound that Billboard Vietnam recently called “rising and captivating,” a validation that fills her with pride. However, for Dolly, it’s about more than accolades. It’s about the connection. Music is a universal language, and she wants to use it to build bridges, to create a space where everyone feels welcome, where everyone’s story can be heard.

Dolly’s unwavering conviction became her guiding light, leading her through the complexities of the music world. Inspiration strikes everywhere for her. Movies fuel her creativity, sparking ideas and igniting her imagination. “I can get lost in a good film,” she confesses, a playful smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “The stories, the characters, the music – they all come together to create something truly magical. It inspires me to think outside the box, to experiment with different sounds and storytelling techniques within my music.”

With a critically acclaimed debut album already under her belt and a follow-up on the horizon, Dolly Ave stands poised to take the world by storm. Her music transcends genres and cultures, offering a captivating blend of Vietnamese heritage, emotional vulnerability, and raw storytelling. As she embarks on the next chapter, one can’t help but wonder where her boundless creativity will take her next. Perhaps a foray into theatre or film? One thing’s for sure: Dolly Ave is an artist to watch.

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Written by: Kusha Singh