For Dora Jar, working as a musician is akin to being a wizard—interview
Before you find yourself in her DMs, Dora Jar already knows that her name is a pun. She’s reminded about it at least once a week. And just like with her eclectic sound, she references her childhood for its inspiration.
While some might not feel a nostalgic connection to an automated car alarm, Jar makes a point to appreciate all the little things in life — whether it’s a scab on her knee, taking photos of lumpy trees or singing along to Into The Woods. Now, she can add rising stardom to the list.
This past year, Jar released her debut album, Digital Meadow, and has already gained fame across the music realm. Mixing indie-rock and electronic-pop elements, the up-and-coming artist believes that knowing your own power and owning your wizarding potential can open up any door.
While you’ve been making music since high school, you’ve only really released tracks this past year. How does it feel to have so many people in the industry looking at you as a rising star?
The industry’s a new thing for me. So it’s exciting, and I just appreciate the love. It just feels really great to be seen for what I do and what I’ve been doing for a long time. It’s exhilarating, honestly.
You have superstars like Elton John and Wheatus shouting you out. How does it feel to know figures like that are championing you so early on?
It’s crazy. I sent the clip to my mom when Elton John played “Scab Song” on his radio show, and she didn’t know it was [him] speaking. It’s hard to believe since he’s such a legend. Actually, he’s a really special person in my life because he used to fund a scholarship for the school that my sister went to: The Bridge School. One of our family friend’s son used to get a Christmas card from him every year. He was just a big part of my family — a hero.
I saw that your mother worked in musical theater. Did your family always know that you would follow in her footsteps in the arts?
I think so. My family’s really kooky. I was never really an academic student. I was always really into theater, and music was always a part of our household. I knew [early on] that I didn’t really care about anything other than performing and creating and obsessing over Gwen Stefani and Foo Fighters and Mary J. Blige.
Did you watch a lot of your mother’s work as a kid? And how much of that musical theater lineage can we hear in your work?
My dad would always play the Beatles, but [my mom] would play Stephen Sondheim musicals. It was his lyrical genius and humor and crazy melodies that just made me obsessed with music. [Sondheim] made it so much deeper than just a song; it was a story. Musical theater has always been a staple in my sound. I used to reject that when I was [making music] in high school because it was too close to home, and now I’ve regained that appreciation and acknowledge that influence.
Your taste in music ranges from these classic musicals to Nirvana to Outkast. Where do you find the most inspiration for your sound?
It changes a lot. I think everything from childhood is my reference point. I have all this music ingrained in me. Whenever I’m writing on the guitar, I know Foo Fighters is an obvious influence, especially the album In Your Honor. Then I’ll go through periods where I don’t really listen to anything for a while. That’s when I write the most.
Theatrics must run in the family considering your eclectic personality and online presence, especially your determination to be a wizard. Where did that all start?
I had found this photo from my first-grade Halloween the day I wrote [“Wizard”]. I had worn a wizard costume and had gone over to my friend’s house. We were sitting at the table with her big scary older brothers, and they were making fun of us and our costumes because they were too cool to dress up. I remember just feeling really defiant and thinking, “You guys have no idea who we are because you don’t even care.” Those feelings just started coming back when I saw that picture. I started thinking about how we all have these inner magical worlds and different hats that we put on, and different ways that we feel powerful. Something about keeping it low-key and knowing your own power is how that song came about.
Would you consider the role of a musician that of a wizard, in a sense?
Everyone refers to [producers] as wizards regarding technical skills. I think wizard skills are mind power and world-building and swag. That’s what music’s all about. So, it’s definitely a wizard realm.
You were able to use that mind power to create your alter ego, Polly. Would you say that you see yourself channeling her moving forward, or do you plan to go in a different direction with your new project?
Polly is always with me. She’s the version of me that’s more confident and will try new things. When I’m onstage, she definitely comes out. I’m releasing new music in late winter, and it’s another sharp left turn for me. There are so many different characters that I’ll put on. It’s just like the Into The Woods musical. I just want to be every character from the play.
As someone who seems so transformative and free with their work, where do you see yourself and your music traveling to in 2022?
My [new project] has a bit more acoustic roots. It’s more in the meadow world and less in the digital world. I don’t want to say too much since it’s still crystallizing. If Digital Meadow was [a] burst of daytime, this next album is like a darker, twilight, woodier land.
Are you a goal-oriented person, and are there any you have for the near future?
I’m more of a dream-oriented person. I’ll dream up the idea of how I want to feel and how I want my life to feel and how I want to be connected, but then I’ll take it week by week on how to get there. I’m planting a lot of seeds for the future with imagination and dreams.
This interview first appeared in issue #402 (22 for ’22), available here.