Gail Ann Dorsey reflects on ‘Reality’ with BowieWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a partial list of the artists Gail Ann Dorsey has performed with during her 25-year career in music: Ani DiFranco, Bryan Ferry, Gang of Four, Boy George, Michael Hutchence, the Indigo Girls, Khaled, Joan Osborne, Donny Osmond, Seal, Jane Siberry, Skin, Gwen Stefani, Tears for Fears, The The, Charlie Watts, Dar Williams …
I could go on, but the point is made. Dorsey is one of the preeminent bass players and vocalists of her generation, and has collaborated with more amazing artists than most people would ever even get to meet.
But it is her association with David Bowie that has yielded some of her most noteworthy work. Since 1995 she has worked with the rock icon in the studio and on tour— at least until 2004, when Bowie sadly ceased touring after suffering a minor heart attack during a show in Germany.
“I think no one knew exactly what was going on. There are times when, after so many years of working with him, and others as well — you know, we all have moments when we don’t feel so good,” Dorsey said when asked about that night. “But, you know, you kinda get out there and you do your job, and you get halfway through a show and you start to not feel well. We’re human beings, and things happen.”
Bowie has appeared on stage only sporadically since then. Now, six years later, a new live recording of what may have been his final tour has been released: “A Reality Tour,” documenting two shows at the Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland.
I asked Dorsey what it meant to her to be one of Bowie’s primary collaborators. “I’m a little overwhelmed, in a good way. You know, it’s been a wonderful amount of time to be working with someone like David Bowie — so many years, I can’t believe it, you know? From the first day that I got the call to do it, to think that this much time and so many amazing experiences have gone by.”
Dorsey said listening to the new album is a genuinely emotional experience for her, especially with the perspective that time and later events have provided.
“It’s kind of one of those big documents in musical history that I’m now a part of. You know, kind of the lineage of amazing bass players, and just amazing musicians in general, who have been associated with Bowie throughout his whole career,” Dorsey said. “This CD, for me, kinda feels like that official stamp — that, like, I’m kind of in that echelon. [I’ve] kinda found a place in musical history, really.
“Quite a lot of time has passed since we did this tour, so, you know, I think I didn’t really remember just how good we were, and how special, maybe, the whole thing is.”
In addition to her work with other artists, Dorsey has also released three critically lauded solo albums. I asked her about the rumors that a fourth album was on the way.
“I have been trying to work on things, and I get busy,” Dorsey said. “I work on some songs and I think, ‘Oh, I don’t like this so much, I want to … ’ I think I’m a little bit of a procrastinator, but I’m also, I guess in some ways, a perfectionist, I guess. Maybe to my own detriment. I just, you know, I’m trying to get something done, I’ve just been kind of busy with other projects.
“Also, I’m independently produced; I’m not involved with a record label, so that also has something to do with it, just getting the money together.”
Until then, Dorsey’s plate is quite clearly full, and the release of “A Reality Tour” cements how important her work with Bowie was to her, and how electrifying performing in front of an audience can be.
“I would say it’s like the biggest high in the world for a musician, certainly for me,” she said. “Music is about, like, engaging with your audience…When you’re actually kind of in the moment with the audience, and creating a musical moment that, unless it’s recorded on a CD like this, it’s never going to be repeated again. It’s a very real kind of high, in some way. I think it’s what every musician dreams of, when they start out.”