“My dad used to say that sports is a metaphor for life, and I think music can also be a metaphor for life, dealing with teamwork, perseverance and hard work and collaboration,” Dosik, frequent Vulfpeck collaborator and solo artist said, calling from Los Angeles, his hometown and musical basecamp. “The whole world loves sports and music.”
That sentiment could work as a thesis for Dosik’s forthcoming debut LP, Inside Voice, which arrives August 24 on his new label, the storied indie mainstay Secretly Canadian. Sports and music frequently intertwine in Dosik’s life, and he certainly knows a thing or two about hard work and collaboration. A streamline collection of neo-soul standards and tuneful smoothers, Inside Voice is approachable, easy to love and fun for the whole family, just like rooting for your favorite hometown team, or listening to a Carole King album. And for Dosik, who endured a basketball-related knee injury and was forced to call timeout on finishing it, the record has been a long time coming. After reconstructive knee surgery, and the 2016 release of his Game Winner EP, Dosik is finally ready to debut Inside Voice.
“I just decided to put [Game Winner] out first, but I had some of the music for the record already done, and what it made me do is kind of re-evaluate the record and write some new stuff and go back to the old stuff,” Dosik said. “There’s part of me from four years ago, and there's a lot of me from now.”
It’s his solo debut, but the aforementioned value of collaboration has played a major role on Inside Voice and in Dosik’s growth as a musician. A proselyte of L.A.’s bustling studio scene and a jam session disciple, Dosik has spent years refining his chops both as a member of funk collective/internet body Vulfpeck, and also as a collaborative musician, often brushing shoulders with the likes of Thundercat, Kamasi Washington and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson at musical roundtables. He’s a practiced musician in his own right, a pianist and saxophonist who also plays bass, guitar and drums on his new record. But friends, influences and bandmates have all left their mark on Inside Voice, too, and Dosik wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When you’re around such amazing creative people, everybody’s sort of challenging each other silently, in a way, because just to be around great songwriters and just to be around great instrumentalists and to see what they do, it inspires you and makes you want to write better songs, or get more in touch with your instrument,” Dosik said. [Inside Voice] is such a product of my environment.”
Inside Voice boasts some impressive credits: Atwood-Ferguson, a respected session musician and multi-instrumentalist, arranges the strings. Revered crooner and fellow Secretly Canadian signee Moses Sumney provides back-up vocals on a few tracks. Canadian composer Mocky, who has worked with artists like Feist and GZA, is a co-writer and co-producer. Vulfpeck musicians Jack Stratton and Theo Katzman both appear on the album, too, and another Vulf crewmember, the impeccable bass player Joe Dart, will join Dosik on a number of fall tour dates. In other words, it takes a village.
But as much as Dosik’s friends in Vulfpeck (“some of my closest, oldest friends”) have aided in Inside Voice, Dosik has been an integral part of Vulfpeck over the years. The title track from Game Winner, also reworked for Inside Voice, first appeared on Vulfpeck’s 2015 record, Thrill of the Arts. Dosik has penned some of their silkiest, grooviest numbers, like “Running Away,” from their 2017 offering Mr. Finish Line, and the vulnerable “Grandma,” which he re-recorded for Inside Voice.
“I wrote that song about my Jewish grandmother who was a Holocaust survivor,” Dosik said. “She was from a world that was so different from the world I grew up in in Los Angeles, but she was a part of that world. The song is [a] special one to me because I feel like I was able to capture a little bit of our relationship, and it’s a song that Vulfpeck also recorded with the amazing Antwaun Stanley singing it, which is really funny to see Antwaun, who has roots as a gospel singer from Flint, Michigan, singing a song about my Jewish grandmother. But my version is different from the Vulfpeck version and I’m really proud of it.”
Dosik’s caramel-thick voice often contributes to Vulfpeck’s jazz-adjacent mood, and his pipes are also an integral part of Inside Voice’s success in toeing the line between classic and modern. His voice is timeless, not in the least bit antiquated, and much like his peers Leon Bridges and Son Little, Dosik effortlessly balances soul and boogie, past and present. Inside Voice is exceedingly bright, a tempoed product of the current times and 20th century influences alike. One of the album’s singles, “Don’t Want It to Be Over” is almost orchestral, like a Frank Sinatra standard, but poppy effects and Coco O’s R&B-esque duet give it a sense of modernity.
Dosik cites his idol Carole King as one of three deities in a “Holy Trinity of influence” on the album, the other two being Marvin Gaye and Harry Nilsson.
“She was one guiding lights for this album,” Dosik said. “Carole King's Tapestry album was a mainstay in my house. It was a record that I found in my parents’ record collection, and it's one of those records that you can probably find in most record collections around the world. The songs can be sung by kids and sung by grandparents. Everyone can kind of sing a song like ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ together, and so I tried my best to sort of just use that as inspiration for my record.”
Just like his love for King, Dosik’s love for basketball has been almost lifelong. One track on the album, a minute-long interlude, is a courtside flashback. He underlays some leftover instrumentals with audio from a VHS recorded by his father at one particularly memorable childhood game.
“You hear the squeak of the shoes on the floor, you might be able to hear a basketball here and there, but that's like my most prized possession because at the end of that VHS, I literally hit the game-winning shot of this game when I was six-years-old,” he said. “So maybe it’s like the peak moment of my life somehow.”
Maybe Dosik’s six-year-old shot was one to remember, but the rollout of Inside Voices will surely rival it in terms of his “peak.”
“There was a good seven-year period where I was writing songs and recording songs but just didn’t feel like I had anything good enough. I didn’t feel like there was anything really authentically ‘me’ to say. So when I do put something out there, I feel like I have to believe in it 110,000 percent, and that’s thankfully where I am with this. I can only be grateful that I finally got to a place in my life where I felt good enough to put out music.”