"This is the craziest thing I've ever done in my life—putting out an album," RealEyez (AKA Erin Dorrington) says as she sits in a sunny north end cafe. It's hard not to get swept up in her excitement. Warm and enthusiastic, throughout the conversation Dorrington tells some harrowing facts about her past, but brushes the bad memories off quickly, focusing instead on her bright future.
Her album is a big part of that. Titled Who I Am, Dorrington aimed to make the record a true reflection of herself---some bad, some good, all real. "My track 'Problem Child' is about how when I was growing up my stepdad beat me every day," says Dorrington. "I explain how he made me who I am and why I bullied others at one point."
"Everyone knows me as an artist and how I'm not afraid of anything," Dorrington says. "I'm always the person with too much energy, this is another side of me."
"Not afraid" is a bit of an understatement. She explains why she's been feeling under the weather: "I had a photo shoot outside and I've been sick ever since. I was outside butt-naked down by the water---it was the coldest day of the year too," she says with a laugh. It was her idea "to be outside in front of the bridge naked, in the snow, with a chain of cassettes covering me." The cassettes and boombox are a nod to the '90s feel on the album, Dorrington went to James "Homegrown Da Producer" McQuaid (AKA MCJ of MCJ and Cool G) for his expertise. Featuring Dorrington's crystal-clear voice belting out old-school R&B, interspersed with some rap, Who I Am is set apart by Dorrington's devotion to an era. "Everyone sings and raps but no one has the old school '90s feel," she says. Referencing the music her aunt and mother used to play conveyed some of the more personal themes. "Last year I went through a lot of hard times," she says. "I used that and put it all together in about four months."
Giving back is of particular importance. Proceeds from Dorrington's album release will go to Unity Among Scotians' Build-A-Breakfast program and Sobaz Benjamin's Centreline Studio, where Dorrington volunteers. She also volunteers with Youth Now! Radio on CKDU Monday nights and BridgeCat in Dartmouth. "Working with the kids is so cool, we sit down and write together," she says. "I love working with them---they look up to me, the girls come talk to me about their problems."
Being a positive female role model is something she feels strongly about. "There's not a lot of females doing this, that's what gets me. I was opening for Lloyd and it was all guys on the stage---I was the only female," Dorrington says. "Afterwards all the little girls ran up to get my autograph. You gotta represent for the girls too."
And there couldn't be a more enthusiastic representative. After recently seeing a woman exiting a C100FM van, Dorrington ran up and started pitching, eventually serenading the impressed woman. "I'm all about networking," she says. "When I went to Toronto I took a few CDs downtown and just sold them for fun on the street. I was dancing, singing, interacting with people," she says. "When I moved back home I was like, 'Let's go hustle CDs, let's just go be free!' And everyone just looked at me like 'whomp whomp.'"
But she's not bothered. "I'm going all the way to the top with it and I don't want to stop before I do," Dorrington says. "My dreams are bigger than most."
RealEyez album release party
Friday, February 14 at 7pm, By donation
Bridge Centre for Arts and Technology (BridgeCat), 50 Queen Street, Dartmouth
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