Dora Jar is in Australia supporting Billie Eilish on her Happier Than Ever tour. Jar – an abbreviation of the artist’s real last name, Jarkowski – is also playing her debut Australian headline shows at small club venues in Sydney and Melbourne. Jar mightn’t yet be a household name, but the intimate setting is something she’s relatively unfamiliar with.
After the New York-born artist played her first ever show at a pub in East London, Jar was recruited for a Holly Humberstone support slot. Her third live performance was at the Hollywood Bowl supporting The Neighbourhood. But the pub gig would prove pivotal – Eilish was in the audience that night and soon asked Jar to join her for a hefty chunk of the Happier Than Ever world tour.
Dora Jar – ‘Bump’
So, who is Dora Jar? Jar gained attention online with her debut EP, Three Songs, in early 2021. The California-raised artist made a more significant impression with her next EP, Digital Meadow, in May 2021. Jar released another EP, comfortably in pain, in early 2022 and has followed up with the standalone singles, ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘Bump’.
Following night one of Billie Eilish’s Australian tour – for which Jar is sharing support duties with Sampa the Great – Music Feeds caught up with the rising alt-pop artist for a chat about her origins and her rapidly evolving career.
Getting to Know Dora Jar
Music Feeds: Is this your first time in Australia?
Dora Jar: Big time yes. So new. I never even conceived of how I would get to a place this far away. So, when the opportunity came up I was like, “This is mind-blowing.”
MF: These two headline shows you’re doing, it seems unlikely you’ll be playing venues this small next time you’re in Australia. How long have you been playing live?
DJ: My first show ever was a year ago in London to 150 people at the Waiting Room. Billie was there, which was also mind-blowing. My third show ever was at the Hollywood Bowl opening for the Neighbourhood, which was crazy.
Basically I spent all of lockdown having this inner dialogue of like, “Oh, I’m just going to be a studio artist and I’ll never perform live because that’s just way too scary and I don’t think I could do it.” And then as soon I did the first show I was like, “Oh, this is where it’s at.”
MF: Are you based in London? Why was your first show there?
DJ: I basically had my first ever session in London. So my real, like, I’m taking music seriously moment happened in London. That’s my second home and where my heart is in a lot of ways.
MF: But you’re based in California?
DJ: I grew up in Northern California and then I’ve been very much moving around a lot since childhood. Born in New York, raised in California and then I went to a boarding school in Connecticut and then I moved to Poland. I’m used to being on the road.
MF: How was boarding school?
DJ: It was horrible, but it was also amazing. Just the camaraderie and the friends I made are lifetime siblings. Actually one of my friends who’s from China – Wuhan – was by chance in Australia and came to the show last night.
MF: What kind of student were you?
DJ: The school’s theatre was amazing, so I would do the school day, not do homework and then do theatre. That was the beginning of realising that I’m not a student and I’m not going to pursue college and I’m going to move to Poland and then I’m going to make music.
MF: Your last name – Jarkowski – that’s a Polish name?
DJ: Exactly. My dad is fully Polish and he and my mum met when my mum was doing a play in Poland and he was on the translating team for it. My half brother lives there and is raising his two daughters and I have an aunt and cousins in Poland.
Dora Jar – ‘Multiply’
MF: While you were at boarding school, did you form any bands or play music with other people?
DJ: I just really spent all my time in the stairwell playing the guitar. I kind of used it as my shield against any teachers who’d be like, “Why aren’t you doing your homework?” I’d be like, “Because I’m just not that kind of person,” and then I would win them over by making a song about them.
MF: Your songs are full of clever guitar licks and melodies. Are you a guitar nerd?
DJ: I’m always stretching, but I also don’t technically know so much about it. I’m very much an ear-driven musician. I’m a big fidgeter too, so if I’m not playing guitar I’m picking at something, like I’m literally ripping apart my phone case.
MF: What sort of age were you when you realised writing songs was something you were able to do, and that was satisfying to do?
DJ: Very, very early. It was always happening, but the thing that made it serious for me was, when I was four, I got to see the Foo Fighters live. My sister went to the school called the Bridge School, which was started by Neil Young. She had cerebral palsy. So we would all get to sit on the stage in front of several thousand people and there would be this incredible lineup – Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Ben Harper.
Our first concert, I was four, and Dave Grohl plays this acoustic set of Foo Fighters, with the whole band, and in that moment I was like, “Guitar – I need to play guitar and I need to write songs.”
MF: When did you get a guitar?
DJ: I got a guitar when I was eight and immediately it was like, learn Foo Fighters chords and write my owns songs over those chords. So Dave Grohl is a major, major influence and he is on my in-ear monitors.
MF: He’s on your in-ears?
DJ: His picture is on my left ear and Einstein’s on my right.
MF: Ah, Einstein, who you compare yourself to in the lyrics of ‘Scab Song’.
DJ: Super hubris line, right?