Singer-Songwriter Florence Dore Talks About the Connections Between Literature and Rock

Her current tour brings her to Beachland Tavern on March 26

click to enlarge Florence Dore. - Melissa Payne
Melissa Payne
Florence Dore.
Last summer, North Carolina-based singer-songwriter Florence Dore, a former Clevelander, returned to Cleveland to perform at the Beachland as part of National Independent Venue Week and as part of the National Independent Venue Association conference.

The show marked her first performance in town in more than a decade.

And she loved every minute of it.

“It was great,” she says via phone from her North Carolina home. Florence Dore returns to the Beachland Tavern on Sunday, March 26. “I love that space. It has great sound. We saw old friends and got to go up to the lake where I got married and stand there and look out at the edge of the world. I think the last gig I had in Cleveland was opening for Jason Ringenberger for a kids’ show at the public library.”

Initially, Dore met Beachland co-owners Mark Leddy and Cindy Barber when she first moved to Cleveland in the late '90s. They happened to be at a Guided by Voices show she attended.

“They said they were going to open a club in a former Croatian social hall,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Okay. That sounds good.’ People say stuff like that all the time. It’s not that I didn’t believe them, but I am so happy that it got off the ground. They just kick ass. They’re complete workaholics, and I just love it there. It’s beautiful, and the vibe is so good. They treat you really nice and give you dinner. It felt like coming home when we played there.”

Significantly, Leddy and Barber would loan Dore their front yard when she married dB’s drummer Will Rigby in 2004.

After moving from Cleveland to North Carolina in 2010 to take a job at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dore initially devoted most of her time to working at the university. She drifted back into the music scene a couple of years ago when she worked on Cover Charge, a benefit album that helped out the Carrboro, NC–based indie club Cat’s Cradle. Acts such as Superchunk, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers and Southern Culture on the Skids all contributed tracks.

Dore herself contributes a cover of the Marshall Crenshaw song "Somewhere Down the Line" to the album.

“The song is very comforting and beautiful and about reassurance,” she has said of the track. “I thought it was a perfect song for the moment. We recorded it remotely, and [Canton-based producer extraordinaire] Don Dixon mixed it.”

Last year, Dore also released a new solo album, Highways and Rocketships. She wrote the tunes for it prior to the pandemic, but the COVID lockdown meant it took a little more time to complete the record and release it on vinyl. She recorded it with Dixon and Mitch Easter, a dynamic duo known for working together on early R.E.M. records. Former R.E.M. manager Jefferson Holt released it on his Propeller Sound Recordings.

The album is (finally!) now out on vinyl, and Dore will have copies for sale at the upcoming Beachland gig.

The LP provides a nice distillation of Dore’s alt-country sound. A shimmering tune that makes the most of an evocative guitar riff, “Sweet to Me” stands out as the album’s centerpiece; it serves as a tribute to Dore’s late grandmother.

“Thundercloud (Fucking with Your Heart),” another album highlight, comes off as a twangy tune that possesses a Georgia Satellites-like swagger. A downright nasty guitar riff drives the tune.

Dore says she’s begun work on the next album and will showcase some songs from it at the Beachland.

As if releasing a new studio album weren't enough, last year, Dore published The Ink in the Grooves, a collection of essays and interviews that trace the various connections between literature and rock ’n’ roll.

“It’s not really that academic even though it’s on an academic press,” she says of the tome. “I did have this beautiful interview with all the guys John Prine’s band, who are amazing. Roddy Doyle who wrote the novel The Commitments, wrote an essay about how rock made him hate Irish music a little bit less. It’s hilarious. Richard Thompson wrote something for it. I interviewed Steve Earle. There are mostly interviews and essays, but there are also short stories and novels that show how rock ’n’ roll comes into novels these days. There is this huge conversation in contemporary American culture between novelists and rock ’n’ rollers. Rick Moody wrote this awesome remembrance of Pere Ubu. He's a giant music fan and a musician.”

The seeds for the book were planted in 2010 when Dore hosted a conference at the Rock Hall.

“Rick Moody came to it as well as Steve Earle, and they had a conversation on the stage,” says Dore. “After that, I thought, ‘Let’s make this conversation in book form, so people can participate in this interchange between rock ’n’ roll and literature.’”

For the Beachland show, Dore’s backing band will feature the rhythm section of the dBs — bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby. Guitarist Mark Spencer will play with the band as well.

“Will and Gene have played together since high school,” she says, adding that she thought about learning a dBs cover but decided against it. “I have to pinch myself when I’m stage with those guys. But I do have a surprise cover in the works. On the last tour, we did a ‘Let’s Active’ song, so that was cool. We’ll see. I’m not sure what cover song we’ll do this time around.”

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