Linus of Hollywood aka Kevin Dotson is a California-based songwriter, producer and musician. He wrote the song Magic Music aka "I Wanna Get With You" from the CD Scratch. His latest album is called "Triangle" available at Franklin Castle.
On December 8, 2007 Linus of Hollywood was kind enough to grant Andrew (your webmaster) an interview.
As the son of a US Air Force officer you moved around a lot as a child in places like Iowa, Illinois and Florida. What ended up drawing you to California and its music scene?
I spent most of my teenage years in Florida playing in bands and getting nowhere. At that time (in the early/mid 90s) it was nearly impossible to attract any attention from major labels, so I thought the logical thing for me to do was to go where the action was -- Los Angeles! It worked out great...within the first year-and-a-half I had my first major label deal (in my punk/pop band Size 14) and that led to all the fun things I'm doing now!
You wrote most of the songs and played most of the instruments for your first solo album "Your Favorite Record." What memories now stand out of the time you spent creating it?
When I was writing/recording that album, I was actually unsure if there would even be an audience for it. I was listening to a lot of late 60s records and just wanted to try my hand at doing something in that vein. I was also learning how to record...at that time I only had an 8-track and one microphone and did it all in my small apartment bedroom.
Your third album "Triangle" was released in 2006. How would you compare it to "Your Favorite Record" and your second album "Let Yourself Be Happy?"
Triangle is my favorite album so far. My production chops have improved exponentially over the last few years and it was nice to apply everything I've learned to my own music. I like "Your Favorite Record" and it seems to be a fan favorite, but I find it hard to listen to sometimes because I can hear the flaws and limitations that I had at that time. Also, Triangle is a more honest and personal album lyrically, and I'm excited to continue in that direction on my next album.
Can you give us any insight into how a typical Linus of Hollywood song is conceived, written and recorded? What sorts of things inspire you?
Every song is different. Sometimes I'll have a very clear lyrical idea and that will form the melody. For instance "How Do I Do It Every Day?" and "Do You Know What I'm Thinking?" were both lines that I came up with first and they informed the melody. In other cases like "Farewell To The King" and "Say Hello To Another Goodbye" the melody came first and I had to figure out what the hell I was going to sing over it! I am also very influenced by what I'm listening to at the time. The first album I was listening to a lot of late 60s music (Zombies, Beach Boys, etc.). The second and third albums were more influenced by 70s music (McCartney/Wings, Gilbert O'Sullivan). If I'm listening to a lot of a certain kind of music, it can't help but seep into my own songs.
Over the years you've worked with artists such as Kim Fox, Tim Burgess and Wisely. Do you have a music philosophy to guide you in writing and producing music for other people or is it something you just do instinctively?
These artists all had a strong identity before I started working with them, so my focus was always trying to bring out their own individual style first and maximize their strengths. I'm not sure if I have a philosophy per se, I just try and make the best and most interesting album I can...something I will be proud to listen back to in 10 years.
It was quite a thrill! As a songwriter, my dream has always been to have a big hit song on the radio...the kind where you are walking down the street and you can hear it playing out of people's car stereos, hear it on the radio, etc. Although I wasn't in Japan at the time to experience the buzz, it is so cool to have written a song that has reached so many people. Kaela is so cute and did a great job on the song and I'm hoping to work with her again in the future.
I met Puffy many years ago...probably around the time of my first album. They were in LA working with Andy Sturmer from Jellyfish (whom I briefly worked with) and came down to see one of my acoustic sets. I fell in love with their music over the years, and we were able to re-connect through our mutual publisher in Japan (Sony). When they finally asked me to do a song for them I was very excited.
You opened for Puffy at Hollywood's Key Club and Anaheim's House of Blues during their 2007 Honeysweeper Tour of the West Coast. Tell us about it.
It was a blast! It was fun to play for their audience and I really enjoyed watching the Puffy show each night. They are great performers.
You and Puffy have several ironic name connections. First, you've said you got the nickname "Linus" because you used to wear striped shirts like the Beach Boys and Jellyfish, which someone thought made you look like the Peanuts character. Andy Sturmer, the lead singer for Jellyfish, is the person who gave Puffy their name. Second, you played guitar on a rock remix of Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy's "It's All About The Benjamina." Because he also went by the name "Puffy" Ami and Yumi were forced to add "AmiYumi" to their name for all North American releases. What are the odds of that?
Yes, it is funny to have worked with 2 different "Puffys!" I told my friends I was working with Puffy and they said "again?" I had to say "no, the Japanese one!" haha.
What does the future have in store for fans of Linus of Hollywood?
There is a "best of" compilation coming out in Japan on In-N-Out Records. It called "Attractive Singles" and should be out in March of 2008. After that, there will be an album of cover songs which will come out in Japan in the summer of 2008 on Philter Records. I'm also hoping to have a new album of original material out before the end of next year.