Dornik Leigh may have spent the past few years drumming for the likes of Jessie Ware – and even once Rihanna at the 2010 Brit Awards – but out of sight he’d also been writing songs from the age of 15. “I was doing it in my bedroom undercover kind of thing,” he chuckles, “but I wouldn’t show anybody.”
He credits Wildest Moments singer Ware for giving him the encouragement he needed to step into the limelight himself.
“She was the one that was really pushing me to go solo. She literally said to me, ‘You have to do it, this is great’ and really inspired me. I really thank her for that, for coming out of my shell and doing it.”
His self-titled debut album reveals a songwriter who prefers to look on the brighter side of life than R&B contemporaries such as The Weeknd and Frank Ocean, to whom he has been compared. “A lot of those songs were quite old as well and I guess that’s where I was at, looking on the lighter side of life, but the next album you never know where I’ll be,” he says.
The Croydon-born singer songwriter says he had “an obsession” with Michael Jackson when he was a child. He was “a big Prince fan too”.
“D’Angelo was one of the first albums I remember picking up myself and listening to,” he adds.
Years later he was able to draft in Russ Elevado, who worked on D’Angelo’s classic album Voodoo, to mix his debut disc. “That was really special to have him do that and I learnt a lot as well,” he says.
Dornik had met Elevado and D’Angelo a year or so before the latter released his long-awaited comeback album. “About a year later Russ was mixing my record, it was all pretty crazy. I didn’t think I’d be there in the next year.”
He compares his song writing process to scripting a short film. “Environment is very important for me for huge inspiration,” he says. “Even something as simple as being abroad, the changes in environment could inspire me musically. Having images in my head definitely plays a major role.”
He’s been pleased by the favourable reception that the album got when it was released in late summer. “It’s quite scary when you’re putting something out for everyone to hear. I was definitely pleased with the outcome. It’s had a lot of love from people I respect. It’s just inspiring, it makes me want to work harder and make the next project better.”
He’s looking forward to playing at Beacons Metro festival next week. “I like Leeds, it’s a cool town and we’re going to have some fun.”
After shows in the UK Dornik this month hopes to play in Japan. “My main focus will be on writing towards the end of the year,” he adds.
Dornik plays at Headrow House, Leeds on Tuesday October 13. For details visit http://www.beaconsmetro.com/dornik.html