Dolly Ave on her coming of age story

Dolly Ave just released her debut album, This is Our Time, on July 21st. Harper's Bazaar had a heart-to-heart with her on this milestone achievement.

Dolly Ave wearing 3D print Octopus earrings and Ribbon ring, Lada Legina @ladalegina; HOLOGRAM GEO Dress and HOLOGRAM BOOTS, Alpana Neeraj @alpana_neeraj.

Some people melt into a puddle of sadness when unfortunate events hit them like runaway storms. But not Dolly Ave. She stepped into the rain, harnessed the power of lightning and supercharged herself to rise up. At least, that was my impression of Dolly, a girl born and raised in Missouri who packed up and moved all the way to Los Angeles to pursue her dream.

The Vietnamese-American young artist recently struck out with her debut album, This Is Our Time, released through Sony The Orchard. An impressive feat, considering she was originally an event photographer with zero experience in the music industry. “Though I always loved to sing”, Dolly told me. “The kind of soul-belting song that Vietnamese love at karaoke, you know? So super Viet of me.”

HOLOGRAM GEO Dress and HOLOGRAM BOOTS, Alpana Neeraj @alpana_neeraj

Perhaps Dolly would have been satisfied with her previous career path, had COVID not struck and caused her to lose her job. In that same year, cancer took her mother away forever. “It was a dark time for me”, she recalled. But if others might have throw in the towel, Dolly took all that sadness, anger, loneliness and unleashed them into songs. A cathartic experience that also gave her the power to push through and follow her childhood dream of becoming a singer.

Upon the release of her debut album, Dolly sat down with Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam to reflect on her music, her dreams, goals and future plans.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: Hi Dolly. Congratulations on your first album. Did you collaborate with anyone for this debut release?

DOLLY AVE: It’s important for me to write my songs. This is a very personal album about my upbringing, my struggles, my feelings, my losses. Every track, from idea to the final master, I wrote and was involved in.

With that being said, making music takes a village. I am extremely grateful for all of my collaborators from producers to session musicians and co-writers that help enhance that story sonically with each session.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: Out of all the songs in this album, which one is your favorite and why?

DOLLY AVE: My favorite track would have to be Crash. It was the first song I wrote on this album that helped shape the rest of the story. To me it encompasses everything I personally love when I listen to a song. Simple and raw.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: And which song turned out the most different from your expectations?

DOLLY AVE: I would have to say the last song, Across the Ocean. It began as a slow, guitar, acoustic-type of track and ended up with what you hear now, leaning towards a more ethereal, produced soundscape which I love. It became one of my favorite songs and gives closure to this world.

Dress Kaftan Studios @kaftanstudio. Earrings Weisheng Paris @weishengparis

HARPER’S BAZAAR: You mentioned a lot about your childhood in Missouri as a source of inspiration for the writing. What song specifically in your album speaks to you the most about your childhood?

DOLLY AVE: Sit Still would have to be the most transparent about my childhood. I shared about moving often, a poor upbringing, and often sleeping or living out of our car.

There are a few references to high school as well. I’ve shared this album early with a few of my relatives and close friends and it makes me laugh because some of the things I sing about in my songs only people who grew up with me would understand. That’s the magic of music. Although it’s extremely specific to me, it’s a universal thing to connect with vulnerability.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: I hear a lot of early 2000’s sounds in your debut album. Who are your favorite musicians/songs and how did they inspire your music?

DOLLY AVE: Every song had a lot of inspiration from my love of festival bands and instrumental breaks. A few of those bands I love are Coldplay, The Strokes, Cage the Elephant, Paramore.

Although the instrumental leaned in that direction, I am a sucker for catchy pop hooks. I like to dance, chant words, and repeat ear worm worthy music while at the same time my roots ground me with indie, folk, and acoustic sounds. It’s hard to choose because everything can inspire the songwriting process, so it’s a little melting pot of what moving 30 times brought to me.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: You were raised in Missouri but have such strong calling on your Viet root. Can you elaborate on the reason why?

DOLLY AVE: My mom is the center of the album. Her story lives in me as well. She would bring me to Vietnam nearly every year with the money she earned to make sure to stay proud and connected to my heritage.

My music journey would also not have been possible without the Vietnamese community. They are the reason I have support and care during this process and so it’s important for me to stay grounded and give back whenever I can. No one will root for you more than your core friends and family.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: What are your plans after the launch of your album? Any specific upcoming live shows we should be watching out for?

DOLLY AVE: We have not announced yet, but I have a major festival performance in Vietnam very very soon ? Would my mom be proud or what?

Pearl earrings and silver ring with pearl: Christine Bukkehave, @christinebukkehave. Black sheer gloves with ruffles/pleats, HEART brooch: Weisheng Paris @weishengparis. Leather Collar: Ganni. Leather Bustier: &Other Stories. Pink Vegan Leather skirt: Nil&Mon @nilandmon. Pink Heels: UNITED NUDE @unitednude


Dolly Ave has received radio airplay on powerhouse 103.5 KISS FM Chicago, influential KEXP and tastemaker station 88Rising Radio on SIRIUS XM. She has appeared at two major music festivals, and named Live Nation One’s To Watch “Artist of the Week”. Dolly Ave has been placed on multiple editorial playlists on Spotify, YouTube, Vevo and Amazon Music.

The artist’s 11-song full length debut is arriving this Spring via Sony Music’s The Orchard distribution. The album chronicles Dolly Ave’s journey growing up in Missouri and finding her voice after the death of her mother. The record is a coming of age story touching on personal growth topics including finding hope in even the darkest of times.

Listen to her new debut album This Is Our Time on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Soundcloud, Deezer and Tidal.

*** Team Credits ***

Dolly en Plein Air
Creative Director: Dyan Jong @dyanjong
Photographer: Erica Hernandez @e_h_
Cinematographer: Joe Han @iamjoehan
Hair: Kelsey Peterson @kelseypetersen_hair
Makeup: Sherri Celis @sherricelis

Dolly in Studio
Photographer: Nolwen Cifuentes @nolwencif
 Stylist: Sami Sarmiento Martin @stylismms
Hair and Makeup: Carolina Ballesteros @carolinab_beauty

Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam