He’s already toured with a Libertine and played at Glastonbury – meet Burberry Acoustic’s latest protégé, Todd Dorigo.
This article was originally published on MATCHESFASHION.COM.
Todd Dorigo arrives to our shoot wearing an unbuttoned, leopard-print shirt and waxed skinny jeans, crowned by a head of messy chocolate curls and freighted with a guitar. The 25-year-old singer-songwriter certainly looks like a rockstar, but he doesn’t act like one. Despite the early call time, he’s on time to the studio, apologising profusely for having to cancel the week before due to flu.
Dorigo’s ego ought to be more inflated; he’s currently being championed by Burberry as part of the label’s acoustic project and has just finished touring Germany with Carl Barat and the Rascals. He’s also being courted by Gibson guitars, with a gifting appointment scheduled after our shoot. Free guitars and Libertine endorsement – this is what teenage dreams are made of.
He recently moved to Camden, London, but Manchester is his musical home. As a teenager from the small town of Middlewich in the UK’s Cheshire area, he’d make a pilgrimage to the city most weekends, citing Mancunian super-group Oasis as his original inspiration: ‘I heard my uncle playing She’s Electric on the acoustic guitar and pestered him to teach me,’ he recalls. By the time he was 15, Dorigo was writing full songs with melodies and lyrics. Thank goodness for his indie-loving uncle, because the Dorigos are no Partridge Family: ‘My parents weren’t musical at all, and my brother and sister were more into R&B and hip-hop. It’s a miracle that I’m doing what I do.’
Dorigo’s career in music didn’t happen by accident – he spent years stealthily gigging on Manchester’s live circuit. It wasn’t always easy, but tough crowds at the city’s popular open mic nights forced him to be a savvier musician. ‘The good ones would be rammed with people but they were all there to have a drink and chat, so you’d find yourself fighting for attention,’ he recalls, tousling his curly mane with ring-stacked fingers, ‘so my songwriting [had to be] upbeat and I’d always try to make the choruses really stand out.’
The hard work paid off. An open mic night led to a meeting with a booker at Glastonbury. ‘I’d never been to a festival before,’ Dorigo elaborates, ‘I just went down there on my own with a tent. The sun shone all weekend and The Rolling Stones headlined – it was the best weekend ever.’ He shares another favourite memory: ‘Last year, we did this little gig at Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg. A band pulled out of their gig and we ended up filling in for them. The audience was in leather and tattoos – all these heavy metal rockers. Our booking agent went straight to the bar, ordered us loads of tequilas and apologised.’ He laughs. ‘But we got on stage and it was the best gig we’ve ever done.’
here’s a retro kick to both Dorigo’s tunes and style. He attributes his love affair with 1960s music to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks, rhapsodising about Ray Davies’s songwriting – ‘His lyrics are very British and tongue-in-cheek.’ 1970s New Wave is an enduring inspiration, too. ‘Elvis Costello is a hero of mine’, he declares. There’s something of Costello’s verbal aerobics in Murky Water, Dorigo’s recent record produced by Cameron Blackwood (who topped the charts with George Ezra, another Burberry favourite). With lyrics like ‘Nights are elusive at the all-inclusive /Only one type of music /And it’s all intrusive on the ears,’ it’s a cheerfully acerbic account of a stag do in Ibiza. ‘Once I’d gotten over the hangover, this song just popped out of me,’ he muses.
The video for Murky Water was filmed and directed by Dorigo himself, a DIY approach which extends to his style. Just like his hero Costello, Dorigo has a strong look, consisting of 1970s-inspired Burberry suits and spray-on leather trousers, with no stylist in sight (except on today’s shoot). ‘Most of the time onstage, I wear leather trousers and a silky shirt,’ he shrugs. ‘Maybe a suit jacket, which comes off a few songs deep.’
‘It’s nice to break into a suit every now and then’, he continues, describing a pair of flared Burberry trousers currently on rotation in his wardrobe. A casual, wear-anywhere suit, he urges, is something every man needs. ‘It’s a good weapon to have in your armoury,’ he insists. ‘The important thing is how your clothes fit and how you feel in them. It’s hard to walk with the same swagger if your clothes don’t feel on point.’ His final piece of sartorial wisdom? ‘Sometimes if it feels like you’re wearing your dad’s suit, it probably looks like you’re wearing your dad’s suit.’
We have to talk about the hair. How does he maintain that glorious mahogany mop? ‘There isn’t really a regime’, he laughs. ‘It would be a waste of time because it has a mind of its own. The bedhead look; it’s nice and easy.’ He namechecks hairdresser Neil Moodie as the man behind the mane. It seems that a good cut – both on the hair and sartorial fronts – is all-important.
Dorigo understands the power of social media. His Instagram feed (@todddorigo) is a carefully curated – and artfully desaturated – series of behind-the-scenes snaps, outfit shots and mid-strum photos. ‘It’s a cool way for me to document what I’ve been up to, like a photo book,’ he explains. An exchange with a fan on Twitter even led to a packed-out gig in Munich. He jokes, ‘You wouldn’t expect a fan to organise that for you; you’d probably expect a cake with their hair in it or something.’
As far as memorable gigs go, Dorigo’s recent support slots with Carl Barat rank highly. ‘Touring with Carl was really cool,’ he reflects. ‘I grew up listening to The Libertines, so to share the stage with a Libertine was pretty special.’ Barat’s fans proved to be a captive audience. ‘Everyone [was] there, ready for the support act to come on,’ he says. ‘People were jumping around, singing lyrics back. That really surprised me.’ Did Carl give him any advice? Dorigo pauses. ‘I don’t think I should share it’, he winces, laughing.
He’s spent the last few weeks in the studio with Jolyon Thomas, the producer behind Slaves’ Mercury-nominated album, Are You Satisfied? ‘I’m going back in soon to put the final touches on [the new songs]. There should be a single out in time for summer.’ This time, he’s making a departure from a peppy 1960s sound. ‘The new stuff has got a lot of different influences – it’s more laidback, sexier,’ he explains. ‘I’ve been listening to a lot of Nick Cave and a lot of 1970s music like Bowie and T. Rex.’ But it seems Dorigo and Mancunian Britpop are fatefully entwined – he ended up using Richard Ashcroft’s amp and pedals on the recording after the Wigan-born musician left his gear in the studio the week before.
A final question: any outrageous rider requests? Just a kettle and tea bags – Yorkshire Tea, to be exact. ‘I’m just happy to be doing the gig at the minute,’ he asserts. ‘A square watermelon that doesn’t turn up isn’t really going to ruin my night.’ Dorigo may be poised for success, but he’s got his feet on the ground. The only difference is that they’re now clad in Burberry.