By Kelly Baughman
A little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll, Neil Dover is making country music a little more interesting here on the Gulf Coast. A tall, dark and handsome drink of water with a great head of hair and fashion sense to boot, Dover looks like a country music producers dream. Believable, marketable, and overflowing with raw talent. His music oozes elements of Blues, Jazz, Rock, and classic country, and his lyrics paint the listener into a vivid scene that puts them right beside him, like a friend riding shotgun as the story unfolds before them.
Born and raised in Georgia, Dover lived the life he sings about in his songs….growing up in the woods on a farm, milking cows, driving too fast, living for the weekend, and chasing girls….it seems he was destined for a life in country music. But it didn’t start out that way.
“I had learned to play the guitar at the age of 12, but I generally didn’t play country music. It was rock for me,” said Dover. “It was 1998, and me and a guy named Petey were in the ditch (laying a city water pipe) and a guy whose name I don’t remember running the track-hoe. The track-hoe guy had a radio blaring in the cab and the front was swung open so he could yell at us. I couldn’t always hear the words of each song over the scream of the engine, but I could hear the groove and knew which song it was.”
Dover said it was around that time that he had a musical epiphany that country music was his calling. “I think a great song, minus the lyrics, carries the integrity of the story. No other genre of music can take you somewhere that the words just enrich the scene you’re already seeing,” he said.
A self-proclaimed “late bloomer” into the country scene, Dover reflected, “I’ve spent lots of years making other kinds of music that I more or less liked, but there’s been nothing that took the place of that gut-level passion for country music. I’m now making up for the time I lost trying to do something else. I should’ve been making country music since I was twenty. But now’s better than later.”
After moving to Fairhope at the age of 30 and leaving everything he once knew behind, Dover decided it was time to get out and try his hand at this country thing. “The first show I ever played when I moved here was right in the Fairhope town square at the Art Walk they put on the first Friday of every month. I was at rock bottom. I remember I made $17 that night,” he recalled. “But what was more important than the $17, was that people would actually slow down and listen to me for a minute.”
As time went on, Dover started writing songs about his life. He used his real life experiences to find inspiration, and what he created was a personal anthology of good country music. “I recorded my whole first album on a Boss 900 8 track digital mixer. It wasn’t the greatest quality, but I needed to get my music recorded. It may not be professional, but I liked it because it got my songs across closer to reality as to what they would sound like if someone were to come hear me live on stage,” he admitted.
One of Dover’s most beloved songs, ‘Drink Her Pretty’, started out as a one liner uttered by a friend in a local bar while recalling a recent date he’d been on. “As my friend Robert talked about his recent date, he said, “Boys, had one last night…You couldn’t drink her pretty.” I remember nearly choking on a tuna taco,” Dover said. With lines like, ‘If I can drink her pretty, I’d be like Jesus turning water to wine’ and ‘If I fall in love with her tonight, I’ll have to stay drunk for the rest of my life’, it’s easy to spot Dover’s quick wit and sense of humor.
“I wasn’t sure how the female audience was going to respond to that song, but to my surprise, they all seem to really like it and find it funny,” Dover said.
Now with three full length albums under his belt, Dover said he makes music for a living because he has no choice. A believer that he had a calling to be a musician and an obligation to answer it, Dover said, “If you embrace the calling, God will give you everything you need. I’m not saying you’ll get rich, but the people you meet in doing this, you get to keep forever. If you chase your dreams, the world will conspire to help you get them.”
You can see Dover on Wednesdays at the Flora-Bama from 2-6 pm in the Main Room, or check his website www.neildover.com for upcoming shows all over the Gulf Coast. His music is available for purchase on the website or you can download your favorites on ITunes and Spotify.