The downside to arranging an interview with an on-call doula is that while deadlines and photo shoots stick to a schedule, childbirth does not. Some flexibility and rescheduling is immediately required.
The upside is that when said doula is free, she will have you over to the new apartment she shares with her “Gossip Girl” husband one day after moving in, and will sit at her kitchen table talking of her famous sisters, birth work, Amy Winehouse and trying to do it all.
OK, so not all doulas. Maybe just Domino Kirke.
The 34-year-old musician is releasing her debut full-length album on Aug. 25 after years of EPs because, as evidenced by the above scheduling notes, life has had a tendency to get in the way.
Kirke is the oldest sister to “Girls” actor and painter Jemima, and “Mozart in the Jungle” actor Lola. Though British-born, she’s lived in Brooklyn since 2000, and has just relocated into a Williamsburg loft she bought 15 years prior.
Though a longtime musician, “Beyond Waves” is Kirke’s first full-length record. “I’ve always put out EPs because I had a kid and never had the time to tour and do what it takes to support a record,” she says of life with her 8-year-old, Cassius. “So, now my son is older and it’s easier to get behind this one.”
A vocal major at Laguardia High School in New York, Kirke played her first show at age 17 at Joe’s Pub and was well on her way to a life in the entertainment business when she found herself pulling back. “I would find other things to go focus on — I guess I was afraid of the entertainment business, because I grew up in it,” she says. “I knew it all: the demons, the underbelly of it.”
The reluctance to join the family in the spotlight — mother is the former owner of Geminola boutique in New York, while father was a drummer for Free and Bad Company — runs among the sisters.
“Lola really followed in Jem’s footsteps, but she studied acting in college, and it’s funny because Jem’s not trained but Lola’s very trained, so even though Jemima had success quite quickly for her art, Lola was always like, ‘But I know how to act!’” she says. “I was like, ‘Ugh, actors’…and then I married an actor [Penn Badgley].”
The album comes at the right stage in her personal life. “When I was younger I had a moment where I recorded with Mark Ronson and I was around when Amy Winehouse was around; we were all in the same label…I was like 24, and it was a lot of drugs, a lot of alcohol, and I was like, ‘I don’t wanna be a part of that scene,’” she recalls. “I loved the record I made back then with them, but it was a lot more pop and none of my soul was in that. I’m still a really shy performer and can’t wear high heels, and need to be with bare feet…that’s still so much a part of who I am. [Back then] I was like, ‘I know I’m going to sing, and I don’t know how it’s gonna go, but I have to sing.’”
Recording began in Hudson, N.Y., “in this big church with these wonderful musicians, but I wasn’t so happy with the recordings from that session,” she says. “So we re-recorded it in Brooklyn. And I still sort of wasn’t happy with it…there was something amiss.”
The missing touch turned out to be a female producer — Joan Wasser of Joan As Police Woman — as well as her own track mixing. “It was really good for me because historically I’ve always allowed other people to guide me with the process — I always sort of sit back and let men tell me how to do it,” she says. “So being produced by a woman was really important for me, but then taking the reins back again in mixing and mastering phase was very new for me, so it was cool to be a part of that process.”
It’s this same energy that illuminates what makes her a natural at doula work. “My son’s birth was pretty life-shattering, in good ways and bad ways,” she says. “I realized that I needed a doula because I’m not close to my mom, and I don’t have a lot of people in New York.” She founded Carriage House Birth, a collective of doulas in New York and L.A., in 2011 — but her desire to be creative through music never dwindled.
“I was like, ‘How am I going to introduce music again.’ It’s been really hard to find a way to be creative when there’s still so much work that needs to be done,” she says. “So I feel like a crazy person, with my art, my famous family and with all the things people know about me — like, I’m married to ‘Gossip Girl.’ This stuff is crazy! I’m not stopping just because I’m doing music now. I’m unknown as a musician, so for me, it’s an interesting balance.”
Luckily she sees the balance as a sign of the times. “I think it’s an age of people doing a lot more than just one thing,” she says. “I think we’re lucky to be able to not just be an actor; we can do a lot more now these days, I find. But we get judged for it. My sister [Jemima], she’s a brilliant painter, but because she was on ‘Girls’ maybe her painting won’t be as well-regarded. I’m not like, ‘I’m a famous doula.’ I’m a doula. I’m trying to find a way to get rid of the stigma around ‘you’re the singer, you’re the actor’ — we have to be able to do more than one thing.”
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