With something different playing in each room, there was no shortage of influences...
Songwriter / Musician New Zealand
About the early days
Born in Kent, England, Helen Dorothy pattered around to the sounds of jazz, big band and choral music in a house stacked with home-made hi-fi systems. Older siblings soon introduced 60s and 70s rock into the household - with something different playing in each room, there was no shortage of influences. Classical piano lessons soon followed at her request.
The foray into British folk (running in tandem with a penchant for 80s electro-pop) began in her teenage years; it was around this time that Helen Dorothy dropped the piano in favour of the more portable acoustic guitar and began experimenting. Folk and country styles filled much listening and playing time through college years with friends.
Helen Dorothy moved to New Zealand in 1996. Her musical creativity was suppressed by circumstance, although working in remote and far-flung places was later to inspire much of her song-writing. On re-entering civilisation, and settling near Wellington, she at last discovered a vibrant acoustic music scene where she could finally expose her songs to willing local audiences!
Stage and studio
Photo: The Helen Dorothy Project, Wellington Folk Festival 2017 (by Gerard Hudson)
Helen Dorothy has performed at a variety of acoustic venues around NZ, appearing as a guest performer at several festivals. In 2010, she played at the Wellington Folk Festival with double bassist Richard Prowse, and Fiona Smythe on violin. She featured at Dunedin's 2014/15 Whare Flat Folk Festival as a solo guest artist. In 2017, The Helen Dorothy Project performed at the Nelson Arts Festival (featuring PLot aka guitarist/vocalist Paul Symons and bassist Lott) and the Wellington Folk Festival (featuring PLot and virtuoso harmonica player Neil Billington). Neil invited Helen to the Auckland Folk Festival stage in 2018 to perform two of her songs.
Since 2016, she has been personally invited to open for NZ's legendary Paul Ubana Jones.
Her debut album "The Going Away" was launched in 2009.
Back in Braeburn Studio in 2010 she recorded backing vocals for Niels Gedge's album "Between Two Lines".
In 2011, Helen contributed the song "Breaking Beyond" (O'Leary/Dorothy) to Michael O'Leary's "Fences Fall" CD—Michael's poetry turned into an eclectic collection of musical compositions by a group of jazz, country, blues and/or folk-oriented musicians from the Kapiti Coast (
Helen completed recording her second collection of originals, "Watching Ghosts...and Other Songs" in 2013. The title track of this concept album is another collaboration with poet O'Leary.
Her third studio album, recorded at Tsunami Sound Studios, was released in spring 2017. Her work with O'Leary continues in this recording: the album title ‘Light Time & Sound’ was inspired by his words on the track (Another) Saturday Night.
Prior to the above recording studio experiences, Helen Dorothy also recorded piano on the superb yet sinister song by Barry J. Carter, featuring on the closing credits sound track of his 2011-released film noir "Still Missing" (Footpath films).
Photo: Neil Billington (from
Radio and internet
In June and August 2011, October and December 2013, and early 2018, her material featured on the UK's premier folk magazine podcast site via presenters Phil Widdows and Ken Nicol.
"Tractor Jean" was selected for the January 2014 edition of the prestigious fRoots Radio Playlist chart. This is a monthly podcast presented by fRoots editor and veteran ex-BBC broadcaster Ian Anderson. "Curio Bay" featured on the February 2014 show.
"Eucalyptus Man" featured on the February 2018 show.
"Tractor Jean" also featured on Radio NZ's 'Country Life' Saturday morning broadcast in October 2013.
She is a regular contributor to David Calder's Folk Music Hour on accessradiotaranaki.com/shows/the-folk-music-hour/
Photo: by Mary Livingstone