Unintentionally rendered as no more than a silhouette in front of the blindingly bright backdrop of Leeds’ new Headrow House venue, Dornik’s voice is more than enough to keep everyone in the room mesmerised – yet there is a level of irony here. Having emerged from the shadows of Jessie Ware’s backing band to take on a frontman role that he’d never planned to have, Dornik never expected to be noticed by the crowd.
Refreshing himself in the cold night air afterwards on a claustrophobic concrete terrace, the Croydon vocalist, producer and drummer admits that it’s been a difficult transition. “Me being the frontman now, rather than behind… that was a big step for me, hardly being seen at all to becoming right out at the front and being the centre of attention,” he pauses. “Pretty daunting at first, but I’m really enjoying it now. I got a bit of practice when I was touring with Jess, I’d get to sing a duet with her, and that was good practice for me.”
Between his impressive falsetto and the likeable personality that peeks through between songs, it’s easy to feel like he has nothing to be nervous about. But the plan is one that’s coming together as it goes along. Dornik’s soulful, addictive vocals would have remained in demo form on a hard drive if it wasn’t for a tube ride with a pre-Devotion Jessie Ware, back in 2012. “It was probably like the second day of rehearsals,” he recalls. “She was like ‘Do you do anything else apart from play drums?’ And I was like ‘I produce a bit and write a bit.’ So she was like ‘Send em over, I’d love to hear it.’ I sent some demos over and she was like ‘This is sick, you can sing!’”