Dora Jar Brings the Past and Future Into the Present

On the heels of her new EP Comfortably in Pain, the viral songwriter talks being at the forefront of Gen Z’s new wave of genre-bending artists.

Dora Jar Brings the Past and Future Into the Present

On the heels of her new EP Comfortably in Pain, the viral songwriter talks being at the forefront of Gen Z’s new wave of genre-bending artists.

Words: Mike Wass

Photos: Isy Townsend

March 08, 2022

This article appears in FLOOD 12: The Los Angeles Issue. You can purchase this special 232-page print edition celebrating the people, places, music and art of LA here.


BACKSTORY: A 24-year-old singer/songwriter and truthseeker with a scalpel-like pen and an affinity for intricate melodies who’s at the forefront of Gen Z’s new wave of genre-bending artists
FROM: Born in New York City, raised in California
YOU MIGHT KNOW HER FROM: One of her many viral songs from her breakthrough project Digital Meadow, which have been shared and championed by the likes of Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo
NOW: After a string of dates opening for Billie Eilish, Jar released Comfortably in Pain, her followup to Digital Meadow, earlier this month

From dreamily strummed acoustic guitar to sinister hip-hop beats, Dora Jar bends and blurs the boundaries of pop music with each new song she releases. Listening to her work is a journey linked only by the newcomer’s unflinchingly honest lyrics and ear for intricate melodies. “My goal as an artist is to create as many different places as I can within the same world,” she says. “I want every song to be filled with discovery.”

Jar is at the forefront of Gen Z’s quiet rebellion against the confines of genre. “I feel like we're in a renaissance right now,” she says. “Artists like Remi Wolf and Caroline Polachek are really pushing the boundaries of what one person is capable of doing.” The singer/songwriter, who broke through with 2021’s critically lauded Digital Meadow, wonders aloud if it's cyclical. “There are certain points in time when people are more innovative, like in the 1960s, then we get saturated with the same sounds until there’s another spike in innovation.” 

The convergence of past and present is apparent on the breakout star’s recent single “Scab Song,” a light and airy pop anthem that’s equal parts The Beatles and MGMT with nimble wordplay and production flourishes that are very much her own. “Digital Meadow was an exploration of all the different sounds I love,” Jar says. Creating music is an act of alchemy for her, and that sense of wonder permeates every song. “I think once the melody is right, the words fall into place,” she says. “I just mumble until it feels right.” 

“My goal as an artist is to create as many different places as I can within the same world. I want every song to be filled with discovery.”

The artist’s singular worldview is a product of her upbringing. The daughter of an actress and an itinerant whistler, she grew up in a house filled with music and developed a reverence for performing. “I like to think that life is a performance for some other entity—perhaps angels are watching,” Jar muses, the idea of celestial spectators comforting her. “Feeling witnessed when I'm alone is how I get through hard moments.” 

And there have been a few of them, most notably the passing of her older sister, Lueza, when Jar was only 14. “My sister was in a wheelchair and had cerebral palsy,” Jar reveals. “She couldn’t walk or talk, but I was very psychic with her.” Through their bond, she realized how much of human communication is non-verbal. “I could always tell who was a good friend by watching how my sister would react to them.” It’s a lesson that opened her to spirituality and mindfulness, two of the biggest influences on her art and day-to-day life. “My sister was present all the time. It was just wide-open eyes, taking it all in, observing and giving so much love.” 

For her latest project, Comfortably in Pain, Jar is revisiting old songs. “I’m sitting on a bunch of music from the past,” she says. “Giving it new life has been the theme of the project so far.” For someone so intent on being in the moment, that might sound counterintuitive—but Jar's concept of time is elastic. “Emotions evolve,” she begins, before mentioning a song she wrote 10 years ago. “It was written before I'd ever gone through heartbreak. Recently, I went through it for the first time and realized my past self was comforting me in the present.” 

“Even though Billie [Eilish] is five years younger than me, I feel like she raised me musically. People loving and sharing music says way more about them than it does about what they're sharing.” 

The artist is equally philosophical about launching her music career in the middle of a global pandemic. “I’ve always felt like my timing was off in the right way,” she chuckles. “I was just so happy when it started happening.” And it happened fast: Digital Meadow was championed by Gen Z heavyweights including Olivia Rodrigo, Remi Wolf, and Billie Eilish, the last of whom posted “Garden” on her Instagram Story. “It’s insane,” she says, still in disbelief. “Even though Billie's five years younger than me, I feel like she raised me musically. People loving and sharing music says way more about them than it does about what they're sharing.” 

With Gen Z’s leading voices already enamored with Jar’s unconventional approach to pop and an ever-growing fandom, she’s destined to be one of 2022’s breakthrough artists. Given her steady ascent, it’s easy to forget that she only released her debut single last year and performed her first live show even more recently. “It was beautiful,” she says. “I just wanted to cry the whole time, it felt like a love ceremony. I can't wait to do it for the rest of my life.” FL