Fairhope musician Neil Dover credits a happy accident and local businesses for his success

By Melanie LeCroy
Lifestyle Editor
melanie@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 4/8/22

Neil Dover arrived in Fairhope in 2011 by way of a happy accident. Now, 11 years later, he is permanently settled here and living his dream as a musician.

Dover's story starts in the mountains of …

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Fairhope musician Neil Dover credits a happy accident and local businesses for his success

Country music artist Neil Dover has recoded five albums and performs every Wednesday at the Flora-Bama.
Country music artist Neil Dover has recoded five albums and performs every Wednesday at the Flora-Bama.
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Neil Dover arrived in Fairhope in 2011 by way of a happy accident. Now, 11 years later, he is permanently settled here and living his dream as a musician.

Dover's story starts in the mountains of north Georgia where he says he started singing before he spoke. His mother encouraged his singing and put him in guitar lessons at age 12.

"My mother was an encourager. She took me to guitar lessons when I know she was so broke she couldn't afford that, but she did it. That helped me because now I am more comfortable with my instrument. You have heard that rule that it takes 10,000 hours to master your craft. She helped me get that when I was 15 years old," Dover said. "Any musician makes it either because their mother was encouraging, or she was the opposite and they do it in defiance. Music comes from your momma."

Dover's music journey continued after high school when he accepted a scholarship to study music at Piedmont College. While his music of choice in childhood was country he moved to rock in his twenties. His thirties led him to Fairhope and back to country music. He describes his sound as more old school country.

"Men make every decision because of either running toward or away from a woman. I was leaving one life and starting another by myself, and my brother happened to live in Fairhope at the time. I needed a couch to stay on for a few weeks, and he said come on down, no questions asked," Dover said.

He started performing in bars and restaurants between Jacksonville, Florida, and Texas. He realized if he had merchandise to sell, he could put more gas in his tank, so he recorded his first album at his house on an eight-track digital mixer he bought for $300. But it was the Flora-Bama that gave him a residency playing for tourists every Wednesday that he credits with his success.

"Back in the day when I first started, I would have 10 people, but it is mostly packed these days because I have gone around and said thank you. People don't care how good your music is. They can go hear music somewhere else, but they appreciate being appreciated," Dover said. "That is part of my thing. You can go hear music anywhere, but I am going to say thank you, and I really mean it."

Dover said he was never looking for a record deal, just a life doing what he loved. His career has evolved over time to better paying gigs performing at festivals and corporate events while continuing his residency at the Flora-Bama. He credits the latest evolution of his career to a his now wife, Kateryna.

"There is a song from my previous life called 'How Much is Your Love Going to Cost Me.' This woman from Ukraine had read the books this song went with, and I met her on Facebook when she started hitting the like on my posts. We began a Facebook pen pal relationship and then we dated on Skype. I brought her here and married her, and she has been with me for five years," Dover said.

She told Dover he deserved better than he was giving himself and encouraged him to stop playing the bars and restaurants and pursue a higher clientele. Despite his fear, Dover listened and took the leap. He now plays all over the country. On a Monday night he may be in Houton playing an event, at the Flora-Bama Wednesday and Jacksonville that weekend. He has bands in Houston, central Florida, Nashville and Atlanta that he works with regularly.

During the COVID-19 pandemic when he had an empty schedule and nothing to do, he sat down with his old mixing machine and recorded a Christmas album by himself. One of the songs has a 70-piece choir that was created entirely by Dover. He recoded each part and mixed it together to create the sound of a full choir. People liked it, including Eric Clapton.

"My wife, knowing I am a lifelong Eric Clapton fan, suggested I send Clapton my Christmas record because it's full of acoustic guitar. I mailed one to his house and got a card back in the mail that said 'I like some of your stuff. It's going on my Christmas playlist. Love, Eric,'" Dover said.

Dover speaks openly about how thankful he is to have settled in an area that supports musicians. He credits the music scene here to Joe Gilchrist, the original owner of the Flora-Bama and the movement he started by paying someone to play music.

"It started with one man who bought a cinder block liquor store called the Flora-Bama," Dover said. "All these people in this area have agreed to be open-hearted and open-handed with the musicians and the tourists. The Flora-Bama gives away so much money each year and spends so much on hiring musicians. They could have one stage, but they have five and hire like 50 musicians a day. What a chill it gives me for God to have put me in an area where people have the heart to want to hire live music."

See Dover perform live at The Shindig April 22 at the Halstead Amphitheater in Fairhope. The concert is a benefit fundraiser for the Baldwin County Woman's Health Center. The concert will feature musicians from the area including Nu Image and Kirk Jay. The concert begins at 5:30 p.m. and there will be a $10 donation at the gate.

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