The two founders of Leonardo’s Bride, Abby Dobson (lead vocals/acoustic guitar) and Dean Manning (guitar, keyboards), performed as a duo for the first time at an open mike night at the Crossroads Theatre in Sydney. In March 1990 the duo began writing tracks together and then travelled around Europe and the United States busking and playing in clubs and bars, doing 250 shows over sixteen months. In 1992 they formed the band Leonardo’s Bride in Sydney comprising Abby Dobson (vocals/acoustic guitar) and Dean Manning (guitar/keyboards) and subsequently added Patrick Hyndes (aka Patrick Wong, bass) and Jon Howell (drums) to the group, they were an indie rock/pop band who released their eponymously-titled debut four-track EP in 1993, and their first album, Angel Blood in 1997. Above L-R Dean Manning, Patrick Hyndes, Abby Dobson, John Howell.
Dobson and Manning were partners when this song was written, and after a fight between them, Dobson went to sleep but Manning wanted to convey his affection for his girlfriend before he retired, to underscore his ever present love for Abby and remind her that despite their differences she was always in his thoughts.
He attached post-it notes around their house in specific locations “I Iove you even when your washing”, “I love you even when you’re eating, “I love you even when you’re leaving’ and “I love you even when you’re sleeping”, it had the desired effect and Manning and Dobson went on to compose the song that became the band’s biggest hit. Leonardo’s Bride would perform this song at the Mushroom Records 25th Anniversary Concert in 1998 along with other Mushroom luminaries including Kylie Minogue, Jimmy Barnes, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, the Angels, and Paul Kelly, before a massive crowd at the MCG.
Even When I’m Sleeping is a sweetly engaging love ballad, quite different from much of the group’s ouvre, and for this reason was not initially regarded as a potential single release or even for inclusion on their debut album. It was not the first single lifted of Angel Blood, but it was the next, and it had an immediate impact.
Lyrically the song is about the essence of true love, how it brings you near though you are physically apart, bridges the gap between reality and fiction, replaces doubt and ignorance with belief and confidence in another person, “Don’t be confused by my apparent lack of ceremony/ My mind is clear/ I may be low or miles high off in the distance/ I want you near/ I love you, even when I’m sleeping/ When I close my eyes you’re everywhere.”
The record was produced by Justin Stanley (below) at Megaphone Studios in Sydney, his credits included Beck, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, Jet and Noiseworks, and here he brought a quiet authority and sparseness to the production, the song was stripped bare of artifice and glossy techniques. Abby Dobson delivered a bravura solo vocal performance of great sensitivity, drama and conviction, there were no backing singers.
Acoustic guitar, piano and drums provided a subtle yet insistent soundscape for Dobson’s keening vocals, it was deemed to be one of the best songs ever recorded in Australia as acknowledged by APRA who ranked it in the top 30 songs of the era 1926-2001, it charted #4 locally and was accredited as APRA’s Song of the Year in 1997.
The group disbanded in 2001, due to Abby Dobson’s ill health – rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome- but returned to live performing in 2013 at the Byron Bay Bluesfest where they were warmly received. However when Dobson was encouraged to audition for a spot on The Voice in 2013 she was rejected by the judges, who had to listen to her performance without seeing or knowing who she was, they were using the highly contrived “blind audition” format. Abby was struggling financially at the time, and needed to make a living, there was embarrassment all round when the judges realized that they had just rejected a former APRA Song of the Year winner, and one of Australia’s most distinctive voices, which no judge actually recognized.