I hope the music I make brings about a connection: An interview with singer-songwriter Desirée Dawson
Desiree Dawson is a Vancouver born, singer-songwriter and was raised in White Rock BC. The 2016 CBC Searchlight top prize winner recently performed at the CBC music festival and the Vancouver Pride Festival. When Dawson isn’t playing her Baritone Ukulele and writing songs, you can find her teaching Yoga at various studios in White Rock, BC. The talented performer is currently working on her upcoming EP due this fall.
When and how did you realize singing and songwriting were something you would pursue?
I've always known deep down that singing and songwriting were two things I wanted to pursue. It is as if I have no choice but to do those two things. They are very much part of the make up of who I am! Even when I try to take a "day off" the singing and writing do not stop! Its been about 1 year now that I've been doing music full time and the transition into doing that was quite natural. As other jobs and commitments fell through or slowed down, music started to pick up and opportunities started to appear. The time was just right!
Who did you grow up listening to? Who were the singers that inspired you?
When I was really little my mom played my sister and I Ladysmith Black Mambazo every night as we slept and that was so amazing. The power and emotion they convey with their voices is unreal to me. I still listening to them almost every day. I was very influenced and inspired by Lauryn Hill, Adele, Wyclef Jean and still am! The first CD I was ever gifted, by my sweet mama, was Des'ree. That was a huge moment for me! From the moment I received that CD and threw it into my bright purple walkman, I knew I wanted to sing. As I got older the dream of singing started becoming more of a challenge and seemed a little less realistic. I feel like I've re-connected with that child version of myself once I started living my musical truth 🙂 !
Your music instrument of choice is the Ukulele. How did that come about and What advice would you give to folks who want to take up this particular instrument for the first time?
I was inspired to play Ukulele because one of my best friends started playing it. She was going through a really hard time in her life. I was fortunate enough to spend time visiting her in Maui, where she first picked up the lil Soprano uke. I watched as it brought her joy, and it looked so healing. I loved how easy it was for her to pick it up and play new songs. I loved how it connected us! The whole experience just led me to buy one almost as soon as I arrived home from Maui. I went to my favourite store, Gandharva Loka, in Granville Island in Vancouver and purchased by new baby! I decided to go with a Baritone Ukulele as is the biggest member of the Ukulele fam and I love the sound. Its deeper sounding and in my opinion, more versatile as a main instrument. My advice- Just pick it up! Just do it! Whether you play every instrument already or have always told yourself you are not musically inclined. Pick it up by yourself or with a friend. Just play around with it, hop online for tutorials or go to your local shop for lessons. There are so many options! Its so healing and with uke, once you learn a few basic chords you can play almost everything haha! Its really special. Just put your heart into it and you can't go wrong :)!
Tell us why you moved to Kingston, Jamaica to write the music for your debut EP? What can we expect and when will it be out?
My heart was pulled to Jamaica. Its hard to explain why I went there, haha. But I arrived and fell into a beautiful, supportive creative community. I worked through a lot and met the most amazing people ever. I can't wait to go back. My experiences there have really sparked a lot for my upcoming EP! The EP should be out this coming Fall! I'm so excited to share it!
What’s generally the starting point for a Desiree Dawson song? EMOTIONS! Studying my own feels or the emotions of those around me is usually the starting point. I usually start with a feeling then think what words spark from that feeling. Similarly emotions will sometimes spark a melody without words. The beginning of a song is always a little bit different.
What is the message behind Hide? Tell us about the writing process for the song.
Honestly, I wrote hide a while ago and it started off as a more romantic song. Looking at someone who I saw only light and beauty but saw that they were in deep hiding and calling out " see my heart open wide, so why do you get scared and why do you hide?". As my journey continued on it kinda transformed into a deeper meaning. Hide is a song about letting go of the masks and things we constantly hide behind. We all hide behind different things but overall we are hiding from something huge.. LOVE. Love is vast, its open and fearless and although its where we come from, we've had a lot of stuff thrown at us throughout this life, so we tend to stray from it. We hide from our truth out of fear. We hide form our truth because looking at ourselves, deeply and truly can be terrifying. We hide behind relationships, behind job titles, behind clothing, behind our words, behind our technology etc… I guess I relate to this song strongly because I am on my own personal journey of trying to really peal off the layers of hiding I have built up over the years. Past hurt can store in the body, in the heart, in the soul and cause us to hide. I say there's no better time then NOW to take a look at these things, to connect with ourselves deeper and to heal. When we start taking time to heal ourselves and stop hiding so much we will start to connect deeper with the people we encounter everyday. We put so much focus on shifting our external environment when its the internal that is screaming HEYYYYY ITS MY TURN. So Hide is about that. Taking time to ask ourselves Why am I hiding and then slowly starting to answer that question.
Congratulations on winning the 2016 CBC Searchlight competition. How has the experience impacted your music career?
Thanks so much! It's been such a whirlwind! The experience was so incredible and I know this is just the beginning. Many doors have opened up and I'm so grateful.
You’ve worked with some of the best producers including Armin van Buuren’s label Armada Music. How did the collaborations come about? Who would you like to collaborate with in the near future?
My manager, Konrad OldMoney, has been the facilitator in this. He himself is one of THE BEST producers I have ever worked with and I'm so happy we are a team. Konrad got the ball rolling with Armada Music. I am so open to collabs with many different artists. I'm trying to just remain open and see what comes up.
Currently, one of your songs, “All in my head” has received more than a million plays on Spotify. What was your reaction? Were you expecting it to get as many plays as you have?
I was definitely not expecting so many plays! Its really amazing. I don't know why I'm shocked as Pat Lok is a really amazing producer and together we make a great collab team. I'm excited about this new avenue of music I've decided to pursue as well as my more acoustic Desirée Dawson sound.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
I hope the music I make brings about connection. I hope listeners are inspired to connect deeper with themselves. I hope listeners are inspired to connect deeper with the world around them. Whether the melody, the lyrics or the combination of both moves them, I hope it starts to shift listeners into truth. Ultimately, I hope listeners take away what ever they are needing in the moment they are listening and the moments that follow 🙂