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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Backstage: Douglas McLean Chats With Nashville-Based Canadian Artist & Producer Steve Dawson

By Douglas McLean.

Since 2022 to date, Steve Dawson has released three extraordinary albums, “Gone, Long Gone”, “Phantom Threshold” and this March 2023, “Eyes Closed, Dreaming”. The trilogy comprises a remarkable body of work, styles and spotlights Steve’s grace and agility as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

I have been a long-time fan of Steve music and his prodigious career in music as a sideman, producer and solo artist. It was great honour to meet Steve and our conversation touches upon his work over the past year, including his association with Kelly Joe Phelps, his podcast but most of all the creation of this haunting new album “Eyes Closed, Dreaming”.

You can listen to the entire interview and music HERE

Over the past two decades, Steve Dawson has become such an indelible fixture on the Canadian musical landscape that it’s tempting to take him for granted. The music that flows out of him is so natural and authentic that it’s possible to forget all of the toil that went into producing it.

Behind the seemingly endless stream of award winning musical output (he has produced and/or played on more than 200 albums since the turn of the millennium, 7 of which have won Juno Awards), is one of the hardest working musicians this country has ever produced. Whether he’s turning heads on the concert circuit with his incendiary playing, or pulling the best possible performances out of the many artists that he works with in the studio, Dawson is always striving to take things to the next level.

A native of Vancouver, Canada, but currently residing in Nashville, where he works as a solo artist, sideman, and record producer, Steve has forged an impressive career full of highlights and awards, including:

7 Juno Awards as artist/producer, 18 times nominated

3 times named "Producer Of The Year" at Western Canadian Music Awards

4 times named "Producer Of The Year" at Canadian Folk Music Awards

Recipient of many other awards including Maple Blues Awards, Grand Prix De Jazz De Montreal, Blues Blast Awards, and many Western Canadian Music Awards and Canadian Folk Awards as an artist and producer.

Steve’s multi-faceted career has brought him to countless international festivals, working on the stage and in the studio with an extensive cast of musicians, including John Hammond, Sonny Landreth, Van Dyke Parks, David Hidalgo, Colin James, Jim Byrnes, Jill Barber, Dave Alvin, Joe Henry, Tim O'Brien, Fats Kaplin, Colin James, The McCrary Sisters, Matt Chamberlain, Del Rey, Birds of Chicago, Allison Russell, Long John Baldry, Bruce Cockburn, Kelly Joe Phelps, Linda McRae, CR Avery, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Geoff Muldaur, Scott Amendola, Danny Barnes, The Deep Dark Woods, Colin Linden, Big Dave McLean, and many others.

He sees production as an exciting step in the creative journey that a song takes from its beginning as a songwriter's idea to a final recorded product. The producer has to understand the music and be able to know what will open possibilities in it. Being a musician is not essential, but it helps, and Dawson brings enviable chops to his work. He also owns a vast collection of unusual instruments, many of which he plays on the recordings he helps to craft – modern electric instruments find themselves blended in with weissenborns, marxophones, pedal steel, pump organs and other odd antique instruments.

Steve's studio, The Henhouse, located in Nashville (and previously in Vancouver) has hosted countless artists and been the home to over 80 releases. With a beautifully warm and organic setting to stay and record, it promises to become a destination for many more to come.

Between producing projects for other artists, Steve has recorded music of his own that has explored blues, jazz, Hawaiian, rock, and experimental music. His groundbreaking work with Jesse Zubot in Zubot and Dawson kicked things off in 1998, leading to 2 albums with Toronto jazz stalwarts Andrew Downing and Kevin Turcotte in the award-winning Great Uncles of the Revolution. Steve’s solo recording output started with 2001’s award-winning acoustic “Bug Parade”, he next explored blues and Hawaiian influences in depth with “We Belong To The Gold Coast” in 2005. 2008 saw the release of 2 albums – “Telescope” which was the culmination of studies with Greg Leisz and featured music written for the pedal steel guitar, and “Waiting For The Lights To Come Up”, a collection of new songs. He followed that with 2011's acclaimed "Nightshade", which Acoustic Guitar magazine named to it’s Top-10 guitar albums of the year. 2014’s “Rattlesnake Cage” – was an award-winning exploration of solo acoustic and slide guitar. Dawson’s 2018 release “Lucky Hand” is a mesmerizing collection of original fingerstyle and slide guitar instrumentals, 5 of which feature Dawson reuniting with his old cohort Jesse Zubot, who arranged incredible string quartet parts to flow with the music. Recorded live off the floor it brings together the American Primitive style Steve has often explored and cutting-edge strings to create music unlike anything you've heard before.


A Gift

Long Time To Get Old

House Carpenter

Waikiki Stonewall Rag

The Owl

Bad Omen

You can listen to the entire interview and music HERE


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