Steve Dawson has been writing songs for more than 35 years, primarily as the leader, singer and chief songwriter of the Chicago folk-rock band, Dolly Varden. Heralded as “electric country majesty” by Rolling Stone, Dolly Varden has released six critically acclaimed albums and toured all over the USA and Europe.
Additionally, Dawson’s three solo albums, “Sweet Is The Anchor,” (2004) “I Will Miss The Trumpets and the Drums,” (2010) and the jazz-meets-folk, “Funeral Bonsai Wedding,” (2014) have pushed his writing and singing into deeper soul, rock and image-heavy narratives, leading critics to call him “one of the most underrated songwriters in American music.” In 2016 Dawson released a book, “Take It To the Bridge: Unlocking the Great Songs Inside You,” co-written with Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune, based on his popular songwriting classes at Chicago’s legendary Old Town School of Folk Music.
You can catch Dolly Varden at SPACE in Evanston on Dec 22nd. For more information on this show please check the end of this post.
1. What’s been keeping you up at night?
A few things:
*Probable nuclear war with North Korea because our president is a petulant man-child with no ability or interest to consider anything beyond his own primitive need to dominate, his racism and his rage. Every second he holds the office we are in grave danger.
*The eventual extinction of human beings because of our insipid failure to address climate change 25 years ago when it could have made a difference.
*The depth and magnitude of white America’s racism and the realization that it probably won’t change.
2. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or heard lately?
I’ve been mixing an album by a great singer / songwriting named Natalie Gaza that is really cool. It’s tough and beautiful, it rocks and has surprising twists and turns, memorable melodies and lyrics that light up my imagination. I love it. It should be released sometime early in 2018. I think she’s gonna call it “I’m One Too.”
It was a little while back but I was deeply moved by the movie “Moonlight,” more than I’ve been moved by a movie in a long, long time.
3. What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
I did a residency at the Hideout in September and for the final show I had a string quartet, Quartet Parapluie, play with my band, Funeral Bonsai Wedding. Quartet Parapluie is Melissa Bach (cello) Vannia Phillips (viola) Inger Carle (violin) Andra Kulans (violin)
Funeral Bonsai Wedding is me on guitar and singing, along with one-of-a-kind vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, Bassist (and arranger) Jason Roebke and drummer Gerald Dowd. It was pretty incredible. So many textures and sounds and nuances. I am very excited to make a record with this group of people!
4. If you could add anyone, alive or dead to your team, who would it be?
To my team? I’m sure exactly what that means. A lot of times the people we admire the most are best kept at a distance, in my experience. Working with someone is much different than being inspired by their work, their writings or the way they lived their lives. I don’t think I can answer this question. I’m happy with the people I work with and feel grateful for the community I am a part of.
5. When the movie of your life is made, what will it be called?
He Kept Trying
You can catchDolly Varden at SPACE in Evanston on Dec 22nd with Rachel Drew and the Bitter Roots, and a special appearance by the Jesus Christ Trio (Robbie Fulks, Diane Christiansen & Steve Dawson).
Dolly Varden will play a set of songs that spans their 20 years together, interspersed with gospel songs by the Jesus Christ Trio. Opening set by up-and-coming powerhouse Chicago singer / songwriter Rachel Drew and her band. Expect a big finale with everyone
The Jesus Christ Trio was born during Robbie Fulks’ residency at the Hideout and was a December feature for years.
Advance tickets highly recommend.