Singer/songwriter Steve Dawson knows that there’s always more to learn. The accomplished Nashville-based artist, despite working on his craft now for some 30 years, still stays up to the wee hours of the morning to shed. If practice makes perfect, Dawson is near diamond-sharp status.
As such, we wanted to check in with the Canadian-raised musician to ask him about his latest work and to premiere his latest single, “Dimes,” which he recorded with the great (and recent three-time Grammy Award nominee) Allison Russell. The two collaborate together in the group, Birds of Chicago.
The new song is the first single from Dawson’s new album, Gone, Long Gone, which is set for release on March 18. It’s his first collection of songs since his 2016 record, Solid States and Loose Ends.
American Songwriter: What was the inspiration for this new single?
Steve Dawson: I wrote this with my good friend Matt Patershuk, a phenomenal songwriter from northern Alberta, who I’ve produced a number of records for. We co-wrote most of the songs on this album together which was an inspiring process for me. For the most part, I wrote the music and melodies and he wrote lyrics. We’d bash it all back and forth, and I’d take some of his lyrics and work them around a bit to fit the song’s phrasing.
We do have wildly different phrasing and delivery. We also labored over the bridge a bit—I didn’t really think a song like this needed a bridge, but I liked the lyrics and wanted to try and make it work. Basically, the song is a tongue-in-cheek take on quantity over quality—10 dimes being cooler than one dollar. Just trying to keep it light, I guess. Oh, and the instrumental part in the middle was inspired by ‘70s cop shows.
American Songwriter: How did Allison get involved?
SD: I asked her nicely. I’ve known Allison for over 20 years—we worked together years ago in Vancouver on various things, and then I spent the better part of 3 years pre-COVID on the road with her in Birds of Chicago. We always have fun together, and I think she gets a kick out of singing backups without any pressure, and of course, she’s really good at it. And it doesn’t hurt that she lives a half-block away.
American Songwriter: What was the genesis of the new album, which is slated for release in March?
SD: I guess it’s that boring old COVID story—I was out on tour with Birds of Chicago, opening for The Wood Brothers when we all got sent home, and after a couple of weeks of twiddling my thumbs, I started writing and recording. It’s not really that simple, as I also worked really long and hard to get an online recording system set up to record other artists remotely using my full band in various cities. As we got better at that with other people, I decided to start in on my songs that way as well. Before I knew it, there were about 30 songs written and recorded.
American Songwriter: What do you love most about music?
SD: I guess that I’m 30-plus years into playing my instrument and I still constantly find surprising things that I need to learn and work on. It’s a never-ending pursuit, and I go in spurts. But these days I’m often up playing until 2 AM, just trying to stay sharp and get better, just like I did when I was 15. I don’t even know why sometimes, it’s just a mysterious thing that makes me want to do it. There’s always more to learn.
Photo by Laura E. Partain / IVPR