Gabe Dixon finally believes in himself. “I like to be a humble person, but sometimes, it teeters a little too far into the realm of low self-esteem,” he says. The much-celebrated musician, known for working with Paul McCartney, Avicii, Alison Krauss, and O.A.R., as well as for fronting the Gabe Dixon Band in the 2000s, firmly owns the spotlight with his forthcoming new record, Lay It on Me, arriving June 25.
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“One thing I’ve learned from having put out several albums and played lots of shows, it’s that when I stay true to myself and believe in what it is that I love about what I do other people tend to connect with it,” he tells American Songwriter over a phone call.
Dixon readies the project with lead single “Something Good,” a giddy piano-pinned track packed with hope and optimism. And it could not have arrived at a better time. Originally, he set the intention to release the album in 2020, but “it felt pretty inappropriate last spring to release a song about ‘hey, let’s all get together and hang out downtown and hug each other.’ That didn’t feel right to me. Now, it feels like people want to hear it.”
Co-written with Dylan Altman, one of Dixon’s frequent collaborators, “Something Good” blooms with a soothing, inescapable warmth. Those midnight stars are calling / Ain’t no doubt you’re all in, he croons over a gentle rumble.
“This was the sort of idea I felt I could bring in to Dylan. When we write, it’s always a short, sweet kind of song that happens,” he says, noting he had the playful bass line from the start. “As we started playing through it, we tossed around ideas, and it felt like a ‘let’s go have a good time’ kind of song. I had the phrasing of the verses already. We ran with it and made it into a song about that feeling when you just know it’s going to be a good night.”
“Something Good” primes one of the year’s most necessary, and therapeutic, releases. Alongside co-producer Dustin Ransom, Dixon immerses the listener in joyful production and style, keenly aware how tough life can really be sometimes. “I consciously wanted this album to have an upbeat feel, specifically I wanted it to have a lot of positive messages. If my last record was ‘hey, baby, please stay with me, don’t leave,’ this one is ‘I feel good about where we are, and I want to lift you up.’ Being able to stand up and say, ‘I want to take on your burden,’ that means you’re probably in a good place.”
That message comes in loud and clear with the title track and its instrumental companion piece. “I’ve never done that on an album before,” he says with a laugh. Dixon funnels in two meditative interludes一“Lay It On Me (Intro)” opens the record, and “Don’t Look Now (Outro)” offers up a mid-record reprieve. Furthermore, Dixon allows himself to fuse “a few different textures on this record” as almost a living document of his entire career’s journey.
1980s synthesizers cosy up to “a classic piano/folk ballad at the end,” he says. “It’s a nice well-rounded sampling of things I do as an artist. I love the fact I’ve tapped into more of the musician side on this record.”
Lay It On Me began when Ransom and Dixon wrote the funky sidewinder “I Believe In Our Love,” a tone-setting centerpiece borrowing from his jazz influences. “It felt pretty authentically to me. It didn’t feel like I was trying to be anything,” says Dixon. “That made me want to write more with Dustin. We wrote a couple more songs and demoed them out.”
His first album in five years, the follow-up to Turns to Gold (2016), the 10-track release solidifies not only his new-found confidence but a resolve to trust the work─and nothing else. “I decided early on in the process that I wasn’t going to allow any gatekeepers or other people to dictate what I put on my own album. The idea that I could make whatever kind of album I wanted helped me have some confidence,” he says. “I feel like I’ve been an artist for so long and in the business. Some people would call me successful, but I look at my career like I’ve always been under the radar.
“Since I’m under the radar, I don’t have anything to live up to. I don’t have anybody to please. I can make whatever kind of music I want to. The worst thing that could happen is not that many people hear it or like it. That’s OK with me. That’s happened to me in the past,” he laughs. “I love the idea that I can just make music that I want to hear. In the past, when I’ve made music I love, other people tend to love it, too. The best case scenario is they love it and I love it.”
Admittedly, there was a brief period in his career “where I didn’t really believe in my own taste very much,” he says. “I thought I could just get somebody to help me make whatever I do popular. And I muted my own voice. It was an experiment, and I wasn’t sure it was going to work─and it didn’t work.”
Across Lay It On Me, Gabe Dixon embraces his genre-bending style, switching from the sunny pop of “Something Good” to the smoldering rattle on “I Got Your Love (You Got Mine),” featuring Susan Tedeschi, and back. He admirably owns the spotlight, and it feels like he has finally, truly arrived.
Listen to “Something Good” below.