Steve Dawson gets creative with phone's voice-memo function


What: Steve Dawson Trio
Where: Upstairs Lounge at Oak Bay Recreation Centre, 1975 Bee St.
When: Saturday, Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 at

When multi-instrumentalist Steve Dawson says, mere days into a new year, that he is busier than ever, give that some weight.

article continues below

The decorated performer, who has won seven Juno Awards from 18 nominations during his 20-year career, is never not busy, so when he expects 2019 to be his most hectic year to date, one shudders to think what that involves.

“I do it all, man,” Dawson said with a laugh during an airport stopover on his way to a recording session in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Whatever it takes. Whatever you got — let’s do it.”

Dawson, a Vancouverite now living in Nashville, keeps busy at his own Henhouse Studio complex, where he and his family have lived full-time since 2013 and through which Dawson has produced more than 80 recordings.

He records his own music when his schedule allows, which is how his eighth and latest solo album, Lucky Hand, came into being this summer.

Dawson, who is often on the road both as a headliner and accompanist, does a little bit of everything. “When I’m playing with someone, I can kind of turn my brain off and just play. When I’m producing, there’s more active stuff going on with the job, but I love it all.

“The reality of being an active musician these days means that in order to make a living the way I want to, and provide for my family, I’ve got to be doing all kinds of stuff. A new record means it gives me opportunities to tour, but at the same time, I’ve got to be a sideman and producer as well.”

He closed out the year touring with Birds of Chicago, and will be returning to the U.K. with the Chicago duo in a few weeks.

Dawson is squeezing in a Victoria date next weekend, at the Upstairs Lounge in the Oak Bay Recreation Centre.

He was booked to be in Vancouver for a recording session for a few days, and seized the opportunity for a Vancouver Island date with bassist Jeremy Holmes and fiddler Daniel Lapp while he had the chance.

He’s already booked for tours and recording sessions through June, and is preparing for a two-month tour this year with critically acclaimed bluesman Matt Andersen, whose new record Dawson produced at his studio in 2018.

Fans — and journalists — often ask Dawson when they can expect a reunion with violinist Jesse Zubot.

The duo was at the forefront of the West Coast roots-music scene until 2003, when they went their separate ways, but there have been rumours of a reunion. Zubot, who now tours with Tanya Tagaq, appears on Lucky Hand — marking 20 years since they first joined forces.

Dawson’s new record is the closest they’ve come to a reunion in the last 15 years, but they did perform together at last year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Several other festivals have been poking around, Dawson said. “It has come up a few times,” he said. “But we haven’t acted on it yet. There’s still time.”

Lucky Hand is his first record of instrumental music since 2014’s Rattlesnake Cage.

Fans who have stayed with the gifted guitarist over the course of his career will notice several familiar themes, including authentic blues rooted in decades past. How he created the instrumentals, however, has changed dramatically from his early analogue days.

Having a recording device nearby at all times has been great for his creativity, Dawson said.

“I spend a lot of time writing this kind of music when I’m on my own, which isn’t often,” he said with a laugh.

“It came down to the point where I had more than enough material to make a record. It was all there ready to go.”

Given that he’s often in motion, Dawson has come to rely on the voice-memo application on his iPhone.

Each of the 10 songs on Lucky Hand owes a debt to Apple technology, since improvisations for each song were first recorded on his phone.

“As soon as you start relying on recording software [such as Garage Band and Logic Pro] for your phone, there’s problems and glitches and delays. Immediately that creative spark is gone, because you’re trying to figure out how to make it work when you should be creating.

“With the simple voice-memo program, I can rely on it being there and working all the time.”

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Most Popular