devin dawson

Dark Horse

I've always been drawn to the darker, moodier, more vulnerable side of things. Not everything is blue skies and blue eyes.

Devin Dawson

Hi Devin and thank you for taking the time out to speak with us at Musicology.

Firstly, congratulations on your debut album Dark Horse. For those who have not had the pleasure of listening to it yet, a great introduction is on your website which features some tracks and unique background stories behind each track.

One that really caught my attention was Asking For A Friend and your fellow musicians on the video who describe your sheer passion. It strikes me that you have in this album poured your life experiences through a sieve and taken these refined moments and paired them with minds you share your passion. Is that a fair assessment?

Yeah absolutely. Country music is about real life and reliability and storytelling and that’s exactly what ‘Asking for a Friend’ is to me. It’s a true story of me trying to apologize for messing up in a relationship, without actually having to say “sorry.” I think most guys are pretty bad at that. But honestly the only way i could have written that song was with the co-writers who helped me bring it to life. Sure, it started from my experience, but both of their stories and lessons learned are represented in the song as well. That’s how it should be. If a song like that can’t relate to a larger audience and help bring people together - in a way - it’s not doing its job.

Nashville has such a rich musical history and is the home of country music but within the genre lies a huge breadth of diversity. Would you say that along the spectrum you align yourself a little on the darker side?

I love Nashville. So damn much. It will always be my forever home and the home of country music. It will always inhabit its rich history and have this unique familial kind of energy. That’s why I’m there. For the songwriting community and the country music spirit. But yes, I’ve always been drawn to the darker, moodier, more vulnerable side of things. I think county music needs that. I think we all need it in some sort of way. Not everything is blue skies and blue eyes. And that’s okay. There’s a lot of parts of life that we all need to express and I love writing and singing about them. Different perspectives and unique commentary on those angles. That being said I love a good love song and you will always hear me express that side every once and a while too.

In terms of the writing and lyrical content, was there an overarching narrative tying the album together or an assortment of topics and inspirations that zig zag throughout the record?

I wouldn’t say that Dark Horse is a concept album by any means, but it does have a continuity to it. This is my first album. I’ve been picking up gems and life trinkets and lessons over the past decade and a half of making music. This album is a culmination of all of the influences i have attracted to me. Although I could argue I’ve been preparing for this album since I picked up a guitar when I was 12, It’s really more about being the best representation of my life over the past few years. Every song starts from my own truth, at the very least. The songs range from me being a narrator of somebody else’s story - War Paint - to me spilling my own whole heart in the title track - Dark Horse.

When formulating the tracks for this record, can you give us a little insight to your creative processes and marrying up the initial concept to the final cut?

A lot of time was spent writing these songs. I write every single day. It’s my addiction and my obsession. Not every single song I write is right for me though. I have a pretty extensive mental “check list” that I refer to when thinking about what songs I would sing. There has to be zero weak links and the song just has to feel right in my gut. I must have written over 500 songs in the couple years prior to choosing which ones would make the cut. I think every song has its own moment. They each tell a lot about a certain part of my heart, but they have this common continuity between them that I believe makes this whole work feel like a buttoned album. I’m very proud of how these songs work together.

The album was produced by Jay Joyce, what did Jay bring to the table that really shines through on this album?

Jay is a mad scientist. I’ve been a fan of his work for some time now - so it was honestly a dream come true to get the opportunity to work with a true producer like him. Honestly what he brought... was ME. He pulled things out of me that I didn’t know I had. He helped the true me shine through and take a front seat. One of the biggest decisions that Jay made was to have my live band come into the studio and make this record with us. I’d been playing with the same guys in Nashville since the first day I moved to town - about 5 years prior to going into the studio with Jay. Our chemistry and sound was and still is part of my sonic identity. Jay wanted to keep that identity on this record, so instead of using professional studio players from Nashville, we all hulled up as a band - every day - 12 hours a day - for a couple months - and chased down this album.

Having met so many interesting characters and musicians throughout the years, were there any defining moments or conversations that really resonated with you and altered the way you approach your craft?

As cheesy as it sounds I think the most common piece of advice I’ve gotten from peers and hero’s is simply to just be yourself. Do what feels right TO YOU. Don’t chase a trend or make decisions that aren’t true to who you are as an artist. I’m lucky to be surrounded by some like-minded and crazy people that allow me to be my unapologetic / unfiltered self - and I hope the music is a reflection of that.

Perhaps of any artists, country musicians are the most at home on the road. Do you find touring to be inspirational whereby it helps you write and create more material or are you so focused on the task at hand that writing and creating new material takes a back seat?

I love traveling and touring. I’ve been doing it since I was 16. If you don’t love it - it will destroy you. One thing that keeps me sane on the road is writing songs. Although it’s hard to find the time to start and finish a whole song, sometimes it’s nice to chip away at an idea and let it form itself naturally - rather than forcing it out in an hour or so. To write great songs, you have to live life and experience new feelings and places. To me, touring and traveling are deeply inspiring and have always gone hand-in-hand with songwriting.

Can you name one truly memorable gig you have played and describe what made it such a highlight performance?

Probably one of the most memorable performances I have ever done to date would definitely be opening up for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in my hometown of Sacramento. It was at this brand new arena called Golden 1 Arena that i had never stepped foot in yet. I had my entire family and so many friends from my childhood there. Everybody that shaped me and helped me get to where I am today. It’s an artist’s dream to go back to their hometown and play a sold out arena show, and I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten the chance to do that so early on in my career. I’ll never forget walking out on stage for the first time and saying “What’s up Sacramento!!! My name’s Devin Dawson and from right here in your back yard!!”