Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Steve Dawson wears many hats and wears all of them very well. He’s a much sought after studio musician, a studio owner, record producer and owner of roots-centred Black Hen Records (about to celebrate its 10th anniversary with 38 releases to date). To one-and-a-half-year-old Casey, he’s just plain dad.
“With Zubot and Dawson, we were doing acoustic instrumental stuff. We had these records we’d made independently, and we took them around to different labels and everybody told us there was no way anyone would ever buy music like that, so don’t even bother putting this out — and then we put it out and it did really well. It really just evolved.”
“It’s always just been a necessity, a way I found to live my life the way I wanted to. I wanted to make records that weren’t encumbered by record label expectations, so I figured I might as well be the record label. I wanted to record the records a certain way, and I found it hard to explain to people, so gradually I just collected enough gear to be able to do it myself.”
A great time to be independent
“It’s actually possible to make a career for yourself. The industry is so different from what it was even six or seven years ago. There’s independent labels, and then there’s — I don’t even think of them as major labels — I think of them as ‘dependant labels.’ They’re not really doing anything now. They just kind of take the independent labels and they swallow them up. They’re essentially just glorified distributors.”
Everything works, if you let it:
“I think of myself as a solo artist and a producer and a sideman. If somebody calls me up and they want me to play guitar on a tour and I can make it work and it makes sense for me, then I’m just as happy to do that as my own stuff, to a certain degree. Same thing with producing. I try to just pick things that I really want to do, because it’s pretty draining doing that kind of work on things you don’t really like.”
Steve Dawson plays Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association, Sunday February 17 at 8 p.m.