Steve Dawson, the multi-Juno-winning roots guitarist and producer, has moved to Nashville from Vancouver. He was looking for a change and, after considering Toronto, discovered how much more affordable it was to set up his home studio in Music City. That said, he’s still got a lot to do with Canada, starting with a national tour this spring.
For Dawson, the move to Nashville spells a new beginning. And a few other things.
N is for Neuman — the iconic 1950s-era tube microphone that Dawson recorded his new record with. It was one of two salvaged from the rafters of a Detroit church. “It kind of helps to inspire the process because it’s all you’re seeing and all you’re playing to and you know that what comes out of that is going to have that old kind of sound,” says Dawson.
A is for American Primitive, the style being used to describe his new album Rattlesnake Cage — in the vein of guitar legends like Leo Kottke.
S is for solo. And acoustic and instrumental — surprisingly, the first album of its kind for Dawson, he says. “I actually sat down and tried to do one 10 years ago but it just didn’t feel right. Maybe I didn’t have my act together enough back then.”
H is for the Henhouse studio, the home studio where Dawson makes his magic. In Nashville, it’s in a converted garage at his house in the Brentwood district, 10 minutes from downtown.
V is for vinyl, the glorious new-old recording format. The new record is the first of his available on vinyl. In fact, one of the oldest pressing plants in the country is five minutes away from his house. “I listen to vinyl more than anything else, I never stopped listening to it.”
I is for the instruments Dawson plays on the new record — six and 12-string acoustics, a National tricone guitar and a Weissenborn Hawaiian guitar. No effects and no tricks, other than the magic his fingers conjure up.
L is for lure. Dawson is already busy and Nashville is booming, but he wants to lure Canadians to his new studio and the enticing history of the region. “While moving away from the country, I’m kind of dragging it along with me as well,” he laughs.
L is for the live show. Dawson will do solo material and tunes with acoustic bassist Keith Lowe from Seattle — old blues or country tunes, some Hawaiian stuff. “I’ve always loved playing live and I don’t want to stop doing it.”
E is for “effortlessly” — the way Dawson plays, as noted by the Toledo Blade newspaper: “One magazine has referred to Steve Dawson as the T-Bone Burnett of Canada. I tend to think of him more as a Canadian version of Ry Cooder … his fine slide guitar and storytelling, everything seeming to flow effortlessly.”