Austin sweetheart & singer-songwriter, Miranda Dawn, charms audiences with her honest delivery of carefully crafted melodies and lyrics. Her voice is soulful and tender yet bold. She performs solo, with her full band, or in her folk-rock/americana duo with Chris Hawkes’ voice cradling hers so the two voices intertwine as if made to sing together. The Dawn & Hawkes EP GOLDEN HEART (June 2012) features co-written material the two crafted mostly while on tour together. Dawn & Hawkes began writing together for a collaborative songwriting project, SongwriterWeekly.com, a website she created to motivate and showcase writers. In October, Hawkes produced Miranda Dawn’s first acoustic album “REASON TO FEEL ALIVE” and two songs from the album selected her as an Emerging Songwriter at the Kerrville New Folk Festival. Miranda Dawn has played with and shared stages with Two Tons of Steel, Charlie Mars, Jimmy Lafave, Rosie Flores, Bonnie Bishop, Emily Wolfe, Vicci Martinez, Carleton Stone, Nicolette Good, Vanessa Lively, Seth Walker, The Belleville Outfit, Luke Wade, Josh Weathers, Tbird & the Breaks, and Dan Dyer. Recent Venues Played: Stubbs, Flipnotics, Cactus Cafe, Lambert’s, Gruene Hall, Strange Brew, and One 2 One Bar.
Born to a musician father and growing up in Austin Texas, Miranda Dawn has been surrounded by music her whole life. With an ear full of melodies and lyrics, Dawn began writing at a young age, and she picked up the guitar at 16. It wasn’t until after earning a degree in Entrepreneurship & Cultural Communication, and a few “real jobs” mostly in health & wellness, volunteer & travel fields, that she began to explore performing music professionally.
The soul/funk band T-bird and the Breaks, saw a youtube video of Dawn performing a solo blues tune and invited her to tour with them as a back up singer. Dawn says she learned volumes about stage presence by being a part of a ten piece touring band. Inspired by the soulful sound of the band she began writing several of her own blues/funk originals.
She began performing her originals with members of Austin’s beloved folk-americana bands “The Hudsons” and “The Belleville Outfit” and soon formed her own band. Sharing a horn section with T-bird, the new band was called “Miranda Dawn and The Lucky Breaks”. The soul/funk/blues band prompted fans to “Get FUNKy, free your SOUL, and dance to the BLUES”. While leading the band and party, Miranda also yearned to be performing her acoustic songs in singer-songwriter intimate settings. Out of this urge she developed a collaborative website called SongwriterWeekly.com, where songwriters are encouraged to write, record, and share weekly. Songwriters can commit to a 52 week writing challenge and are showcased weekly on the site as well as in listening venues.
During one of her weekly showcases, Dawn shared the stage with local singer-songwriter Chris Hawkes. Their performance sparked the beginning of what would become their collaborative songwriting and performing acoustic duo. At the time, Hawkes had just begun recording his third solo album. He took notice of Miranda Dawn’s wide collection of raw acoustic material and urged her to record her own solo acoustic album.
“REASON TO FEEL ALIVE” was recorded in just two days, with a very organic sound- mostly live, living-room acoustic style. As soon as the album was pressed, the Dawn and Hawkes shared a tour of the US promoting their new releases. Based on tracks from Reason to Feel Alive, Dawn was selected as an Emerging Songwriter in the 2012 Kerrville New Folk Competition and performed at the Festival in May 2012. Their catalog of shared and co-written material grew, and soon the name of their duo “Dawn & Hawkes” was coined. GOLDEN HEART, the debut Dawn & Hawkes EP was released in June of 2012. The album is a collaborative effort, featuring acoustic duo to full band sounds material the two crafted, mostly while on tour together.
TWENTY QUESTIONS 2011
1. Why did you become a songwriter?
At first it wasn’t really something I decided to do, it was more like a habit I couldn’t quit. Once I realized that my songs could be of significance to more folks than just myself I decided to commit to performing publicly and to recording my work.
2. How old were you when you started writing and performing, and how did you start?
I was nine years old when I wrote my first song. I remember spending recess on the playground songwriting with my best friend. I had a super cool fourth grade teacher who let us perform our songs for the class. My dad was also very supportive. He’s a musician; he plays drums, guitar and mandolin. He greatly influenced my ear for melodies and rhythm. When I wrote my first song, dad introduced me to a four track recorder and we cut my first single in a day. I was pretty stoked about the way he made it sound like an entire band had been on the recording when really it had just been the two of us. When I was about 16, I began to pick up the guitar and teach myself to play a few chords out of which I wrote ten or more songs. Performing though, was something I was still hesitant about. Not because I was shy, it was more that I thought of songwriting as a hobby for myself rather than a profession as it was for the real “professional musicians” I had grown up around here in Austin.
I tried my hand at several ‘other than songwriting’ professions while getting my degree in business entrepreneurship. First I worked in the non-profit sector developing creative after-school programs for youth, and later at a travel & volunteer organization. I also helped open a few small businesses, a sno cone stand ‘South Austin Sno’ , a girls summer camp ‘CampSHE’, and local spa and wellness studios. Then one day, through a sharp turn of life events and relationship changes, I realized I had never given my full attention to songwriting and performing. I had a list of fifty something songs that had yet to be shared with more than a handful of close friends. So for me it was one of those now or never moments. I think when you set your mind to something that you feel inspired and pulled to do, life has a way of affirming your decision step by step. I’ve experienced a lot of these affirming moments since I set my course on music and though it has been a winding path, I feel it is the one I was always meant to be on.
3. What is your writing process like?
I tend to write as a stream of consciousness which I then go back and edit and whittle away at until I can say the most with as few words as possible. Sometimes though, it’s all there, and nothing to change. It feels lucky to get one that comes complete. Because I write in a stream of words, usually to a beat or chord progression, I always video/audio record while writing. I recently went back and looked at some of the video log I’ve collected from writing over the years and was surprised to see how often I am in pajamas. I suppose I get my best ideas when I first wake up, sort of like waking dreams not completely lost, not completely captured.
4. A year ago you started a virtual songwriting community called songwriterweekly.com. How did you come up with this idea and how has it grown since you began?
The idea behind SongwriterWeekly.com is simple- each week I post a phrase which any writer can use in a song they write, record, and share on the website. They have a week to write, record, and share. Each week the new songs are posted to the site and I also host a live showcase here in town. At first it was simply a fun idea, I didn’t know that anyone else would find it as fun as I did. But it’s really grown in the past year and now we’re starting a circuit of showcases all over. I created the site because I saw a need for a virtual community for writers, one that you didn’t have to be stationary to participate in. So many musicians carry a heavy tour schedule so this is something everyone can participate in from anywhere. And thanks to a recent collaboration with Austin based organization ‘House of Songs’ we even have contributors from as far away as Denmark!
5. You were raised in Austin, is there any other place you would call home?
I am certainly an Austin girl! I like it hot, I love Barton Springs, hiking the greenbelt with my doggy, going to hear a great band any night of the week, eating from the unique trailer eateries, and having the opportunities to play and collaborate with Austin’s awesome musicians. That said, I think staying in once place for too long is likely to lead to creative stagnation so I travel quite a bit to stay sane and inspired. Other cities that grab me are New Orleans, Nashville, Ft. Collins, Santa Fe and San Francisco. I’d love to live in each for a month or so out of the year. Throw in a regular trip to Europe and Central America and I’m livin my dream life.
6. What or who makes you feel most inspired?
… Traveling regularly.
7. You have a song titled “Phoenix Rebirth” with an alternate title “Boots & Cats”- what’s the significance?
Chris Hawkes taught me to beat box, I’m pretty sure he learned from John Pointer. Apparently it’s easier than you’d think, all you have to do is combine two common words Boots and Cats, then repeat and there you go- beat boxer. I demonstrate this in the song and love the audience to participate. It was Chris’s idea to add it in and now it’s an instant favorite. Plus I have dreams of becoming a master flower on the mic so beat boxing was my first step…
8. What are your pet peeves?
can cold weather be a pet peeve? I also really dislike waiting in line for the bathroom, control freaks, cold restaurants, the smell of tea tree oil, thinking inside the box, and chain complainers.
9. Do you have a secret talent, if so what is it?
I’m secretly really great and using Excel and I loooove it and would plan my life by it if possible. I also think of a new band name and a new iphone app just about every day- but who doesn’t? Wouldn’t it be great if we collected all these ideas in one collective space? There should be an app for that.
10. Favorite experience from your recent tour?
While on tour last week, Chris and I stumbled upon 30 acres of the most beautiful land in Missouri. The vibe of fall colors and scenery were so inspiring, we decided to shoot an impromptu music video for “Forever Happily” right there, on the spot! The land owners- an adorable older couple, Cecil and Wanda Frost, agreed to let as film the video so long and they could join in and watch (bargain deal)- we included them in the film too! Our friend Lance Sitton is to thank for his awesome film work and for the bright idea of making this special video in such an awesome spot.
11. It’s a dull day when…
I can’t go outside, or if I don’t create something.
12. Who’s on your ipod?
I’m currently listening to Bon Iver’s song Stacks on repeat. And I can’t wait to hear the new Ryan Adams album. I love the Greyhounds and of course there are all my go-to favs anything by- Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Carole King, The Beatles, Bob Marley. My favorite current female writers are Patty Griffin, Anais Mitchell, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Jenny Lewis.
13. Who do people say you sound like?
On tour I was getting a lot of references to Norah Jones which is super cool.
14. How do you reenergize?
Healthy me says- I love to eat a lot of fruits and veggies and love running and yoga. Not so healthy me says- iced coffee. The best energizer I’ve found is actually laughing- watching a good comedy and being in a relationship with an awesomely gifted goofball really adds a good does of laughter the day.
15. Do you prefer playing solo, duo, or with a full band?
I like all three for different reasons. I love arranging musical parts with a band. There are so many layers that talented players can add to a song. It’s like taking a simple recipe into a gourmet kitchen the possibilities are so enticing. I also love that it’s a collaborative creative expression with the band, we are the sum of our parts and I love being a part of it. Playing solo or as a duo is simpler as far as set up and preparation go, which really takes the logistical pressure off. I love the intimacy with the audience that a solo show provides and feel that I get to connect best with individuals through my solo shows. The duo with Chris is really special to me because I get to play with my favorite person, musical, and creative partner. It’s our thing that we get to do together but share with everyone.
16. If not a songwriter, what would your alternate career pathway have been?
Funny question since I tried so many other things first. Probably a teacher. I love connecting with kids during their teenage formative years and helping them to see the possibilities for their life. I would still like to do this through my summer camp. I have a ton of respect for teachers that are there everyday for their students year in and year out. I had several distinctly significant teachers growing up and am grateful for their influence.
17. In High School you were voted “Most Likely to Succeed”, what does success look like to you?
That title, as silly as it was, has sort of loomed over me ever since. Success to me is simply sustaining myself and my ability to continue to create everyday. If I can create daily, travel regularly, and take care of my loved ones, then I will have been a great success.
18. Where is your favorite place to song-write?
Usually in a place with a view. I like to sit on the front porch and write. If I’m inside, I find that I’m almost always facing a window.
19. Advice you wish someone would have given you when you were first starting out?
A psychic once told me this, well before I was writing and performing publicly – “You are a writer, you will always do this and something else too. You write and yes people will listen and in this way you help them. You have to do what you love. You are the entrepreneur of yourself. Patience and happiness. Patience and happiness.”