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Vancouver vs Nashville: Steve Dawson tells his story

Juno award winner Steve Dawson has been a bright light as a guitarist, music producer and label owner on the Vancouver folk music scene for years. So why leave all that success behind?

A local star talks about his recent move to Music City

Roots musician Steve Dawson performing at CBC Vancouver Studio One (CBCMusic)

Juno award winner Steve Dawson has been a bright light as a guitarist, music producer and label owner on the Vancouver folk music scene for years. So why leave all that success behind? Dawson talked to Jon Siddall about why he made the big move to Nashville.

Steve, the number one question has got to be, why move to Nashville?
My wife and I had been thinking about a move for over a year, and originally it was to Toronto. While that would have been an exciting move, the thought of going somewhere like Nashville, which is the epicentre of so much great music, seemed a little more enticing in the end. A fresh start in a new environment is what we were looking for, and this place really fit the bill. Plus it's way cheaper than Toronto!

Did you feel limited by Vancouver?
No, not limited at all - I felt like there is lots of opportunity there, and I have a great group of friends, musicians, promoters, etc. there that allowed me to have some great experiences over the last 20 years. I suppose I felt somewhat isolated producing and performing the kind of music that I do. There are not a lot of outlets for it in Vancouver, and it's starting to feel like people involved in the creation of music are getting pushed further out into the fringes.

Was it a difficult decision?
Not really. We felt ready to make a change. Deciding where to end up was the harder decision.

What’s been the best part about life in Nashville?

I came down about three months ago, but my wife and daughter just got here a month ago, so honestly, life here hasn't reached any sort of normalcy yet. We're just getting everything figured out. But while I've been here, I've seen and been involved in some great musical situations that seem too good to be true. 

What’s been the worst part about moving there?
The only hassle so far has been the red tape involved in moving to another country. It's not easy. The only other thing is that you can't walk anywhere - coming from a walking city like Vancouver, you take that for granted. We live on a street that has no sidewalks, so if we wanted to visit our neighbours, we'd have to drive!

Any special projects coming up in Nashville?

Honestly, a lot of my work right now is completing some projects that I had going in Vancouver. I'm making an album with Colleen Rennison that I'm really excited about, and Jim Byrnes and I knocked out our sixth album together before I left, that is going to be really awesome. So I'm adding some horns, singers, etc. to those albums down here, and I'll mix them here as well. Nashville is a pretty appealing town for people to want to come to make music, so I'm starting to line up more Canadian projects for down here. That was always my goal - to bring some of the Canadian artists I worked with down here, make some great albums, and get to know the local musicians and local studio scene that way. I also have three more trips to Canada before the end of the year!

What brings you to Vancouver this month?

I'm playing with Kat Danser on Oct. 18 at the Rogue Folk Club. I just produced an album for her, so it's her release show.

Will you be touring British Columbia and Canada sometime soon?

I have a big tour lined up for April/May of next year. It's just me and Keith Lowe on bass. Very stripped down and acoustic. I have a new album coming out in February called "Rattlesnake Cage" that is all acoustic instrumental guitar music - one mic in a room. So these shows will kind of reflect that.

About the Author

Jon Siddall

Music Producer

Jon Siddall is a guitarist, percussionist and composer living in Vancouver. He has written for a wide variety of instrumental ensembles both Western and non-Western. As a music producer for the CBC, Siddall has produced many recordings seen and heard across Canada. His interest in music is broad, having worked with such diverse individuals as John Cage, Noel Gallagher and F.X. Widaryanto.

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