Blues/rocker Dan Lawson talks about South Dakota's bike week, Jeff Beck, Mark Farner, Duane, & his guitars

"It’s dedication and passion in what you do that will be reflected in your music.  Surround yourself with positive and good people."

Dan Lawson: Music is infinite

Dan Lawson’s reputation as one of America’s premiere guitar players speaks for itself. Dan and his style have evolved into a charismatic blues-rock sound like no other! He’s a singer-songwriter of stylistic depth and emotional resonance. His ability to connect with live concert audiences is transformational, and his new album will bring that same energy.

Growing up in a small Maryland Town at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Dan was always around great family musicians. Dan does not just play guitar, his guitar tells a story of passion and soul! Dan’s music is a vast mix of Rock, Blues, Jazz, and Funk! The band allows the music to speak for them! Dan has performed for Sturgis Bike Week in Sturgis, South Dakota, with national acts Kid Rock, Joe Walsh, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Thorogood, Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, Toby Keith and Papa Roach. The Dan Lawson Band is always a crowd favorite during Sturgis and Daytona Bike Weeks. From an early age the heart of 5years old the blues was embedded in Dan.  At the age of 16, and with tremendous talent, Dan would sneak into clubs in order to perform with Boston Blues greats such as James Montgomery and Weepin’ Willie Robinson to name a few.

Dan has had the honor of sharing the stage with rock legends such as Mark Farner, John Mayall, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Chris Layton, The 4 Tops, Jr. Walker’s Allstar’s, Bad Company, Styx, R.E.O. Speedwagon, Rick Derringer, Vanilla Fudge, Blue Oyster Cult, Molly Hatchet, Edgar Winter, ZZ Top, .38 Special, John Kay.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Dan, when was your first desire to become involved in the music & who were your first idols?  

At the age of 5, my uncle Roy was a guitar player for the very popular country star named Tex Ritter.  It was at that time, listening to him play the guitar and hearing his stories of the road, that I knew that’s what I wanted to do and it was my calling..

What made you fall in love with the blues music? What does the BLUES mean to you & what does MUSIC offered you? 

Blues music captures the soul.  It brings out the emotion and experiences that we all have.  It is also very guitar oriented.  It is the root of rock and roll.  Music has allowed me to meet many people, it’s allowed me to see many places and it’s allowed me to express myself through my songwriting and my performances.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst? 

My best moment in my career was performing for the families of the victims of 9/11 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH.  I was honored to participate with some of the world’s most amazing musicians and for the families to give them a moment of an evening of love, healing and music.  The worst part of my career was coming home from a tour and my teenage son was killed by a drunk driver.  That day changed my life forever.  The instrumental on my album titled “In The Nick of Time” is my song to my son Nick.  I have never performed this song live and I’m not sure I ever could.  At this moment, it was my quiet time dedicated to my son while I was in the studio.

How do you describe Dan Lawson’s sound? What characterize your music philosophy? 

 I would describe it as big and full and very textured.  I normally tell people that if you like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Hendrix, Lynyrd Skynyrd, you’re sure to enjoy our show.  I have a very full tone in my guitar when I play.  For me, my tone defines me as a guitar player.  Music is very hard to characterize.  Each song, each album is a product of different experiences and different places in my life.  Music is infinite. 

Do you remember anything funny or interesting from  Boston clubs in order to perform with James Montgomery and Weepin’ Willie Robinson? 

I was 17 years old when I played with James Montgomery.  I was too young to be in clubs so they used to sneak me in the back door.  I would play with James at night and then go to school the next day.  Weepin’ Willie Robinson, was an amazing soul.  His mastery of the blues and his ability to relay the story was powerful.  He was my wife’s favorite dance partner.  Weep was always smooth and one of my dear friends. 

What’s on your pedal board? What’s your main guitar and amp right now? 

My pedal board has all my toys.  All of my pedals are custom built.  My pedals consist of : A Robert Keeley BD-2, Gig-FX Mega Wah, A custom Baldera Tube Tone, Baldera BB Booster, Baldera Analog Delay, Baldera Orange Slice A/B, Baldera Mosfet, Baldera Uncle Mike 12DB Booster, CMAT Mods Analog Chorus Pedal, Peterson Strobe Tuner Stomp Classic, and Sonuus G2M midi converter..

I use several Fender Strats loaded with DiMarzio Pickups of various configurations and ages with the help of these great people: Derek Brooks with Ernie Ball Strings, Sheldon Lavineway and Rusty Bickford with Trem-King tremolos, string saver saddles, string trees and string nuts all by Graph Tech Guitar Labs.  My 1956 Fender Stratocaster with DiMarzio pickups, 1951 Fender NoCaster guitar, 1969 Fender Stratocaster and an early series SRV Stratocaster.

I use a custom-built Mesa/Boogie “Lawman” Lonestar, 100 watts and a Mesa/Boogie custom-built Electra-Dyne, 100 watts, two custom-designed 4- and 12-inch speakers in custom-built cabinets. A custom built Mesa Boogie Trans/Atlantice 30 combo for my smaller venues.  Thank you, Tim McKee, at Mesa Engineering.

How do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting? 

My songwriting starts with a tune or melody.  I work that until I feel where they lyrics fit into it.  For me it has to feel the tune or melody is reaching for the lyrics to expressed.  My mentors in songwriting are Mark Farner and Greg Allman.

Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I believe it comes from each place.  I believe our brain draws on memories of life experiences and reminds us of what we felt in our hearts.  The soul adds the creativity to bring it through music.  Music is such a powerful medium of expression.  I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to create and share my experiences.

In 10 years I hope I’m doing the same thing I’m doing now.  Playing music and time with my family.  This is what I love to do and I want to do it for as long as I can.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Sturgis Bike Week in South Dakota? 

In between performing during Sturgis Bike Week, I donate my time to the Ft. Meade Veteran’s Hospital.  There is no greater joy and  honor to play for our nation’s heroes.  During one particular acoustic performance, one of the patient’s great grandson crawled up onto my lap and he sat there for the rest of performance.  To see his family light up really made my whole week.

You have played with many musicians. It must be hard, but would you try to give, which gigs have been the biggest experiences for you? And why? 

My shows with Mark Farner were my biggest experiences.  Not only did I learned how to command a stage, how to connect with an audience and most importantly, the sense of self and family.  He is a treasured friend and mentor and I’m blessed to have.

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet? From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music? 

I’d have to say Jeff Beck.  Jeff has been able to make transitional changes from rock to blues as he got older.  There are too many amazing talents to just pick one, they have all contributed to the genre of blues both old and new.  We really are lucky to have so many great talents to learn from.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES 

Blues is the root of all music.  It is the foundation and building blocks for many forms of music today. My wish for Blues is for the younger generation to be educated on the blues and understand where blues music and blues musicians came from.

Are there any memories of all GREAT musicians you meet which you’d like to share with us? 

I’ve been very fortunate to have played with so many amazing musicians.  And I have so many fond memories of each experience it is difficult to pick one.  I just feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be part of it.  Although, my food fight with ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons in Ottowa Canada is certainly one of my fondest memories. 

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft? 

First, be passionate about what you do.  Be prepared to work your way up.  It’s dedication and passion in what you do that will be reflected in your music.  Surround yourself with positive and good people.  I always say, the ones you pass on the way up the ladder are the same people you will see on the way down so make sure you are honest and respectful to fellow musicians.

How do you describe your contact to people when you are on stage? What do you appreciate the most after a gig? 

People want to connect with you.  I’m myself on stage.  I share my personal stories, I listen to the crowd.  We have fun with them.  At that moment they are part of the band and part of the show. I always appreciate hearing “your band sounds great together”.  My band is an output of the sum, no individual.  My band members are amazing.  Jason Adams on bass and Tim Provost on drums are truly my brothers in music and an important part of my extended family.

How you would spend a day with Duane Allman? What would you say to Jeff Beck? 

A day with Duane Allman would be a day filled with talking guitars, playing the blues and a day of bass fishing as Duane Allman was also avid bass fisherman.  

To Jeff Beck I would say, where did you learn to use the whammy bar like that!

What is the “think” you miss most today, from the old days of Southern blues rock? 

The close proximity you only found in small blues clubs or venues that is so hard to find nowadays.  The intimate setting of artist and fan enjoying a spiritual moment together.

I presume that big part of your life is somehow connected with blues. Do you have any hobbies, which do not have anything to do with music? 

I love fishing.  My wife and I very much enjoy bass fishing and I always bring fishing poles with me on the road because you never know when you will find a perfect lake or pond when you travel. And we love fishing with our grandkids.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why? What turns you on? Happiness is……

By far the most interesting period in my life is my role as a father and grandfather.  The memories of my children coming to band practice, attending my shows are priceless.  Two years ago my 15 year old grandson Matthew played bass for me at the New England Blues Festival.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Good music is what I look forward to.  Playing music or hearing music from another musician is the biggest thrill.  It’s always enjoyable to see what others do and learn.  We are always learning, refining and that’s why I love about music.

To me, Happiness is…music so pure and genuine it can heal the heart, mind and soul.

Dan Lawson – Official website

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