Q&A with Canada based singer-songwriter Dawn Tyler Watson - pushes the boundaries of Blues into a new dimension

"Blues was an expression of community and solidarity. And it was the beginnings of all western popular music. From jazz to Rock and Roll. Motown, Soul, R n' B, Hip-Hop and even Rap can all be traced back to it."

Dawn Tyler Watson: Lady Sings The Blues

With more than two decades of performing arts in her playbook and five albums to her credit, Montreal based singer-songwriter Dawn Tyler Watson has earned her place among Canada’s Blues elite. Her fiery stage presence has garnered her national and international recognition. She has recently been awarded a Blues Blast Music Award for Female Artist of the Year, and has also just been nominated for four 2019 Canadian Maple Blues Awards, including Best Album, for her latest effort, “Mad Love” (2019). The world-class singer-songwriter is at her best with these 12 new songs backed by the powerhouse, horn-driven Ben Racine Band. For this 5th album, her 2nd with the band, Watson dug deep. Her songs are more introspective than ever, inspired by a tumultuous past few years yielding ever-growing success as an artist, coupled with her own personal heartbreak.     (Dawn Tyler Watson / Photo by Jerry Cadieux)

Add this to the three MBA’s she already has, the nine Quebec Lys Blues Awards, and a Screaming Jay Hawkins Award for Live Performance, and you’ve got a decorated and consummate performer. Since hooking up with a 7-piece killer band fronted by award-winning guitarist Ben Racine, Watson’s star has been on the rise. Taking home, the coveted first-place prize at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2017, she’s been spinning magical moments on stage and sharing her soul light across four continents with shows that truly move the spirit. With a sound that’s infused with Jazz, Soul, Rock, and Gospel, Watson pushes the boundaries of traditional Blues into a whole new dimension.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Music makes everything better, including current events. Having a creative outlet with which to express whatever I'm feeling is one of the greatest gifts of being a musician.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

My repertoire ranges through many styles...since I studied jazz, I have an arsenal of Jazz standards in my pocket. As for the rest, other than my own original songs, I have some soul, R&B, Funk & Blues classics. My creative drive has always been with me. I think we all have it. We're born with it. I am just fortunate enough to have an outlet for it.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I have opened for and/or shared the stage with people like Koko Taylor, James Brown, Susan Tedeschi and Cyndi Lauper. All unforgettable experiences that affected me musically and emotionally! I'll never forget the encounters. The best advice I was ever given is to be myself. Not compare myself to other singers. We are all unique.

"Blues fans are aging, and I worry that there are not enough young people to keep the art form going. When I play a festival, I look out on the crowd and its mostly 55+ I see. I feel like the fan base is dwindling and we need to support programs like Blues in Schools to keep the tradition and the history of the Blues alive." (Dawn Tyler Watson / Photo by Laura Carbone, 2019)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Working with producer Frankie Thiffault on my sophomore solo album Jawbreaker. We recorded it in his house...Nicolas Estor, my drummer was the engineer. We begged, borrowed or rented whatever gear we needed and set to it, converting his basement into a state of the art studio! I was at his house every day...it was an intense collaboration and took about 2 months, but we got the result we were looking for. The production on the record was so good, that we repeated the process for the last album as well. It showed me how making an album was really a team effort.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Blues fans are aging, and I worry that there are not enough young people to keep the art form going. When I play a festival, I look out on the crowd and its mostly 55+ I see. I feel like the fan base is dwindling and we need to support programs like Blues in Schools to keep the tradition and the history of the Blues alive.

What characterizes Canadian blues in comparison to US and European scenes? What touched (emotionally) you?

I have always felt that European fans, in general, seem to have a greater knowledge of Blues history, and dare I say, a deeper respect for its roots. North American fans like the music and may know quite a few of the artists. But other than a few of the more musicological inclined, many aren't really aware of where it comes from.

"Music makes everything better, including current events. Having a creative outlet with which to express whatever I'm feeling is one of the greatest gifts of being a musician." (Photo: Dawn Tyler Watson)

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

I think women in the Blues are on the rise...being only the second woman in 33 years to win the International Blues Challenge in 2017, it was a bit of a surprise. But a woman has one every year since then! Our time done come!

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

As a raw authentic expression of feelings, I don't think Blues was meant to be political...it was simply an outlet for what was going on in the African American reality at the time. Blues was an expression of community and solidarity. And it was the beginnings of all western popular music. From jazz to Rock and Roll. Motown, Soul, R n' B, Hip-Hop and even Rap can all be traced back to it.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Back to the Cotton Club in the 30's. I'd like to have been a fly on the wall to see people like Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, and Cab Calloway perform!

Dawn Tyler Watson - Home

(Dawn Tyler Watson / Photo by L.Calman)

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