Desirée Dawson: Wild Heart
It’s not often you find the words “rocking stages” and “ukulele” in the same sentence, but you will on Desirée Dawson’s website. The singer/songwriter has crafted a unique sound and carved out a unique musical space, complementing her pure voice with the rarely heard sound of the baritone ukulele in emotionally charged tracks.
The ability to do something different – and to be confident while doing it – was hard won. She says if she could go back in time and give herself advice, it would be, “Dear Desirée, Stop comparing, stop judging yourself so hard. Please just stick to your path of loving, connecting and singing sweet songs… and just keep the music coming… the music that comes from your heart. You don’t need to be anyone else. Explore you. And BE YOU.”
Last year, fans and music industry eminences chose the native of White Rock, B.C., who’s now based in Vancouver, as the winner of CBC’s Searchlight 2016 competition. She released her first album, Wild Heart, earlier this year, and singles from the album have made CBC Radio 2’s Top 20 list more than once.
While Desirée had sung songs literally since she was in her childhood crib, it’s only in the last few years that she began songwriting and mastering her new instrument. After learning the piano and guitar, and finding affinity for neither, Desirée heard a friend in Maui play the soprano ukulele. She fell in love with it. Back in Vancouver, she went into a world music store with the intention of buying the smaller soprano her friend had played. Then she saw the “big one” – and decided that was the instrument for her.
After the Searchlight win, Shad, host of CBC Radio 2’s Q, observed that the somewhat modest sound of the ukulele really put her voice front and centre. Desirée replied that she considers her voice her main instrument. A serious yoga practitioner, and a yoga teacher for the last three years, she said she found that the practice helped her find her voice – literally. Her voice changed when she was able to live in the moment. Listen, and you’ll hear a rare immediacy and a presence in her singing and lyrics.
“I love telling stories,” says Desirée. “I pull inspiration from watching my friends and family grow and change and seeing the same in my own life. Basically I am inspired by anyone I meet along this journey and the emotions they express or invoke in me.”
Her Blundstones reflect her approach to her songs. “The music I make is all about getting acquainted with all sides of yourself. A lot of my inspiration comes from connecting to our true selves through nature. Blundstone brand seems to be all about getting outside, getting messy and feeling comfortable and grounded enough to live life your way.”
Just as she’d tell her younger self to “keep doing what you do… stop doubting yourself and the power you have,” Desirée would inspire younger artists with her insight to, “Be yourself no matter what. Get to know yourself and what you truly want from life and from your music career. Commit to your art and let it shine through honestly and genuinely. Even when it seems like everything is falling to pieces, don’t give up! This industry is just a giant a roller coaster, so ride it. YOU’VE GOT THIS.”