Born to a family of musicians and race car drivers, Dawn Hiatt grew up singing in church in Western New York. Her family eventually resettled to the farmlands of Southern New Jersey outside Philadelphia. After finishing college, Dawn shuffled off to New York City where she began her career in writing and performing original music. Her experiences caring for orphans in Guatemala, teaching inner city middle school students in New York, working as a nanny in Chicago and traveling all over America have been instrumental in her songwriting. However, her life was drastically altered once she returned from these many travels and began work on her debut album The Waking Hours. While recording this record at Turtle Studios in Philadelphia Dawn not only began to find her voice as a songwriter, but the love of her life. Working with a group of local South Jersey based musicians she’d known for some time and the very best of Philadelphia’s studio musicians, she endeavored to capture her artistry and worldly travels in music under the guidance of producer, and soon-to-be husband, Jeff Hiatt. Now, all the richer for her continuing experience as a musician and songwriter and having undergone the transformation from hopeful musician and singer to established artist with a distinct and powerful voice, Dawn is treading forward, constantly exploring and reinventing and continually drawing on the roots of her family, faith, and love—all of which find their ultimate expression in her music.
The recording of The Waking Hours allowed her to condense her experiences into a singular artistic vision which has continued to evolve in the years since that record was originally released. She has been awarded winner of the Philadelphia Songwriters Project Songwriting Contest in both 2008 and 2009. She continues to perform sold out shows at Philadelphia's premier listening room, The Tin Angel, and has appeared at other prestigious listening rooms including World Cafe Live & Johnny Brendas as well as festivals and larger venues like The Philadelphia Folk Festival, The Bethlehem Musik Fest, and The Kimmel Center, not to mention participating in uniquely creative events such as the Birdie Busch curated Philly Opry this past year. She has shared stages with artists as diverse as The Lowlands and Chris Kasper, the experimental folk project Honey Watts, the chamber pop of Steve Goldberg and the working class rock n’ roll and folk of Johnny Miles & the Waywards. Recognized both for her talent and her open-mindedness, these opportunities led her to lending her talents on records by many of these artists as well as the projects of people like Rick Rappaport and art-rock band The Minor Arcana.
Dawn’s album, The Waking Hours, has received regular airplay on WXPN 88.5, was selected as XPN's "Pick of the Day" and was also featured on 93.7 WSTW Hometown Heroes. Soon to be re-released under her married name with additional tracks featuring the original players as well as a few additional musicians, The Waking Hours is sure to solidify and reaffirm Dawn’s status as one of Philadelphia’s premier songwriters. She also anticipates releasing an album of hymns soon, which harken back to her time singing in church. Her close collaboration with producer and husband Jeff Hiatt has also resulted in an ambitious and diverse collection of new songs which reflect her exploration of classic country, as well as her continued investigation of traditional Protestant hymns & gospel, independent music and a wide range of singer-songwriters. Her commitment to diversity and to challenging herself as a vocalist, musician, and songwriter are reminiscent of fiercely independent artists like Rickie Lee Jones and her introspective lyrics, emotive vocals and unique indie-pop sensibilites align her with artists such as Joan as Policewoman. However, her sense of history and acute awareness of musical tradition allow her to reference artists like Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, or even Joni Mitchell without sacrificing her refreshingly modern and original take on classic forms and structures. Indeed, the effortless movement and marriage between modern day indie, classic country, and the timeless melodies and intensity of gospel music and hymnals, demonstrates the same musical acuity and breadth of contemporary artists like Justin Townes Earle.
What remains consistent—indisputibly so—is Dawn’s commitment to her craft as a musician. Leaving her job as an English teacher, she has dedicated herself to a career as a full time professional musician, as a singer, songwriter, and as a piano teacher. Living with husband and producer Jeff Hiatt has afforded the opportunity essentially remain in constant pre-production for the nex batch of songs, the next exciting project. Dawn also plans to build on her already long-standing, diverse resume of touring destinations—having already been as far afield as Portland, OR and Nashville, TN, Dawn plans to revisit old stops and discover favorite new venues in the new cities she rolls into (more details on these upcoming tours will be available via Dawn’s website and other social media outlets). Dawn’s music and her lyrics remain an authentic and powerful distillation of her experiences as a traveller, a person of faith, a teacher, an ambitious and enthusiastic musical artist, and now a hopeful and dedicated professional musiician, wife, and accomplished songwriter. There is no part of Dawn’s life which has not been given breath by her music and no part of her music that is not an unflinchingly clear and passionate expression of the values, loves, and ambitions which sustain her life. In this instance, the artist and the person truly cannot and should not be seperated— and the music cannot and should not be missed.