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In five words or less: "Dave Matthews sings Rich Mullins." A prolific singer-songwriter hailing from Portland, Oregon; Dawson penned his first tune 21 years ago and never looked back.
Starting in 1999 with his first studio album, "Swirling Waters Tug" he has managed to record nearly 200 songs spanning 12 full-length records, including his most recent collection of pop love songs "Looking Up At The Same Star".
He started by playing piano by ear at a young age and picked up the flute in 7th grade when he joined the band. He continued playing flute through high school and picked up the guitar toward the end of his Junior year. He continued to develop his guitar playing and songwriting skills when he went away to college; leading worship at church and for small home Bible studies, and sharing songs at Campus Life meetings.
"Music is a large part of my life," Dawson says. "It's the way I express frustration, happiness, joy, grief and how I share, hopefully useful, tidbits of wisdom that I've usually learned the hard way along this journey of life." Which is why his songs so often strike a chord with his listeners that allows them to relate on a deeply personal level.
Instead of focusing on negative, relationship bashing topics, or shallow surface level indulgences his lyrics are often full of depth and serious soul searching. "To me the lyrics are the key," Dawson explains. "If the lyrics are not creative enough to draw me in and they don't say something useful or meaningful, then why bother listening?" And his songs definitely reflect this intimate act of sharing bits and pieces of his own life. From "When I Find Forever" which speaks of the sorrow in losing his father to cancer and the hope of reuniting again one day in Heaven; to "Peace" which is a cry out to God for his peace that passes all understanding in the midst of a financial struggle.
"My songs often borrow directly from scripture passages that I might be reading at the time, or ones that come to mind while I'm struggling with a particular issue," Dawson says. "People have asked me how I've written some of the songs that I've shared at churches and coffee shops and I've had to laugh and point out that the words were there all along; albeit with some minor poetic license and modern tweaking to fit them to a given melody."
"I want to be able to bring words of hope and comfort to those who are lost and hurting, to share the joys and source of strength I've found through my friendship with Jesus. It's not about me. It's not about fame or recognition." In fact, Dawson admits that he is usually nervous on stage and would rather not be up in front of people singing. "Several times I have forgotten my own lyrics and had to improvise and my friends in the front row will give me an odd look as if to say "that's not how that song goes!" But I know that I have been given these gifts to share truth and hope through music and song, so I keep getting back up to do it again - even with the butterflies! At the end of the day if people come to me and share how a particular song has helped them through a difficult time or brightened their day, or more importantly brought them to a closer walk with the Lord, then I feel like I've done something worthwhile."
As one fan, Zach Garland, describes "[Dawson plays] nice jazzy rock, with very creative lyrics; a message that doesn't hit you over the head. Dawson honors his God and shares the happiness he feels without insulting a non-Christian's intelligence. He's just got something cool he wants to share. Take note gang. Make music this good, and non-Christians will listen. Take it to the river; don't keep it in the church."
Currently 7 of Dawson's full-length recordings are still in print and available online through iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon.com and other retailers. He has a few new singles that were released this year, Turn Your Eyes and Happy Ever After, and is currently in the studio working on several new CD projects simultaneously.
Dawson lives just outside of Portland, Oregon with his wife Jessica. He wrote most of the love songs found on Looking Up At The Same Star for her while they were courting, proposed with the song "Cord of Three Strands" and then wrote several more after they got married in January 2009. If you live in the area he frequently shares special music at Athey Creek Christian Fellowship and plays at various coffee shops including Insomnia Coffee Company.