Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Dawn Landes

presspassGOODThere are a variety of ways in which Dawn Landes’s skill as a songwriter is readily apparent. Flawlessly crafted song construction, contemplative lyrics and siren’s-call voice among them.  However there’s one subtlety to her writing process that reveals an even defter understanding of her art.

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Dawn Landes (Photo: Alex Solmssen)

 

There are a variety of ways in which Dawn Landes’s skill as a songwriter is readily apparent. Flawlessly crafted song construction, contemplative lyrics and siren’s-call voice among them.  However there’s one subtlety to her writing process that reveals an even defter understanding of her art.

Like many songwriters, Landes often divines her inspiration while she’s out observing the world around her. But despite a passion for bike riding in her urban environment of New York — she’s had seven different bikes stolen, but keeps buying new ones — she finds herself more creative when she’s out of the saddle and pounding the pavement on foot. The reason?

“Walking and running are more rhythmic,” she says.

To hear her discuss the subtleties of her songwriting process, it’s even easier to appreciate the talent that has made her one of the hot names in New York’s singer-songwriter scene. It’s also clear why so many other big names (Hem, Midlake, Josh Ritter, Alexi Murdoch and the Swell Season) have taken time to share the stage and tour with her.

The Louisville, Ky.-born Landes first broke onto the scene with a pair of self-released titles — the aptly named LP Dawn’s Music, and an EP titled two three four — before catching more attention with 2008 album Fireproof. “Straight Lines,” off Fireproof, snagged placement in ads both domestically and abroad in addition to catching the ear of many music aficionados. Music mag “Paste” gushed that Landes “writes her best songs from the seat of the aimless dreamer and paints her surroundings with an inviting haze of solace.”

She also left a lasting impression with Americana/folk act Hem, who happened to be recording an album at the studio where Landes worked as an engineer. “My whole entrance into the whole New York scene was working in that studio. I started off as a peon getting coffee for people and kind of worked my way up,” she says.

Landes began by sitting and watching the band work, then eventually was brought on board as a “sometimes member” to harmonize with vocalist Sally Ellyson and play the glockenspiel.

It’s safe to say they were taken by the same qualities that have endeared her to a rapidly growing fan base. The foremost of those is her beguiling voice; one that mingles seduction with comfort and lures audiences closer to the stage with every breath.

Of course, to hear her tell the story of her vocal development, that wasn’t always the case.

“It takes you a long time to find your voice. With the bands I was in during high school and tapes I made before the days of MySpace, I’m so shocked [to hear my voice] and so glad that stuff is not available,” Landes says.

While Landes’s strong suit may be the playful, stargazing tunes in the vein of “Straight Lines,” she’s not afraid to dabble outside of her comfort zone. That’s how some heavier, rock and roll tunes (“Young Girl”) have landed on her latest release, Rodeo Sweet Heart. She even took a stab at remixing one of her tunes as a rap, but eventually backed off.

“You just explore,” Landes says of her search to find what works.  “Because I got so involved in production while working at the studio, the more I felt I could explore different sonic universes.”

One universe she’s currently exploring is that of the old-timey female trio, a la the Ronettes. Dubbed the Bandana Splits, Landes and two fellow female singers are turning back the clock to the ‘60s and currently have three songs up on their MySpace page.

More could be on the way after Landes returns from the road, but in the meantime fans will get to enjoy her solo stylings. She’s currently on a tour with Nada Surf that will swing through D.C. at the 9:30 Club on April 2. Tickets are $20 and doors open at 8 p.m.

• For more on Dawn Landes, visit myspace.com/dawnlandes.


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