Conversations: Jean Dawson in LA

I met Jean Dawson about a year ago at his show at the Roxy in LA through our mutual friend, director Bradley Calder.  Up until then I hadn’t really heard his music before & didn’t know much about him.  The energy of that crowd and show that night was just... special.  We became friends pretty quickly and now we all hangout & share what we’re all working on.

Jean hit me up about wanting a jacket for some upcoming shows & asked if we could customise them a little bit by attaching a removable hood to them.  In situations like this, the answer to customising is typically no, but I actually really liked the idea and wanted to make one for myself too.  So in a 6 hour period, morning of the recent LA show, I figured out how we could do it and repurposed some older hoodies we had laying around the office into hoods to go on the bomber jackets, detachable with snap buttons.

Jean is a super inspiring person in my life & consistently makes me want to work harder.  We always joke that most interviews musicians get to do follow a very cookie-cutter line of questioning like “How do you like tour?” or “what’s it like working with xyz artist?” so, before the show we sat down to do our own interview - hopefully to give a different perspective & opportunity to get to know Jean Dawson as a person a little better.


RC:  Why music?
JD:  Because it’s the only thing that gave me visibility within myself - which sounds deeper than it actually is - but what it really means is that I spent a lot of my life being invisible.  Not in the sake of popularity or people knowing me but, in the sake of my mom worked a lot and my dad was pretty much absent because of the military.  Music gave me perspective on my own identity.

RC:  What’s the energy of the music you listen to when you get up in the morning?
JD:  Usually pretty intense.  I like music that makes me feel like my blood is rushing somewhat. Definitely some harder, faster stuff.

RC:  When you listen to other people’s music, are you listening to the instruments or the vocals more?
JD:  In very short, it’s usually instrumentation first.  It depends how many times I’ve listened to the song, but on the first listen it’s mostly instruments.  Then it gives me another opportunity to go back and listen to it as a pure “ok, what do you mean by what you’re saying?”


RC:  Where do you think you would be without the internet, would you still be doing what you’re doing?
JD:  Absolutely.  I’d still be making music.  I’d hopefully be on CD shelves. 

RC:  How do you explain your music to someone who is under 25 vs how you would explain it to someone who’s over 50?
JD:  The way I explain my music to someone who’s under 25 usually revolves around the feeling that it is.  The abstract answer is music that makes you want to jump around.  And not to infantilize the question but somebody under 25 it’s like it depends on what you’re looking for in that music - It changes depending on what genre I participate in.  The way I like to explain it to someone younger, you know one of my biggest influences when I was younger was Kanye West, so that, but in terms of a rock perspective.  And when someone is older than 50, the way I explain it is my biggest influence to this day is Prince.  It’s kinda like a Swiss Army Knife, where depending on how I feel and what I want to do, that will dictate how I make that music.  So if somebody is like “is it rock? is it this? is it that?”, I’m like it’s whatever I want it to be at the time and that’s where I start to get abstract and lose them in the conversation… but it’s the only way I know how to answer it. 

RC:  How do you know when a project is done?
JD:  When every time I tinker with it further it becomes worse.  When it reaches that point of “I think this is good and I think I’m adding something that’s going to make it better” and it doesn’t make it better, that’s when it’s done.

RC:  Do you prefer touring or small runs of shows like these?
JD:  That’s hard, they both serve a specific purpose.  I like touring because I get to see more people and share on a wider scale.  Smaller show runs for me sometimes I don’t get enough.  I feel like when I’m done, say I’ve done 4 shows back to back, I feel like I could do another 15 shows.  I’m ready to keep going. 

RC:  What’s your favourite city in the US that isn’t one of the major cities like an LA or NYC?
JD:  Denver, Colorado.  When I perform there It always feels like I’m at home for some reason, it feels like a hometown show.  I love the audience out there and the general atmosphere of Denver is pretty sick. 

RC:  Money is no object, what is one piece of art you would want to have?
JD:  Kurt Cobain’s Fiesta Red Jag-Stang.

RC:  Last album you downloaded?
JD:  The winter Apple Music playlist.

RC:  Last thing you ate?
JD:  A cantaloupe.

RC:  Last file open on photoshop on your computer?
JD:  The flyer for the show tonight.

RC:  In one word, what’s a piece of advice you would give to someone who is pursuing a creative career?
JD:  Failure.


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