September 2017 Residency at the Hideout

I am very excited to announce that I will be doing a residency in September at the Hideout. Here are the details: Monday, Sept 4th: Dolly Varden will play “The Panic Bell” on the 10th anniversary of the album, followed by a set of new songs slated for our 7th album. I’ve been actively writing and the band has been recording since March. We’re about halfway through making a new record. We’re recording at my home studio, Kernel Sound Emporium. Tickets and more info here Monday, Sept 11th: Steve Dawson and Mark Caro’s “Take It To The Bridge” Bridge-tacular featuring Kelly Hogan, Casey McDonough, Nora O’Connor, Rachel Drew, Gerald Dowd, Bill Brickey, Alton Smith and others. Based on the title of the songwriting book I co-wrote with Mark Caro, “Take It To The Bridge: Unlocking The Great Songs Inside You,” we’ve asked some of Chicago’s best singers to sing songs that that contain their favorite bridge, the most misunderstood part of a song. This will be a one-of-kind show. Tickets and more info here Monday, Sept 25: Funeral Bonsai Wedding with Strings. Funeral Bonsai Wedding is me on guitar & vocal, Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone, Jason Roebke on upright bass and Gerald Dowd on drums (since Frank Rosaly now lives in Amsterdam!) For this show we will be joined by Melissa Bach’s Quartet Parapulie. We’ll play a bunch of new songs as we aim toward recording a new album in 2018, along with songs from our debut album. Tickets and more info here The Hideout 1354 W. Wabansia Chicago, IL 60642 773.227.4433 all shows 7pm, $10


NEW DOLLY VARDEN ALBUM IN THE WORKS I’m pleased to report that we’ve had two very productive all-day recording sessions and we already have the bulk of 6 songs tracked. We’re recording at my home studio, Kernel Sound Emporium. I’d say we’re looking at an early 2018 release at this point. That could change as we move along. I’ll keep you all posted! RESIDENCY AT THE HIDEOUT IN SEPTEMBER I’m VERY excited to announce that I’ll be doing a residency at the Hideout in Chicago in September. Here’s the info so far: Monday, 9/4: Dolly Varden plays “The Panic Bell” We’ll play the full album to celebrate it’s 10th anniversary, then we’ll play a bunch of the new songs we’re working on for our next album Monday, 9/11: The Take It To The Bridge All Star Bridge-Tacular! Some of Chicago’s best singers will perform their favorite songs with great bridges, at this celebration for Steve and Mark Caro’s songwriting book. Slated to perform are: Kelly Hogan, Gerald Dowd, Casey McDonough, Nora O’Connor, Rachel Drew and more, this could change due to various touring schedules, etc. Monday, 9/25: Funeral Bonsai Wedding with Strings Myself, Jason Adasiewicz, Jason Roebke and Gerald Dowd will be joined by the amazing Quartet Parapulie in this one of a kind concert. We’ll do songs from the FBW debut album, and a bunch of new songs as we prepare to make a new album.


I thought I’d write a bit about what I’m up to because I keep having people ask me what I’m up to and I can’t seem to answer. I just stand there and stare back. The nearly 2-year long election process and it’s unexpected aftermath have left me in a near constant state of disbelief. Stunned by the fact that we live in a country where basically half the people are more or less fine with a cartoonishly cruel and ignorant man-child like Donald Trump as president, I have had trouble seeing the point of making up new songs. Plenty of people are saying that art is more important now than ever. That is probably true. I find that I am slowly slowly getting some inspiration and drive back. Then back into the pit of existential despair for a day or two. I imagine you are probably in a similar deal. Pretty much everyone I know is. I have been writing stuff off and on since Funeral Bonsai Wedding was recorded in 2014 and I’ve accumulated a little stack of songs that I don’t hate. I have been trying to heed Stevie Wonder’s plea to fill the world with LOVE songs. Between songs at the 2015 ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ show, he said something like, “Songwriters, it’s up to you to fill the world with love songs. Not ‘gettin’ it on’ songs – there’s plenty of those – but love songs. Let’s fill the world with love songs.” I took it as a directive from a master teacher and some of the best things I’ve come up with lately are inspired by that statement. Above is a video of a performance of a new song called, “However Long It Takes,” that aims in that direction, from a show at FitzGerald’s a couple weeks ago, with Dolly Varden’s Mark Balletto and Diane Christiansen, Funeral Bonsai Wedding’s Jason Adasiewicz, and bassist John Abbey. So now it’s time to make the songs into records. Dolly Varden has had one all-day session at my studio, Kernel Sound Emporium. It went really well and we tracked 4 songs, 2 of which I think are keepers. We’ve played both at shows a couple times and I’m excited to share them eventually. We’re recording again at the end of May and we hope to track a few more. There’s still a lot of work to be done so I’m thinking that with tracking, mixing, mastering and what-not, we’re looking at an early 2018 release. Similarly, I’m aiming to make a second Funeral Bonsai Wedding later this year that will, hopefully, come out in 2018. So I’m working on growing that stack of songs and deciding which ones might work best in which context. Some might work in both settings… Much of 2015 and 16 was spent writing, editing and finalizing the songwriting book I co-wrote with Mark Caro, “Take It To The Bridge: Unlocking the Great Songs Inside You.” Like you, I am wary of anyone who tells you they know how to do something as individual and subjective as songwriting. I really hope no one thinks that’s what this book is about!  I’m in no way an ‘expert’ on songwriting and I do not have any “answers”. But I do think about the creative process and songwriting a lot, I’ve spent over 30 years slogging away through the highs and lows of writing, and in the classes I teach at the Old Town School of Folk Music I do seem to be able to get people writing. The book is meant to be akin to “Writing Down The Bones,” by Natalie Goldberg: not a ‘how-to’ book, more of a ‘you already know how-to, so get out of your own way and get to work’ book. (I need to learn to take my own advice.) I have heard from quite a few people that the book has been inspiring, so in that respect, mission accomplished. Mark and I are hosting a 3 day songwriting workshop in Michigan this summer as an extension of the book and it’s nearly sold out. It should be really fun and inspiring. Maybe it would be just right for you… So I’m looking forward to a productive spring and summer of writing and recording. Not a lot of shows outside of playing as a sideman for others, which is always fun. Upcoming show details below. I’ve booked a residency at the Hideout in September – a month of Mondays. You’ll be hearing a lot about that as details come in. Shows and such May 12: Boswell Books / Milwaukee May 23: Dylan ’76 at SPACE June 4: Birdee Num Num at Simons (me, Phil Angotti, Casey McDonough, Jim Barclay) June 11: Printer’s Row Lit Fest 11am (Mark Caro & SD talk songwriting) June 23: Rachel Drew and the Bitter Roots at the Hideout (SD on bass) June 24: afternoon: Cally and The Snag in Roger’s Park (SD on guitar) June 24: evening: Split Single at SPACE (SD on guitar)

Talking About Songwriting with Elysabeth Alfano – Podcast

I had the great fortune recently to chat with Elysabeth Alfano of The Dinner Party, about music, songwriting and the new book, “Take It To The Bridge: Unlocking The Great Songs Inside You,” that I co-wrote with Mark Caro. We talk about what first got me interested in guitar and songwriting and dig into the songwriting process. Elysabeth is a great, enthusiastic interviewer and I sang a couple of songs live. Give it a listen! LISTEN THE PODCAST NOW