Say goodbye to Bro-Country and hello to SHOW COUNTRY.
Country artist Misty Dawn has a running joke that her parents gave her the most 1970’s porn-star name possible — and yes, that’s her real name. While the Fort Worth, Texas native is definitely not an adult entertainer, she’s passionate about performance and has made a lifelong career out of it.
Since the age of six, she has been performing in professional theatre and television productions. From hosting a video game review show on TV to being one of the puppet-artists-in-residence at St. Ann’s Warehouse for a season, Misty Dawn has a knack for exploring the art of storytelling. With a Theatre degree, several off-Broadway productions, and a few international tours under her belt it’s no surprise that she’s infused her theatrical upbringing into her music.
You wrote, “I’m ready for music to consume me.” That was in response to your coach as you returned to singing after focusing on building your travel platform. What inspired you to become a more sustainable traveler and start Green Suitcase Travel?
I lived in NYC for close to 10 years and during that time I sort of developed a strong inclination towards the motto leave a place better than you found it. You know, you’re face to face every day with the good, bad, and the ugly (and you’re part of it). You really learn what it means to be part of a community and to create a symbiotic relationship with total strangers! So, when I started traveling more, I carried that idea with me. I started blogging just for fun and then looked at the landscape and realized there was a small but dedicated group of people talking about what it meant to be making a positive impact when you travel. I joined forces with the Impact Travel Alliance and just started digging into the topic. It kind of took off unexpectedly and I was really fortunate to have a platform where I was not just getting to travel but being held accountable for how I travel. The idea is to look at not just the environmental impact, but the social and economic impact as well. How you travel matters as much as where you travel.
This is one I’m still exploring myself, but I’ll give you three. One in my hometown, Fort Worth, one from NYC and one from Tucson, Arizona.
Ft. Worth- Magnolia Motor Lounge is one of my fav spots
NYC- The Owl Music Parlor in Park Slope
Tucson, Arizona- Hotel Congress (a cool haunted hotel where America’s infamous Public Enemy #1 John Dillinger was arrested)
From growing up in Texas to making peace with the music you once thought was cheesy. “It’s not perfect but its got character.” About Dolly Parton you said people didn’t always understand her but that she knew what she was creating and it was gold. Besides “Jolene”, what is your favorite Dolly Parton song?
Oh, I dearly love “Traveling Man.” It’s this wonderfully whimsical and theatrical song. The twist at the end when you discover that her mama has been stepping out with the same traveling salesman that she has is comedic gold. Her delivery is so subtle and yet so spectacular. But I also love “The Bargain Store.” It’s got that spaghetti western vibe to it with a thinly veiled reference to prostitution. I really like more of Dolly’s lesser-known songs like that.
“If I cannot fly, let me sing.” How does the Stephen Sondheim quote describe your passion for music?
Singing and making music is akin to floating on air! There’s a physical sensation (at least for me) where you have an out of body high when you are really in the groove of a good song. This sounds cheesy but I mean it, singing is the only time I feel an overwhelming sense of joy. Writing my own songs and getting to perform them? That’s soaring. Don’t even get me started on harmonizing….that’s some transcendent shit right there.
What was the turning point for you at Unconventional Life that made you realize the song in your spirit needed to be put into the world?
The whole conference is geared towards self-development and growth so it was bubbling under the surface the whole time. But there was a moment sitting out on the beach at midnight where, in total stillness, I heard a little melody percolating. I just kind of sat there and hummed to myself and the moon and had a sense of peace, like “why have you been ignoring this? This is your soul’s work.” So I made a conscious decision to stop ignoring that part of myself and get back out there! This time to tell my own story instead of stepping into the roles written by others.
How did that realization lead you to make a demo version of the song that you describe as “tackling the mountains we all face with an open heart and spirit and never giving up on our personal journey”?
Over the past six years I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Between my dad’s passing (he was sick with Parkinson’s for 15 years) and ending a serious long-term relationship, I’ve had a few pivot points. Nothing that I couldn’t handle but moments that have shaped me and forced me to reexamine my course. Through it all, I’ve always held on to hope and joy — something my dad taught me. That moment in Bali was just another reminder that I had been walking through the valley and it was time to climb and reapproach the things I was passionate about. I had put music and performing on the backburner and it just became abundantly clear that I couldn’t do that any longer.
As a parent and teacher I loved your post, “Lifelong learner over here. Always ready to grow and if I’m wrong, hey, teach me!” What have you learned about music during the pandemic?
Fun! I was a theatre teacher for a while too, so it has for sure shaped my approach to life! Once you work with kids for an extended period of time you can’t help but have an insatiable curiosity. But, I love this question. What I’ve learned about music during this pandemic is that it’s always there and I can honor my own energy patterns around it. I’m sure many people have felt highs and lows during all of this, I have! I certainly have had bouts of creative energy where music was flowing like a wellspring and other times where it has been like squeezing a rock for water. But music is constant and always ready for the artist to access it, it’s just a matter of when the muse calls you and it’s OKAY if it’s not every moment of the day.
Moving to Nashville last September. How has living in Music City influenced the music you create?
I’ve definitely been inspired by the level of artistry here and it’s inspired my writing in fun ways that I’m still uncovering! In December I was selected to take part in Songathon, which was really fun and the group was very talented — definitely made me want to up my game. Also, just being out at shows/rounds and hearing what other people are putting out there…you get a lot of new ideas and nuggets of wisdom to run with. I’ve also been part of a few song circles and it’s always a good sharpening tool to work off prompts, etc. and receive feedback. More than anything, Nashville has its own magic in the air. Similar to when I lived in NYC, it’s one of those places that naturally inspires ideas for the artist. I already have several new songs under my belt I can’t wait to record!
Being related to American songwriter Stephen Collins Foster. The music you created was, in your words, “a mixture of musical theater, tin-pan alley country, and church music … #SHOWCOUNTRY”. His music was parlor and minstrel. How has Foster’s work influenced yours?
Ha, I think it was my producer Evan Reeves who said that combo, but I totally coined #SHOWCOUNTRY.
Parlor music and ballads were the original show tunes! I don’t know how much I would say his music has influenced mine much, to be honest other than a general appreciation. I don’t think I even had much awareness around my relationship to him until later in life. I do love the songs “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Hard Times Come Again No More.”
“People want to hear stories that challenge the norms and reflect more progressive ideals.” How does #SHOWCOUNTRY address what modern country is missing?
For me, and this is only slightly reflected in my current tracks — it tackles issues like sexism, gender norms, racial divides, and social justice by looking at these issues through a theatrical and cheeky lens. I often feel like taking a charged topic and give it a sort of *wink wink* in a song is a palatable but powerful way to influence the listener.
One of your favorite books is “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. Which fable is your favorite?
So many! But I love the passage on Joy & Sorrow.
“Our preference for art often mirrors what’s happening in the world or is a reaction to it.” You said female artists like Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile, and Mickey Guyton are breaking through the country music bubble and re-shaping it. Which other female artists are at the forefront of what’s happening in our world?
How’s learning your songs on the autoharp going?
It’s going! Taken me a minute but I’m getting there and I literally picked it up this past April. Because my training is in musical theatre, I didn’t really learn an instrument growing up, so I feel like I’m catching up a bit. On the other hand, I want to say I think the voice is a pretty solid instrument to work on mastering.
“Mountains” is being released on August 14th in honor of your dad’s birthday. The song was the first you wrote since he passed away. You said he too was musically gifted — how does he influence the songs you write?
My daddy had the voice of an angel. He didn’t write many songs but the ones he did were soft, sweet, and full of heart. I remember we used to always make up silly songs that were little secrets between him and me. He’s so much a part of who I am and I really see so much of myself in him. I get my love of music, the great outdoors, poetry, and adventure from him! I still feel like his energy/ spirit is carried with me and I feel really lucky that I got him for the time I did.