Dawson Reigns- Asks that you fasten your seatbelts and Enjoy The Ride

Cover June 3, 2011

Story:Lenny Stoute

Dawson Reigns. Is not the name of a shy guy. And who gets ahead in the music biz on shy? Especially when you're coming outa Cambridge, not exactly the centre of the media music universe. So how's a boy who won't wear a meat dress get noticed? Getting a wicked-sounding countrified new name is a good start.

" I wanted something that would make me stand out," explains the amiable singer from his Cambridge home. "We got the Dawson part first and then we tossed around words, looking for some kind of sound and then settled on 'Reigns'. It just sounded right and that's been my name for the last six years". The name change was in conjunction with the birth of Dawson Reigns the artist, marking the transition from cover band star to weaver of his own particular dreams.

" Playing in a cover band, you have to be able to play a lot of different songs. I knew all along I wanted my own voice to be heard, that I wanted to sing my own songs. It was good for me; the two years of playing covers helped me focus on arriving at my own sound. I have it now; it's the sound you hear on (debut album) Enjoy the Ride."

It's the sound of country delivered with a heaping helping of high-energy rock. Reigns owns up to loving a big guitar sound, heavy on hooky, power-chord leads, driving bass lines and a massive drum sound. Not your usual country but not so unusual for a guy who cites Foreigner, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi among his influences. Reigns says the overall description he often sees is 'fusion rock-country' and for now, that works just fine for him.

" For 'Enjoy.. we went into the studio with 50 songs to narrow down to the final ten. The big thing that determined which songs made the final cut was they had to have a certain energy because that was what got me here in the first place. I'm a performer and the tunes that felt best were the ones which showcased that side of me. The first time I played a showcase in Nashville, the set was a mix of originals and covers. So I know the good response I received wasn't for the songs so much as the way I sung them.

Enjoy The Ride dropped a year ago to positive response on both sides of the border, maybe a little more so in the US, where he and it made a strong impression in Nashville. Dawson's debut single "If Crazy Wasn't So Beautiful" became a Top Twenty hit on the Cancountry Chart and went Number #1 In Australia. He then performed at the British Country Music Awards and went over so well Dawson embarked on a mini radio tour of the UK which has done very well for his profile over there.

" The album did what it was expected to do and I'm happy with the response, It was intended to show what I do best, be my calling card and it did that. It set the tone for my sound".

Talking with Dawson Reigns gives the impression of a man who senses the moment is his to seize and he's wasting no time. Work on the sophomore album started as soon as saw the reaction to the debut disc in Nashville.

" After that, I knew I had something and I believe if something isn't broke, don't fix it. So I started writing songs tailored to my sound. I'm doing a lot of co-writing and checking out various producers. Haven't settled on anyone yet. If the songs on the first album were a little to the rock side, this batch will lean a little to the country side. I'm going to be using fiddle on some of the songs because I just love the sound of the fiddle, it just says country".

Rob Wayman PhotographyRob Wayman PhotographyAnd DR's life is about to take on the trappings of a country song. That'd be the one about the young family man burning with a dream, leaving home and gambling all on the call of a hit bound sound. Come July, Reigns takes a major step in his career evolution when he and family relocate to Nashville for an extended stay.

Having just signed with a US management company, there's plenty of interest and a support network already in place for the up and comer. He'll be writing with a slew of Nashville top guns including Ken Johnson with an eye to having the album ready for a fall release, with a first single dropping in August.

This doesn't leave much time for touring in Canada, which he would have liked to have done. The man's a player and has to be out there honing his chops. Except, even for an artist at his level, Reigns says getting on the summer festival circuit isn't an easy thing. In the US it's a different story with a tour already being put together that sees him going out in late August, behind the first single.

In the meantime, there are his business interests to manage. Reigns had a meeting with the Gibson Guitar marketing folks at last year's CCMC, cemented the relationship by playing a strong set at the Gibson-sponsored showcase at this year's CMW and just today announced a sponsorship deal with Gibson that'll see Reigns playing both acoustic and electric guitars from Gibson's new Epiphone Master Bilt line.

Photo: dawsonreigns.comPhoto: dawsonreigns.comThe title Enjoy The Ride carries both the hope of catching the Big Ride and the caution of the well-worn country wisdom; Enjoy the ride, 'cause it ain't gonna last forever. These maxims aren't lost on Reigns who speaks of being bumbled by the experience of being where he is and having the opportunities to work with such talented people. While he's aware of the need to be-self confident he's also hip to the pitfalls of becoming brash.

Perhaps Dawson Reigns' strongest asset for establishing longevity is the authenticity in his vocals. Country music is woven into the cultural narrative of Canada and the US and as such, there are certain expectations and standards. Especially for male Country singers, its not so important that your pitch is perfect every time so much as that the voice is believable, that it can draw an audience into the story the song is telling.

And Dawson has proven he can do the drawing. The way he handles the vocals on such as "Someone Watching Over Me" and "If Crazy Wasn't So Beautiful" adds layers of emotional information that'll make you a believe the lyrics.

About now it's customary to say get out and see this guy now before he breaks big. But with no tour dates listed on his website, studio work ongoing and the big move in July, likely the next time you see the rugged, boy next door features of Dawson Reigns, it'll be on your fave music video outlet.

Unless you happening to be travelling in the US south in August or September. In which case keep an eye on the site for his US tour dates.