Interview with Mitzi Dawn
Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Lamitschka: Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never „’seen or heard you?
Mitzi Dawn: My new album was a chance for me to break outside my comfort zone of writing songs with other recording artist to match their vision, and focus on the thoughts and emotions that have been encompassing me and effecting my life. I basically surrender to the listening audience and invite them in to the experience of my life, like letting someone read my diary. If you’ve never taken a drug, had a broken heart, made a mistake, or cried yourself to sleep, then you may have a hard time relating. For the rest of the world, this album is for you!
“Emotionally damaged, or fragile. Suffering from addiction, or a broken heart. Coming out of a hard time, and into your own. Experiencing love, or loss. Being truly happy where you are, and with yourself. All of these situations are touched on in the soon to be released album, Trainwrecks and Pink Clouds.” Lori Wescott, TN Newspress
Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
Mitzi Dawn: A roller coaster!!! A wild wonderful scary roller coaster. 2011 started with the love of my life leaving, literally, jan 3rd 2011…. Which inspired me to write my book, ‘A Daisy in a Room Full of Roses’. This year I also finished my debut record, started a publishing company with best friend and musical soul mate Wes Shaw. We’ve purchased a tour bus, travelled the country, and started preparation for my first major release of my record “Trainwrecks and Pink Clouds”. In the summer of 2011 the love of my life returned, we got engaged, and i got a happy ending to my book, and to my year! This was my 3rd year of abstinence from drugs and alcohol and the blessings keep on rearing their pretty little heads.
Lamitschka: How did you choose the title for the CD? Is there a story behind the name?
MitziDawn: I chose the title “Train Wrecks and Pink Clouds” because it was the best, and most honest way to describe my record. Non of the song titles would do because most of them were either sad or happy sounding and just like life has a harmonious balance of pain and joy I wanted a title that summed up both. Trainwrecks refers to my years spent drunk, and or high, in love with the wrong guy, heartbroken, sad, and ultimately my bottom. Pink Clouds are the opposite… clean, sober, in love with the right guy, happy, and in a wonderful spiritual, emotional, physical place. The songs on this record are in the order in which they were written, so my audience will take this journey with me. Its what my life was like, what i went through, and how it is now.
Lamitschka: Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?
Mitzi Dawn: I wrote them myself. I write songs for a living…. and I also find and develop artists… but my dream has always been to sing my own songs. I am truly grateful to all the artists that have recorded my songs over the years, but there are certain songs that are so personal, only I can sing them. I also have songs that are too ‘Edgy’ for mainstream country artists to sing. There was never a plan to create this album, I just got together with Michael Flanders for a writing appointment, like any other day, and i said ‘who are we writing for’? He said, “Just write what you feel”. That was both beautiful and liberating. He would start playing something on the guitar, and I would start singing, a couple hours later we would have a work tape. The next week when I showed up to write again, he had a track done and asked me to sing it. After we did that about 5 times we thought…. lets do a record! I started writing how I felt, and all of a sudden and quit at once, I started feeling better. This process was very healing for me, and inspiring! I was making music! No rules, no artist to aim for, no subjects or time restrictions or money changing hands, just too people making music. It was beautiful, it was magical, it was convalescing.
Lamitschka: Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).
Mitzi Dawn: The songs on the record are all autobiographical, they’re all true. Each song, every word, either happened to me, was a feeling i felt, a lesson I learned or a celebration of a milestone of loosing or finding myself….. hurting and healing, breaking and mending, drunk or sober…. its just me with melody, harmony and music that captures each mood. Michael flanders is brilliant in that way…. he just lets the song play itself.
Lamitschka: You did a duet with DAN HILL. How did that happen to come about?
MitziDawn: Well I was in a writing appointment with Kieth Stegal, and he said “Hey, do you mind if my friend dan joins us”? and i said ‘sure’. I was in my pajamas, and hung over, (I know, funny way to show up to write with a grammy award winning writer and producer) and in walks Dan. We write a song called ‘How I Feel’ and when we were done Dan asked me to sing my song ‘just to have my feelings hurt’. When i was done, to be polite, i asked Dan to sing me one of his songs. He sang ‘Sometimes When We Touch’. I couldn’t believe it…. i had been sitting in the room with a grammy award winning icon, and was too out of it to notice! Thank God Dan and Kieth have a softness for the broken… and never judged me. Dan I I wrote several songs and became great friends. Dan was recording the song one day, and Kieth was producing, and they said…. lets do a duet version of this song! And thats how it came do be…. one of my favorite moments is hearing that mix and thinking – thats me, singing with Dan Hill!
Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Mitzi Dawn: I am so lucky to have complete creative control. I wrote every word, chose each song, decided the order, picked the single, designed the singles artwork with my media director and now decided my record release date. I also wrote the treatment for my music video. Obviously I have an amazing team, Michael Flanders, Jayme Calhune, Wes Shaw, and James Spence, so all of the decisions get bounced around and all of there input is valuable, but at the end of the day, it was my life, my story, my heartache, my soul that made up the record ‘Trainwrecks and Pink clouds’, so iI was given the opportunity to have the last word. That being said, there would be no ‘last word’ without my team, so i guess the correct answer is WE have complete creative control.
Lamitschka: Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?
Mitzi Dawn: I got a call recently from a counselor at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center youth department, and was told that one of my songs called ‘Less of me to hate’ is being played for young girls as part of there therapy which made me feel really good. The funny thing is that i got a call from an author that wrote a book about loosing weight that heard it and she thought the song was about an eating disorder and wanted to use it on her promo tour. “The things i tell myself, id never say to anyone else, but i look me up and down and then i say, wish there was less, less of me to hate”.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?
Mitzi Dawn: I have mixed feelings about the music scene today verses before. On one hand, it makes me sad. There are so many amazing talented artist/songwriters in town that are over looked because they don’t have a certain look, or style, or song. Artists that could be the next willy nelson, or johnny cash are being thrown away before they ever get a chance. I think willy nelson was on a label for 7 years before he broke??? Now a days you get one song, if your lucky two, and if you don’t make it, you’re done. On the other hand there is exciting things happening today with the internet. Now, independent artists, like myself, can reach thousands of people without a label, and promotion staff. so…. if I keep this record indie and sell say 10,000 records….. we make 100,000, where with a major label I would have to sell 100,000 copies to make $100,000 all in all I am excited about the music scene now and hope that if todays willy nelson is out there, he is busting his ass online to bring his music to us right now.
Lamitschka: Are you doing anything to take music beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?
Mitzi Dawn: I am not intentionally trying to take music beyond its borders…. but I’m all over the place, and its right where i need to be. I started off thinking i was a country artist, then I was told I was too country, then too pop, then too edgy…. now i think if country music is music for the country, then I’m country, if not, i’m just me. Its all i know how to be. I write and sing from the heart, and don’t change the song to fit into a particular genre…. I think its just music. So I guess I just wish that there were no borders in music to cross…. and i sing like that is already true.
Lamitschka: What was your big break that got you into the music business?
Mitzi Dawn: I came to Nashville about 10 years ago because I gave a tape to Tim Mcgraw’s bus driver in atlantic city, and he listened to it and called me. I was so naive, I thought I made it right then! He gave the tape to a friend of his names Jeff Moor. Jeff said he would produce me, and we could use Faith Hill’s band to record and then I could try and get a record deal. I freaked out and drove as fast as i could to nashville. I recorded 7 songs with faith hills band and started attacking the city with my demo. I had no idea that nashville didn’t care who i recorded with…. they never heard of me, or my songs, and i was told no a thousand times. I kept writing and they kept saying no, until one day someone said yes! Ironically it was Sam Ramage from RPM music which was owned by Tim Mcgraw. He of course had no clue who Tim’s bus driver was or that he was the reason i had come to town 2 years ago. So my big break? I think I’ve had 100, starting with Joel Lochwood, the friendly bus driver.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become an artist?
Mitzi Dawn: When I was little I wanted to be an artist because I loved to sing, but more than that, I loved the idea of being loved. I thought that if the whole world would love me, than my mom and dad would see what they have been missing out on. And I guess if the world loved me than I would have a reason to love myself. The thing about that is its a catch 22…. how can i convince a label to love me if i don’t love me. So later i got inspired to be an artist to have a voice, talk about where I’ve been and where I’m going. Honestly to be of service. When I sing, its very healing for me, and if other people can feel a little better to know there not alone, there are other people just like them, and there is always a way out , then that is a beautiful thing. I didn’t become an artist, I was born to do this. I just finally found the courage and strength to do what i was born to do.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Mitzi Dawn: I honestly didn’t know that there was another option if I wanted to be an artist… i didn’t know until i moved to town that artists didn’t have to write there own songs. I just assumed when i heard a song on the radio that that person wrote what they were singing about. I was surprised that wasn’t the case, but i was lucky because now I had a opportunity to write for other artist. I had a job. The trick was learning that i had to turn songwriting from an art to a craft. I no longer had the option to wait for inspiration, i just had to start writing then the inspiration would come.
Lamitschka: What drives you?
Mitzi Dawn: The thought that i might actually make a small difference. Thats a lie… I want to make a huge difference. Like “Opra” difference. I want to be able to take care of my children and not worry about how we are going to eat, and eventually I want to take care of them and still have enough left over to help family, and friends. Every person that said I couldn’t do it drives me.
Lamitschka: What’s unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?
Mitzi Dawn: For one, I am covered with tattoos, Skin and Ink magazine called me “Country Music’s First Painted Lady” the other is that I sing about things most women wont even talk about. No one will ever look at me and say “is that Carrie Underwood”? or hear me and say “Is that Miranda Lambert”? I don’t sound or look like any one…. that is the one thing that has scared me the most …. not looking or sounding like the other girls. Now I think that is an advantage…I’m different, that’s cool. My book is called “A Daisy in a Room Full of Roses” because I always felt different, then a friend reminded me that being a daisy in a room full of roses makes me the most unique flower in the room.
Lamitschka: What has been your greatest challenge in music business?
Mitzi Dawn: Well, my biggest challenge is almost the same thing that makes me unique…. I don’t look or sound like the other girls. People are afraid of what they don’t know and what they don’t understand. I have been lucky in Nashville to have success writing for top 40 artist… the challenge has been to get Nashville to see me as an artist. Not just a quirky , tattooed songwriter…. that is still a challenge today….
Lamitschka: Who is your biggest critic, yourself or others?
Mitzi Dawn: I am the undisputed champ of self criticism, but I’m not sure if I am critical of myself or if I just have a lack of faith or too much fear. Its weird, I know that its good, I’m proud of my music. Im just not sure everyone else will agree. My mom is my biggest critic besides me and I recently had to tell her that I hear ‘no’ constantly, and sometimes I just need her to be my mom and let the critics criticize.
Lamitschka: What hopes and desires do you have?
Mitzi Dawn: I hope to continue this journey without a drink or a drug, I hope people will love this record, I hope I can make a difference, I desire peace, I desire health and love, I desire prosperity, and for someone that lived in a perpetual state of hopelessness….. that means a lot.
Lamitschka: Many music fans today get their information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?
Mitzi Dawn: My team and I have recently launch the official web presence – www.mitzidawn.com where cyber ninjas can read the latest going ons in my world, watch videos, get up to date tour information and listen to & buy singles off “Trainwrecks and Pink Clouds”. Links to all popular social networks like YouTube, facebook and twitter accounts are available – so follow me, friend me, like me, watch me heck you can even poke me.
Lamitschka: What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?
Mitzi Dawn: Well I’ve had two…. I was always called crazy, wild, unpredictable, and recently some one introduced me as ‘peaceful Mitzi’ and Mark Write told me one ‘what I love about you Mitzi Dawn is that you are always the same. I always know what I’m going to get’
that may seem like funny compliments…. but for this girl, I have had to do a lot of work to find peace, and to find me, so when other people notice that, it makes me feel really good.
Lamitschka: Fans are always hungry for good road stories. Do you have one you can share with us (come on don’t be shy)?
Mitzi Dawn: When I was on the Brooks and Dunn Last Rodeo Tour, Garry Allen was out with us. On his last night, I was back stage working and had no idea he was calling all the crew and artists that were out with us to the stage to do a shot with him, in front of 30,000 people to bid him farewell… I finished what I had to do and came running to stage left to watch the last of his show, and he waved for me to come out!!! I was so excited! I though ‘Oh he wants me to come out! maybe he wants to sing a song with me”!!! I went running out there, and he handed me a bottle of Jack Daniels to cheers his glass. I looked out at all the people and thought maybe I should just pretend to drink it and get off the stage quickly, then noticed myself on the 3 jumbotrons, thousands of people flashing pictures and it is well known that I am sober (except to Garry Allen ) of course. So I just set the bottle down and picked up a bottle of water and took a drink, held my water bottle up, and the crowd went crazy! Then I got the hell off the stage!
Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )