Some transitions in a performer’s life are easier than others.
Central Oregon singer/songwriter Cassia Dawn is stepping into the next phase of her career.
In December 2021 she finished putting together a five-song EP album, Let Me Hear the Music, and began scheduling a kickoff party for fans, family and friends for the end of January. However, that required she dodge bouts of freezing fog with black ice on the highways and fluctuating Covid restrictions.
She successfully pulled that off, but she wasn’t able to step around sudden sound and lighting crew shortages. On the big night, she and her uncle, fellow performer John Fortune, patched together a working sound system and the crowd enjoyed the show under hot-pink lights … on the night before she moved to Nashville.
A big move, but for her, the time felt right.
At the ripe age of 28, Dawn has been plying her trade around Central Oregon for 13 years. She took her first tentative steps toward the performing life at the Madras Saturday Market, a summertime gathering of food and art vendors. Over the years she’s worked in coffee shops, county fairs and private parties throughout the region.
She describes her singing as bluesy/soul with a touch of folk, similar to Regina Spektor or JJ Heller, and her music as a nuanced cross between the soul of Norah Jones and the lively energy of Jack Johnson.
“A lot of the music I write is about the in-between where life isn’t simple and people are in transition,” she says. “Somewhere between you and who you could be is where I want my work to land.”
For example, she’s not opposed to writing about a sad breakup. However, she’d rather show a more complicated reality, something like a …”Look, I miss you and I’m really hurting, but please stay away because I’m struggling not to break out all the windows in your car with my tire iron!”… kind of a song.
Is there really anyone who can’t relate to one or all of those elements at sometime in their life?
She regards her songwriting process as inconsistent when approaching the finish line, particularly in her latest album. For that, she winnowed her work down to thirteen songs, then to the final five that made it onto the EP, and wanted to put a polish on everything.
“I’ll set it aside and then pick it up later,” she says about developing a song. “If that doesn’t work, I’ll try it with a different instrument, like a piano, or free-think what I’m trying to say without it sounding poetic.”
If none of these are putting on the shine she wants, she’ll try playing it with a totally different melody to spark her imagination. If these don’t work, she’ll step back and consider that maybe the song isn’t ready for prime time, and it goes back in the “To-Be-Completed” file.
In her song The Fray on this latest album, she sings…
"It's still, but not quiet
in this ghost town of mine.
Echos and reminders
roll in on the train.
They tell me I'm crazy
to even entertain
the thought that someone else
would take on this mess I've made."
Dawn prefers to take time with her lyrics. This song took five years to get where she wanted it. “I have 25-30 versions of it on my phone,” she says.
She knew it was done when she finally listened to the whole thing and got a signal from her head and heart that said, “Exactly, that’s what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.”
During her last decade-plus of changes, she decided she wanted to hone her craft by visiting the big-city creative whirlwind in Los Angeles. “It was a crazy experience, but I learned just how many talented musicians are out there,” she says.
She learned they recognized her talent and were giving her their time, energy and offers to collaborate. During that three-month stay, she developed a taste for the strength and learning process in musical cross-pollination, something she missed in Central and Eastern Oregon. After all, it’s not easy to work with peers when there’s so much space between people.
“I want to play shows and write songs together with other professionals,” she says. “Right now, I need to be around a community of people who are going in a similar direction.”
So, it’s not out of character for her to drop what she’s doing and drive cross country in the winter to take up residence in Nashville. There, she’ll look for more opportunities to hone her craft into her next transition.
“I’d like to work with some of the people I’ve grown up listening to,” she says.
The question around Central Oregon is: Does she plan on staying in Tennessee forever?
“In Nashville, I’d like to make some really good friends and work with them,” she says. “At the very least, I’d like to show them some appreciation and let them know how they’ve inspired me.
“I love Oregon and, eventually, would like to retire here … but first I need to go to Nashville.”
Dawn has safely arrived in Nashville. She took some time to get her feet on the ground and learn the lay of the land. By this writing, she’s connecting with others in the business and sharing contact and networking information on phones.
We suspect her story will be continued…
Her music can be heard and she can be contacted at her website.