Dawn Coulshed is singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist currently living in Glasgow, where she’s studying jazz voice. She is influenced by the traditional music of her Scottish roots and her classical studies as a pianist. Dawn has toured throughout the United Kingdom and abroad as a soloist and as a member of acoustic duo Evering.
“I grew up in the highlands of Scotland, just North of Inverness. It’s pretty rural up there and I definitely didn’t appreciate how lucky I was to be so close to nature at the time. I go back North when I can and try and fit in some hill walking and fill up on fresh air.”
What’s your musical background?
“I had piano and violin lessons growing up which was mostly classical, but there’s a great folk scene in the highlands which got me onto acoustic guitar. I’ve always loved singing in choirs too.”
When did you first become interested in music?
“Some of my first music making memories are around age 6 or 7 when I would record my own radio shows onto tape. I had one of those keyboards with drum beats that would keep me amused for long periods of time.”
What music were you into in your early childhood?
“I had the soundtrack to Pocahontas on tape which was a favourite, I also remember having a lot of fun dancing around to Björk’s ‘It’s oh so quiet’.”
You studied classical piano. Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?
“My piano teacher at university was Simon Coverdale who was brilliant at using imagery to access efficient technique and get deeper into the music. He definitely helped to build my confidence as a performer too.”
What lessons did you learn that you still use today?
“Working musicians need at least two proper meals a day! I think it’s easy to forget that making music takes mental and physical energy. Simon would get us to do some physical warmups and stretches before class which I still do, when I remember!”
What artists have played a significant influence on you as a musician and songwriter?
“I remember being completely struck by Jeff Buckley’s voice and the emotions within it. Carole King’s songwriting, the lyrics of Guy Garvey (Elbow). The way Nina Simone completely commands the piano whilst singing is still and inspiration to me.”
What inspires you to write songs?
“The human experience, whether it’s my own or someone else’s.”
Can you walk us through your songwriting process?
“It definitely goes through different phases but often comes out of improvising, either on the piano or just singing. The lyrics either come out with the music or I have various notebooks where I’ll have scribbled a few lines that might inspire something.”
Do you have a favourite time or place to write music?
“During the second lockdown I moved back to my parents who have a small summer house in the garden which was a lovely quiet space to practice and write in.”
What can you tell me about your single ‘Dive’?
“I wrote it on a day where I was just feeling really slow and heavy and my voice gets lower when I’m tired so I just leaned in to those feelings and that vocal quality.”
How did the music video for ‘Dive’ come together?
“I had worked with the animator Nicola Jane Francis for one of my previous singles ‘Fall Back’ after finding her on Instagram. We really enjoyed collaborating and she was keen to do more music videos so I let her take full creative licence with ‘Dive’ and was so thrilled with how she interpreted the song.”
‘Dive’ was released in October 2021. Can we expect more new music soon?
“Yes! I have been busy doing a Masters in jazz voice, but I’ve been able to record a few tracks and just need to decide how I’m going to mix and release them.”
What are hoping fans would take away from your music?
“Whatever they want to! I appreciate anyone taking the time to listen and if they want to listen again that’s a bonus.”
What are you most looking forward to this year?
“Being part of the return of live music after all the limitations of the pandemic. I saw a lunchtime concert of classical piano today and there really is no comparison to being part of a live audience and the shared experience with whoever’s performing.”
What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?
“‘Betting it all on you’ by Brother Thunder, they got me with the soulful vocal and there’s some lovely warm organ in the mix which is always a winner.”
What song would you like to add as a bonus track?
“‘Stranger in the rain’ by Ann Liu Cannon. I got put on the same bill as Ann Liu Cannon a few times when I lived in London and her voice and writing just pull you right in. Definitely someone worth seeing live.”