A conversation with Mike Dawson of Dallas jazz-R&B duo Dawson & Lazo
by Mario Taradell, Music Critic
The Dallas Morning News
Mike Dawson trekked his way to Dallas after growing up in Wisconsin, Michigan and New Mexico. He settled in these parts after earning an electronics engineering degree from DeVry University. He’s been here for about two decades, most of it as a music teacher, performing and recording musician and singer-songwriter. Dawson, 50, led rock ‘n’ roll big band Dawson’s New Rage through four CDs and nearly 10 years (1999-2008). In 2006 he joined creative forces with singer-songwriter Lisa Lazo. The pair released the 6-song Dawson & Lazo EP in May.
There’s a jazzy, R&B and pop vibe to the Dawson & Lazo six-song EP. If this were the 1970’s, we’d be calling it Steely Dan. What part of that sound most appeals to you – the jazz, the R&B, the pop or the mixture of all three?
Oh, most definitely the fusion of all those styles. My background as a piano player has allowed me to delve into all of those styles. The Steely Dan analogy is perfect because it reflects the fusion of all those styles that we find in the American songbook.
In an era when radio-ready popular music is so immediate, so fleeting and so incredibly disposable, unfortunately, is there still room for sophisticated musicianship, smooth vocals and songs devoid of any hip-hop?
Because the industry is so fragmented, the way you and I would think of radio is as simply broadcasts, the type of radio that is only through the air. With all the new technologies people seek the music they want to hear. They have to dig more for it. You have to go to the websites. You have to go to the YouTube pages. It might take people more time to find the music that we make. With the jazz influence, that music is certainly not mainstream anymore. If you look for that music, it’s because you love true American jazz style.
You are a music educator teaching piano, guitar, voice, synthesizer and songwriting, to name a few. What do you see in your students that you would call inspirational?
When I teach kids, kids that love to make music and they have no fear of making mistakes, that is inspirational. When you can help adults recapture that sense of being like a kid, that is inspirational as well. This is why I have been an educator pretty much my whole adult life.
With a degree in electronics engineering, and having worked in Texas, Malaysia and Singapore, are you happy to return to music full-time?
Yes. I’m a much calmer person, instead of having to always tow the line. That was a great experience to have those responsibilities to learn how to run businesses, but once I stopped being creative … it was the management side of it that I didn’t enjoy. I am much happier as a musician for sure.
How does the Dallas-Fort Worth music scene support a performing and recording entity like Dawson & Lazo?
Because the Metroplex is such a large and diverse place, there are a lot of opportunities to try your music out and perform it. Texas is always a place of creativity for musicians. You can use the Metroplex as a home base but just about every musician that I know, you tour and perform. Texas is always home base, but you wouldn’t want to derive a career by just one city.
See the original article here at the DMN Local Music Connection blog:
Dallas Morning News Review: Dawson and Lazo CD