#LetTheGirlsPlay: Morgan Dawson Could Be Country’s Next ‘Rebel Child’
Morgan Dawson is a classic songwriter, but she's been blessed with a voice that will make you wreck your lipstick if you're applying when she starts to sing. On the stage, all the emotions she wants to express off the stage come pouring out. She seizes the opportunity to say what she should have said ... then.
Dawson gave Taste of Country a look into a songwriter's life during a 45 minute conversation at a coffee shop in downtown Nashville. Then, she was off to a demo session at some guy named Jay's house. She's a night owl, and a little rebellious, but we'll get there.
I always go for the same type of guys. And for whatever reason I always get hurt for the same exact reason.”
Songwriting appointments are a little like blind dates — you meet the guy/girl, try to find some common ground and then decide if you want to meet them again. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Occasionally it's awkward afterward. But occasionally, you're able to make magic that will last a lifetime.
“For the most part, people can kind of read you," Dawson says. "It’s a two-way street. You either click or you don’t.”
The 20-something wears black long sleeves as we chat with her, as the weather turned unexpectedly cool for mid-May, but the look (black is by far her favorite color) is symbolic. She's friendly and polite, but not bubbly. You can pull darker experiences from her, but she won't immediately crack open with the emotions or experiences that will come out in song later. She's more Kacey Musgraves than RaeLynn. Life's storms often lead to hit songs. She's had a few.
“I enjoy people who are big lyricists because I can learn from them too," Dawson adds, still talking about songwriting. Four or five times a week she meets with writers she knows, and some she doesn't. She's prolific. Typically an idea comes from a phrase or overheard comment.
"I get a lot of ideas on Pinterest, weirdly enough," the Longview, Texas native shares with a short laugh. They all drop into her phone for later. That's how "Kiss Me Hello" began. This month's featured #LetTheGirlsPlay song was a half-idea about the perfect man so many women dream about. When she sings the song she penned with Brian Maher and Maile Misajon, one feels she's spent as much time dreaming of him as anyone. It's true, because she's known a lot of the opposite.
“All of my man-hating songs or broken heart songs, they all kind of do the same thing and they all relate to the guys that I’ve dated," Dawson says, referring specifically to two songs, "Why You Gotta Be That Guy?" and "Be a Man."
"I always go for the same type of guys. And for whatever reason I always get hurt for the same exact reason.”
Her last three boyfriends have moved away. Two of them cheated on her. It's a habit that's bad for the heart, but good for her career.
“I think most of the time they need to grow up a little bit, and I’m like, ‘Maybe I can help them.’” Oh, don't worry — he kind of rolled her eyes at herself as well. Dawson is nothing if not self-critical.
She began singing young — very young. In fact, vocal teachers wouldn't even accept her, assuming she was just another 5-year-old wanting to play dress-up and fool around. Finally, one woman listened to her and accepted her immediately. They worked together for three years before she moved away.
High school brought more music, in the form of a french horn until Dawson joined the cheerleading team her senior year. By that time, she'd already been "discovered." Songwriter Jeremy Stover stumbled upon a YouTube video of Dawson singing "Wildflower," a song he wrote for country duo the JaneDear Girls. He got in touch with her father within 48 hours.
“He’s like I’m the writer of this song, telling me all about it. My dad thought he was a creep,” Dawson says remembering the unlikely moment. “We checked him out and come to find out, he’s legit. And so by that Thursday he flew down and he was in our living room by Friday.”
That's when moving to Nashville became a serious priority. She tried Belmont for a year, but dropped out to focus on music. Stover signed her to his Red Creative Group and she got to work.
Thus far she hasn't landed any cuts, but several of her songs have drawn serious interest from other female artists. Carrie Underwood had one on hold. Lauren Alaina considered her song "Rebel Child," but it got nixed late in the album's creation.
"I do relate to the girl in the song a little bit," Dawson says, admitting that Alaina giving the song back was a blessing in disguise. "My grandfather was a Baptist preacher and I’m a little more rebellious, or different.”
That girl’s fenced in / Makes a little bit of trouble every now and then / She’s innocent / Grew up with too much sheltering / Bend their rules, cross their lines / Walking on the edge of the wild side / Having a real good time, playing with fire / She’s a rebel, rebel, rebel child.
So the girl in black may be a bad girl. Okay, really she just likes to party some as young women her age are prone to do, but in a family that forbids drinking, that's heresy. Don't think for a second that she doesn't have their full support, however. Dawson recalls sitting through a drenching rain shower to hear Jo Dee Messina sing "Bring on the Rain." That YouTube video Stover found? Guess who was filming it.
“My dad was like, ‘I’m probably one of the few parents that actually says, ‘Yes! My daughter dropped out!’”
For a year Dawson has played the Song Suffragettes stage, building confidence and friendships. The collective will provide constructive criticism when needed, but she's pretty hard on herself. “I’m extremely critical of myself," Dawson admits. But her good friends — including May's #LetTheGirlsPlay artist Kalie Shorr — will be the first to say that if anyone is going score a big break, it's her.
Next up for Dawson is more of the same. She's enjoying the daily grind of writing, performing and recording. And there's signs that she's on the cusp, aside from the Stover connection. That guy named Jay whose house she drove to after speaking with Taste of Country ... he's the leader of a band called Rascal Flatts. It took a half hour before Dawson realized the guy she was sitting next to at a Nashville-area mansion was Jay DeMarcus. It was his studio, and he was kind enough to play bass for the session.
Meet Morgan Dawson