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Songtrust Spotlight: Dawn Joseph

Born and raised in Jersey, Channel Islands, Dawn Joseph moved to London in early 2000. She quickly found her feet, auditioning for a band and signing a publishing deal with Sony, going on to write several songs for well-established pop acts. Her band signed a record deal and released a single but never really took off and it wasn't long before Joseph was performing as a solo artist as well as writing for various successful European artists. As well as this, Joseph was increasingly in demand as a session musician, bass player, and guitarist as well as a backing singer, and worked with, amongst others, Phil Collins, Michael McDonald, Kylie Minogue, and Craig David. All this has continued until the present day with her most recently working with Ellie Goulding, Cee Lo Green, and Spandau Ballet to name but a few.

In October 2012, another big move would begin to take shape. She was contacted by Jan Kincaid from The Brand New Heavies and asked if she would be interested in taking part in the record they were making at the time, which was later to become the "FORWARD" LP. So Joseph went to the studio to meet the band who were working on a track and, as an impromptu audition, was asked to let rip on a track called "ON THE ONE" which was playing at the time, and she did just that, contributing b.v's and some really tasty ad-libs all of which were kept on the final recording just as they were. Dawn Joseph was to go on and front the band for 3 years until she and Kincaid left to start their own project MF Robots. MFR has been touring and playing major European shows since their first release “The Night is Calling” in 2018. Supporting Lenny Kravitz, Chic, Joss Stone, and Beverley Knight as well as their own headline shows at the legendary Jazz Café in 2018, 2019, and 2021. 


WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO MUSIC?

My mum bought home Live Aid on VHS and I was a little (perhaps a lot) obsessed with it! I loved watching not only the stage performances but also the activity backstage. My dad is a bass player and singer, so I guess it was in my blood too!

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND STYLE AS AN ARTIST?

I listen to a wide range of music which very much comes across in the music that I make. Growing up my parents used to listen to Rick James, Michael Jackson, Michael Bolton, and Cameo, and I would be listening on the radio to artists such as Five Star, Whitney Housten, and Bananarama. When I started to get pocket money, I would visit Woolworths on a Saturday and buy the latest releases from En Vogue and Salt n Pepa. All of these artists had such a great “image” and “style” and that definitely influenced me both musically and stylistically. They are/were also incredible performers which is something I absolutely love doing. I like giving my audiences value for money!

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO CREATE, AND HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF IN MUSIC?

I’m passionate about music, and that’s what drives me as a singer and performer, and also a songwriter. Nothing beats the emotions and sensations that come when you hear a piece of music. It can transport you back to happy or sad times or places. Music for me is medicine. There isn’t a day that goes by when there isn’t music playing in the house. I’m also learning whilst listening too! It’s amazing what goes in without you knowing it. I’d like to think that as a songwriter and artist I’m able to give something back and “inspire” and “uplift” and generate some positivity to others when they’re listening to my music.

THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, WHO HAS HELPED YOU THE MOST WITH DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT?

I have been very fortunate to have worked with some of the best in the business. I’ve shared the stage with great singers such as Michael McDonald, Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, and for the last 10 years, I’ve toured with Rick Astley who continues to inspire me. I love discovering new music or “old” music I’m hearing for the first time. It always makes me want to get back into the studio! Surrounding yourself with people you love and have mutual respect for is always a winning combination.

SOMETIMES BEING IN THIS BUSINESS CAN BE OVERWHELMING. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAINTAINING PERSPECTIVE AND NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF?

Especially being a woman and a Black woman too. I’ve gotten used to being surrounded by mostly men in this business but it’s really great when I get to work with girls too. It can definitely be very overwhelming when starting out but as long as they are good people, it’s a lot of fun.

Contrary to what people outside of the music business may think, it’s not all glamourous. The glamourous part is only what you see on stage. The traveling, eating late or sometimes not at all, the early mornings and late nights are all the things the audience don’t get to see. You have to be a certain type of person to be able to deal with it all. It gets harder as you get older obviously! But to be honest, the joy that I get out of it is well worth all of the effort. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

HOW DO YOU THINK THE MUSIC INDUSTRY CAN DEVELOP INTO A MORE EQUITABLE AND INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR WOMEN MUSIC CREATORS?

I listen to music on an even level. It’s the singers initially that draw me into a song whether male or female. The melody and lyrics are a big deal for me too. I can be put off a song just by the opening few lines. Something has to click. As long as people are listening with open ears and minds then we shouldn’t need to have to categorise music in such ways. Women are stronger than men anyway so we can take whatever gets thrown in our way!

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN MUSICIANS JUST STARTING THEIR CAREERS, BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED?

Take all the advice given to you and then process it in your own way and in your own time. Don’t get pulled and pushed in a direction that you don’t wanna go in. Follow your path, and if it doesn’t make you happy and worth fighting for, make those changes to suit you. You cannot keep everybody happy all of the time. 

FROM YOUR VIEW, WHAT OTHER KINDS OF MARGINALIZATION AND ERASURE DOES THE MUSIC INDUSTRY NEED TO ENSURE WE DON’T ENACT IN THE NAME OF GENDER EQUALITY?

I’m really not sure what the answer for this is. I love being a woman in this business. But I’ve also been in it a long time and have built up tough skin. Surround yourself with passionate and creative people and just go with the flow. 

WOMEN ARE BECOMING MORE EMPOWERED, NOT ONLY IN KNOWING THEIR VALUE BUT ALSO IN SETTING BOUNDARIES, GOING AFTER WHAT THEY WANT AND DESERVE, AND LIFTING UP OTHER WOMEN IN THE PROCESS. WHAT MOTTO, AFFIRMATION, OR QUOTE EMPOWERS YOU? 

You are in charge of your own destiny. Be prepared. When preparation meets opportunity, that is the greatest power.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE COMING UP IN 2022?

My band MF Robots (with Jan Kincaid) has recently released its follow-up album called "Break The Wall" and we have a lot of shows and festivals coming up this year. I have also released a solo single called “Free to Love” with an EP to follow later this year. Lots more writing, and hoping that everything returns to normal. It’s been a tough two years.

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