For this next installment of Digging Deeper, we invite the soul songstress Lynda Dawn to give us an insight into her fascinating world...
London’s finest, Lynda Dawn, first came on to our radar back in 2018 with her first single ‘Move’ when it was featured on Giles Petersons’ Brownwoods Bubblers compilation. A modern classic, ‘Move’ is an elevating sonic experience of soul, modern-boogie and celestial vocals. From here the multi-faceted vocalist, producer and songwriter debuted her breakthrough EP ‘At First Light’ on L.A Based Akashik Records in 2019. The story-telling release with its soothing production, 80s boogie-esque grooves and gospel influences, is a true reflection of the mysterious and talented life of Lynda Dawn.
With an array of influences, Lynda Dawn’s nostalgic throw-back cites her past growing up in a North London Pentecostal church where she sang in the choir following in the footsteps of powerhouse vocalists such as Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. It was here that she developed her spiritual education in funk and gospel expression which can be heard in her tracks ‘Arise’ and ‘Theme For Cha Cha’. Lynda Dawn’s ‘At First Light’ is a contemporary masterpiece, a torchbearer for modern soul and leaving us all very much hungry for more.
Lynda has also kindly curated a personal tribute playlist to her musical icons that we sadly lost in 2020, all of which have influenced Lynda into becoming the unstoppable emerging soul/boogie queen she is today.
Please tell us about your musical background?
I grew up in a musical household with everything from soul, funk, folk, R&B and jazz on constant rotation. Thanks to my parents I was exposed to some incredible sounds from a very young age. Both of my parents were born in Nigeria so of course there was also plenty of Sunny Adé, Ebenezer Obey and Fela Kuti vibrating through the speakers day in day out. My fondest childhood memories almost always involved music in some form or another. My Father was a retired musician and my brother Jason a budding pianist so the house was full of music. Along with this, I owe a lot of my musical inclinations to joining the choir of my Mother’s pentecostal church when I was 12 years old. That’s where I had my ‘spiritual education’ in gospel, funk and soul music. I also used to do session work as a backing vocalist and songwriter before releasing my own music.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
There are honestly too many! The likes of Patrice Rushen, Flora Purim, Abbey Lincoln, Urszula Dudziack, Leon Thomas, Fred Hammond, Rachelle Farell, Chaka Khan and many more provided much of the soundtrack to my childhood.
Whilst digging for vinyl what are the key attributes of a record you look for?
I usually end up going for records that were recorded between the 70s - late 80’s. For me, that’s my “golden era”. But genre-wise I have no specific preference, good music is good music. I don’t really care for adding extremely rare records with extortionate price tags to my collection, it all seems a bit redundant especially when it’s likely that the artist(s) won’t see any of that money.
How did you get into 80’s boogie and vintage soul music?
I guess I was born into it. For as long as I can remember my parents have called me an “old soul” because I’ve always been drawn to more vintage, analogue sounds. My Mother would play mostly rare groove and 80’s soul to me as a child, and I remember singing along to Patrice Rushen’s ‘Straight from the Heart’ album on school runs in the back of the car. That was one of my favourite records back then and still is today.
My Father would often play me jazz and afrobeats particularly from the 60’s and 70’s. To me, I find there’s a certain magic to these sounds that I can’t really put my finger on but has always deeply resonated with me.
Which producers / musicians worked on ‘At First Light’ and what was the recording process?
I feel very blessed to have worked with my partner, the incredible Al Dobson Jr. and my extremely talented brother Jason who came through on keys and additional instruments. I decided to keep it strictly in the family and I’m eternally grateful to both of them for helping me manifest my ideas and bring my works to life. We had a really laid-back approach while creating the project, and most importantly we had fun. Some of the tracks were even recorded in my brother's old bedroom in my Mum's house. It was a family affair and everything was done in-house. We recorded, produced, mixed and mastered the record ourselves.
What was your inspiration behind the music video ‘Any Way You Want’?
‘Any Way You Want’ was directed by my dear friend, the wonderful Kaivalya Brewerton. It was in homage to the classic aesthetic of the 70’s psychedelic funk era. The visuals were made to be as sensual and textured as the track itself. As soon as I played her the record she completely understood my vibe and my vision. We wanted to reflect the nostalgia-tinged sounds of the song so the style was definitely a nod to my early musical influences such as soul divas Diana Ross and Chaka Khan.
We loved the Tania Maria cover version you performed on Worldwide FM - What are your other favourite Tania Maria tracks?
Thank you. Tania is a goddess! I think ‘Come With Me’ is my favourite track of hers but I also really love some of her earlier work, like the ‘Brasil With My Soul’ record
Are there any up and coming artists we should have on our radar?
Whilst in Nairobi last year I met a Kenyan singer/songwriter who goes by the name of Labdi. Her voice is so powerful yet so delicate. She is also the only woman who plays the Orutu (a Kenyan single-stringed fiddle). Whilst we were on tour she caused 2 people to faint during her performances. I kid you not! The power she has... She’s definitely one to watch.
Which producers / artists would you like to collaborate with in the future?
My top 3 would be Patrice Rushen, Roy Ayers, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.
What are your musical plans for 2021?
If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is certain but I do hope to release my sophomore project. I’d love to perform more as well but we’ll see how things play out.
Big thanks to Lynda for the playlist and for taking the time to speak to us for this feature. Make sure you check her Instagram profile and keep an ear out for her forthcoming releases.
Interview conducted by Cally Hamilton in Dec 2020.