Dawn is a rare San Diego native, born in Encinitas, near Moonlight Beach, and growing up mostly in Carlsbad, before settling in Clairemont. While she has written original music, for the moment Dawn is happy to concentrate on cover songs for her gigs.
“Most of the venues where we play, the crowd is there to dance to songs they know,” she explained. “Even if you play a somewhat popular tune by Stevie Wonder or Bruno Mars, you won’t get the same reaction that you do from their biggest hits.”
Certain songs always elicit a crowd response. “As soon as people hear the bass line to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” or the intro to Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” they are on the dance floor!” she said. “But I think when it comes to me singing and getting the crowd’s attention vocally, songs like The Doobie Brother’s “Long Train Running” or “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin seem to get a reaction.”
She’s happy to play the crowd pleasers. “Before my husband and I were married and had our son, we lived in Denmark for a summer, playing in the pubs as a duo,” she recalled. “We were young and had just graduated with our music degrees, so it was hard at first, for us to understand why people only wanted to hear the really popular songs.”
In her mind all those tunes were overplayed. “But I realized it’s because people want to be part of the music, they want to hear what they know. That’s not such a bad thing.” She now considers that if there is a song that everyone knows the words to and can result in a shared moment with a group of strangers, “that’s pretty cool!” she enthused.
“Needless to say, during that time in Denmark, I got really tired of people asking to hear ‘Hotel California’ every night! But I recently had a gig over the 4th of July holiday and had a chance to sing that song. I hadn’t in years, but it was a lot of fun and of course everyone was singing along.”
Selwitz notes the music business can be tough, but she feels the rewards are worth it. “It’s true, being a musician can have you feeling like you’re on top of the world in one moment and in the next moment you feel like the smallest most insignificant thing. It’s torture on your ego! I sometimes wonder why I do it, but I think any musician will agree that it’s something we can’t live without. Being able to express yourself musically on a regular basis is magical.”
Upcoming plans for Dawn include recording new originals for a possible album, but in the meantime she’s pleased with her life in music. “I know it’s corny and cliche, but it’s so true that if you can make someone else feel something through your performance or if a song that you wrote speaks to someone, there really is no better feeling,” she said.
“Aside from that, it’s really great to be part of such a large community of fantastic musicians in the San Diego music scene. And really, I feel like I only know a large handful of folks, but can’t wait to meet and play with many more,” she remarked.
Rosy Dawn: Thursday, Sept. 6 at Humphrey’s Backstage Live, 2241 Shelter Island Drive. 7 p.m. $5. humphreysbackstagelive.com.