February 26, 2024

Don't Believe Me: An Interview with Musician, Dawson Forsey

An album review for CiTR's Discorder Magazine.

Howdy Stranger is a six song album written, and performed by Dawson Forsey. It’s aimed as an easy-listening country album that welcomes newcomers to the genre. Not your typical bro-country-soundtrack, but rather a lo-fi take on the Bakersfield sound from the 1960s with a modern twist of dad-rock. Comfortable and relatable, like worn-in Levi’s jeans. It explores themes of bad relationships, desperation, courage, and desire. The music paints a Western landscape, washed in California reverb — the perfect driving music. Originally recorded as single cuts, Howdy Stranger blends seamlessly together like a storybook. If you listen to the album front to back it has this beautiful story arc – almost like a hero’s journey; someone once lost, now finds their purpose and life partner in this crazy world. 

Forsey’s recording process is something of note. All tracks were recorded through a Tascam tape recorder, before being bounced to a digital workstation. Sound engineer Devon Parkin handled the mix and mastering, expanding the sound by incorporating textual elements that give Howdy Stranger its unique ethereal shimmer.

The album starts with the track, “Don’t Believe Me.” A song which explores imposter syndrome and alienation. Forsey spoke about how this track was inspired by sleepless nights spent laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, looking for answers to life's hardest questions. The first line – “don’t look at me darling, there ain’t much to see” shows just how gripping and heartbreaking a struggle with self esteem can be. 

With a beautiful, tape-like quality to the sound, “Killer In The House” is a haunting ballad about finding the courage to leave a bad relationship. As the song progresses, you can hear the desperation and sadness ring through the lyrics. Nearing the end, a painful “Help Me” is called out, but symbolically lands on deaf ears with no resolve.

“Florida Man” is a fast-paced, southern swinger written about Danny Rolling — AKA, the Gainesville Ripper. A serial killer obsessed with gaining fame and notoriety, Forsey coyly plays into this by writing lyrics like, “They’re going to say my name on the radio” both as a nod to his own record, but also the 1990s media frenzy that ensued following the murders. “So what, I took my parents life, down here that’s a small headline.” The bridge is one of the highest points in the album, with a rambunctious solo section that kills.

Written like someone you can’t quit on, the “Partner Song” comes through with a story of love, determination and finding your person. Lyrics throughout progress from “My/Mine” to “We/Our” and played overtop a beautifully strummed acoustic guitar. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

“The Fool” is written from the perspective of a friend — being on the outside of a relationship, and watching it fall to pieces due to the careless actions of one person. The idea of self sabotage is especially true in this song. Lap steel and reverb make this track sound huge while the recorder tape slowly disintegrates, just like the relationship.

If there was a song written for the end credits of a movie, it would be “Natural Disaster.” It starts soft and nostalgic, then cranks up the heat after the second verse. Launching us into a world of tasty guitar licks, the song has an energy, and brightness unseen before. “Natural Disaster” sounds like what it feels like to rob a bank with your life partner, get away with it, and still find that spark inside one another when you catch their eye from across the room. 

Howdy Stranger has all the making of an excellent launch album — six curated songs that allow you to dig deeper, and unpack the stories behind them. When asked about his future, Dawson is humble yet confident in his response. “To be a well-known, local artist.” 

Born in Newfoundland, Dawson Forsey currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia with his family.