Dawn Landes is a singer and songwriter whose latest musical, ROW, is about having passion, the courage to chase it, and living in the present.

To read more about artists like Dawn, visit Womanscape.com and download our latest WS Magazine issue, CINEMATICS.

Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

In attendance: a guitar, bass, piano, and violin. Drums of course, and five women, four men. Let the music begin.

ROW tells the story of Tori Murden McClure who, in 1998, attempted to row 3,000 miles from North Carolina to France. In a boat she had built herself, she set off and made it two-thirds of the way before, in the middle of the ocean, rowing straight into a hurricane.

Her boat capsized more than sixteen times. Tori nearly lost her life, but she held on, and ROW is that story about having heart, finding heart.

Tori’s pursuit of her passion, against all odds, drew singer and songwriter Dawn Landes to write a musical about her. She knew Tori’s story could inspire others to go after their own dreams.

Photo: Tori Murden McClure

Dawn’s dream was always to write and perform songs.

She grew up listening to Linda Ronstadt and Tom Petty. They remind her of her parents. When she started playing music herself, other influences emerged:

Lucinda Williams, Ani Di Franco, as well as Gillian Welch- all incredible writers and such strong performers.”

Songs marked milestones along Dawn’s childhood and shaped the person she became. Music is the backdrop to people’s stories and a platform for shared experience.

I think of songs as little vignettes. I like to imagine the lives of others and have sung songs through the lens of different characters before.”

From an extra on a film set, to a French hair dresser, to a woman who risks her life to fulfill a dream, Dawn’s songs are about living fully and heroically every day. In her compositions, she shares dreams and emotions with her audience, hoping they resonate with her listeners, connecting on a personal level.

In Straight Lines, for instance, she sings about childhood and the nostalgia of growing up.

“I had a kite
You had a trampoline

I miss the straight straight lines.”

In Dear Heart, a powerful song in ROW, she sings of solitude, and in Tori’s voice, the thrill and fear of adventure, the courage it takes to go.

Listen, dear heart.

Just pay attention, you’re right from the start.

Listen, dear heart.

You can fall off the map but don’t fall apart.”

Her own adventure as a singer and composer is still unfolding. She is on her own journey and is relishing it. In fact, the bio on her official page does not contain dates or facts. Instead, an excerpt by T.S. Eliot:

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children, hidden

excitedly, containing laughter. Go, go, go, said the bird: human

kind cannot bear very much reality.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”

If Dawn could be transformed into an instrument, she says she would be the flute in “Peter and the Wolf”, by Sergei Prokofiev. It represents a bird. How true.

Discover Dawn and her music by visiting her official website, and listen to her sing about Tori McClure, the woman who inspired her.

Enjoy this additional video of Dawn singing, “Wind and Rain.”


Yara Zgheib

Author Yara Zgheib

Yara is a writer, policy researcher and analyst, and lover of culture, travel, nature, art. She is the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street and blogger behind Aristotle at Afternoon Tea. She has written for The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, The Idea List, A Woman’s Paris, and Holiday Magazine.

More posts by Yara Zgheib

Leave a Reply