About 100 people gathered inside the top-floor conference room of the Sorrento Hotel on Monday night to hear a conversation between Detroit-based author dream hampton and Olympia-based musician Kimya Dawson. The pair took advantage of the intimate setting, revealing themselves to each other and the crowd. Dawson, especially, unloaded harrowing details of her alcoholism and subsequent recovery, as well as funny tales from her childhood and recent motherhood. She sang a handful of songs, addressing huge issues of personal and societal growth with a tiny, quavering voice, razor-sharp insight and a delicate strum-and-tap technique on acoustic guitar. A few songs—“I Like Giants,” which Hampton called “a whole philosophy,” and “Same Shit/Complicated,” which makes a powerful anthem for the global Occupy movement—visibly moved the rapt crowd. Dawson’s songs are startlingly direct, her lyrics a live-wire conduit between her conscious and unconscious minds. They’re the product of years of personal challenge, world travel and unconventional relationships delivered with humility, humor and childlike plainspokenness that render their message of compassion all the more potent.
Dawson is a national treasure.
1. I do water aerobics in a saline pool in Olympia.
2. I do all my writing in my head, and in the car is where that’s easiest for me.
3. I was vice-president of the Just Say No Club in high school.
4. A friend was making Ameretto cookies and I dipped my finger in it and was drunk for the next five years.
5. The most important stuff to me is helping young people to really love themselves.
6. I feel like I’m never really conscious when I write.
7. People ask me why my songs are never one mood. It’s because all the different emotions coexist.
8. I went down into the basement with my four-track and basically sang the whole plot of the movie.
9. They had the Juno wrap party at a curling club and we went to go curling.
[Dream Hampton]: What’s curling?
It’s like the best bowling.
10. I’m the most reluctant rapper.
11. If I didn’t process the things that I write and let it back out it would destroy me.
12. I get inspired by the people at Occupy who hold on to the nonviolent aspect of the movement.
13. Be honest and take care of yourself.
Photo of Kimya Dawson’s feet and guitar by Dacia Saenz.