His artistic introspection and expression are only matched by the music he crafts, making David Ross Lawn the definition of a true artist. While the LGBT haven of Asbury Park is the definition of eclectic and visionary, David Ross Lawn’s chameleon like artistic abilities and vision of what truly is “beautiful” add a much needed defiance and individuality to Asbury Park. As he releases his EP Songs Of The Sun, I sat down to chat with Lawn about his musical and artistic passions, his individual definition of gender, and how this multi faceted performer continues to find excitement and inspiration in so much.
Michael Cook: Musically, you are passionate beyond belief and expires that passion via your writing, performing and teaching music; where does that passion stem from?
David Ross Lawn: My passions stem and blossom from the crevices of the human condition. There has always been a strange pull towards analyzing the enigmatic for me. I yearn to dig deeper into the complications and the celebrations of being alive. These treacherous, shaky and forever-moving foundations are what my crafts are structured upon; whether in the form of composing, performing the visual arts, or writing.
MC: Take me back; where was David Ross Lawn born and raised, and when did you know that you were truly destined to make music your career path?
DRL: My childhood was spent in Aryshire, a small historic count in southwest Scotland located on the shores of the firth of clyde. I certainly hold my upbringing close to my heart; the landscapes are something I think about often. Although there are no specific timestamps on my destiny, I certainly excelled at a young age in my musical endeavors. I was taken through “abrsm” and “trinity guildhall” at advanced grades for oboe, piano, and vocal performance, and was awarded distinctions during my high school years. I was also the honorable recipient of the “Young Musician Of The Year” in my district. With these moments of my youth, paired with encouragement from friends, family and teachers, it began to crystalize that music and the arts would be a worthy direction in my life. I moved further north to Aberdeen to pursue an initial music performance Bachelor’s Degree, graduated with honors, and then received a wonderful scholarship to Westminster Choir College in Princeton to pursue a masters in composition and theory. Which brings me to where I am now. I remain thankful for my training and journey, as it prepared me mentally and musically for what I take on as an artist today.
MC: As a performer, how would you describe your performance style and musical direction as a whole?
DRL: Aesthetically speaking, I am deeply moved by and inspired by the Victorian and Edwardian era, Silhouettes that are pronounced and embellished excite the eye. I find it to be so beautiful and I am always trawling antique stores for my daily eccentric outfit. This visual also plays a large part in my musical aesthetic too. I play baroque, classical and romantic era music on the oboe. Many eras on the piano, and with my voice, I am geared towards Italian, French and German opera/art song. I love a transformative experience, both visually and vocally together; taking an audience somewhere that they may not have been before with my repertoire choices. My own composition blend my classical training with a contemporary twist.
MC: Your EP Songs of the Sun is stunning. Tell me about it; can we expect more music from you in the future?
DRL: I am so happy to hear you resonate with my debut piano solo release. I am also excited by how much exposure it has had around the world, with over 100,000 streams, as well as features on television, professional choreography videos, blog posts, and yoga studios around the world. Songs Of The Sun is a four-track piano solo EP marking various landscapes of perspective via a minimalist, cinematic sound aesthetic. My main inspiration and keyword for this album is “interaction”. How the human condition interacts (or doesn’t) with the clarity of nature. How two people can can stare through each other in a coffee shop as if they don’t exist together; how the moment of clarity can be archived. I feel that there is an architecture to a moment, and this project is my way of portraying interactions the I have either encountered with the world, or interactions that I have witnessed happening in front of my eyes. With the artwork, an interaction is shown between the human and the sun. How the light is always keeping us warm, but we aren’t always fully present to feel it.
MC: You love collaborations, and also are passionate about photography. Any artists out there that you would love to collaborate with musically? And have you found a way to merge your talents together in a unique way?
DRL: I find collaboration to be the core of exploration, and I’m fortunate enough to have been able to collaborate intimately and musically with contemporary artists, such as Cat London and Blaise; taking their original music to the piano and creating renditions that display and hang their lyrics in a way that hits audiences in many ways. When it comes to photography, I use an Olympus EP11 with 75mm and 35mm lens, and I also have various other analog cameras in my house. Slide film, polaroid and lomography excite me, and I use the results of these mediums as part of my aesthetic in portraiture and live music photography. I’m always available for hire for events, portraits, bands, pets, etc; I enjoy using my imagination regularly with my clients and love that people admire my photographic outputs.
MC: The Asbury Park, NJ area is the place that you call home and where you have found a fantastic creative outlet there. What do you think it is about the town that brings so many creative people like yourself to the town and helps their creativity thrive there?
DRL: Asbury Park has felt like home for some time now, and I remain thankful that I have a space to express myself safely and comfortably. I think this town has an energy field that is palbalbly friendly and filled with so many artistic people that it has become part of the architecture; the fibers of Asbury Park’s scenes are that of art, design and community. I have felt very welcomed with open arms and channel the same energy toward anybody else wanting to get involved.
MC: Who are some of our Asbury Park talents that you think musically are absolutely amazing?
DRL: My tastes in music reach far and wide genre-wise, from opera all the way to heavy metal. I will often enjoy such a juxtaposition of a gong bath meditation at Ohana Rising Studios to attending a metal show at the Asbury Park Brewery. Like many here, I’m incredibly fortunate to have fostered friendships with musicians and groups of people that create magic on and off stage. Still Hungry’s debut release has been on repeat for me lately; it is a magical album with luscious harmonies, incredible lyrics, and explorative soundscapes. Blaise and Cat London, my two collaborators, both tell wonderful stories that I believe should be heard by all. When it comes to live performance and entertainment, Remember Jones carries the calibre of full scale theatre show and brings it to Asbury Park locations. I’m honored to have so many close friendships with artists in the area, and my “talent highlights” could easily be written into a full essay.
MC: Gender is a construct that you consistently work to tear apart; have you always been the kind of person who gets joy from playing with gender roles, stereotypes, and with fashion?
DRL: I have always lived by the phase “if you like it, wear it” and this sits deeply for me in terms of external projection, as well as gender. I think that life it too short to blend in if you feel like you don’t. I believe firmly in feeling whatever fantasy you want to feel, and living as the most authentic form of yourself that you can. So for me, that certainly breaks a lot of “etiquette” in what we have in today’s stereotypes and gendered fashion, aside from life drawing modeling at universities. I enjoy collaborating with photographers and visual artists that understand explorative aesthetics and queer culture. I am fortunate enough to have built a solid following with a style blog with approximately 50,000 users and I oftentimes model for vintage boutiques far and wide, pulling clothing from their store for editorial shoots. Modeling is something that has always come naturally for me, and I think that it will always be a part of my output.
MC: What give you pride?
DRL: I feel pride in the architecture of my journey so far; not just as an artist, but as a living example of a queer person that lives unapologetically as themselves every day. I am proud of others that do the same. I am proud to project myself and my visuals on a daily basis, even when they go against the tides of normality. I am proud of the souls that surround me, in the talents I get to witness and work with. I am proud of the supportiveness that I give and receive. I am proud of getting asked to share my stories with teams like yours.
Follow all things David Ross Lawn here
Grab his EP “Songs Of The Sun” here