Austin duo Dawn & Hawkes have been capturing the attention and hearts of fans everywhere since their incredible breakthrough on NBC’s The Voice. It’s no wonder within a few notes of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” Adam Levine of Maroon 5 nearly begged to be their coach. It’s not every day on the show that an unknown, unsigned act from Texas sparks a tussle between judges Shakira and Adam Levine, but once you’ve heard them sing you’ll know exactly why.
No one can deny that Dawn & Hawkes' stage presence is simply magnetic, a quality that is almost indescribable until you realize that Dawn and Hawkes are not just superb musicians, they’re a couple. Perhaps that's the secret formula to what makes them so interesting. Speaking by phone from the road, Chris Hawkes and Miranda Dawn recently elaborated on how they got from their widely known “happenstance meeting” to a full-time tour and songwriting career.
“It’s a funny story.” Hawkes explains. “Together, we were a side project. We were both in other bands.”
He laughs when reflecting on the shift.
“It felt like people were tolerating [our performances together]," he says. "I had friends tell me, ‘Man, you don’t wanna be in a band with your girlfriend.’ But once they heard us together, they were like, ‘Forget everything we said.’”
In certainly the best advice ever received. The couple soon found themselves performing on television for the entire country. Reaction to the pair was overwhelmingly positive. The Voice was not just a stroke to their ego, but a validation of their talent and a platform for exposure of which bands can only dream.
The introduction undoubtedly got them noticed where it counts. That exposure earned them opening support on tours and performances for names like Robert Earl Keen, Chris Isaak, Clint Black, Jenny Lewis and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to name a few. Easily a crowd favorite, Dawn and Hawkes continue to capture fans' attention. Think about it — we all love Johnny Cash, but we love Johnny & June even more. Sure, people enjoy music, but they adore an interesting backstory even more. And love songs are the best songs for a reason: we all can relate.
Hawkes gets why fans connect with the duo so well.
“I think the opposite of loneliness is to be understood,”he says.
Identifying with the Dawn and Hawkes is easy. On their EP, Golden Heart, songs like “Ten Leap Years” and “A Catch” are quietly powerful in depth and expression. Their ability to write a simple word like "confusion" and have a note, an emotion, or even an entire sentiment hang on that one word is the essence of art. And they do so masterfully.
Not just gifted writers, though, Dawn and Hawkes flex their musical muscle in songs like “Holler” and “Golden Heart,” which feature drums and backup musicians. Pared down to the basic elements of writing, the couple describe themselves as simply “Two voices, two guitars.” They're obviously fond of understatement; Dawn and Hawkes are far beyond a simple acoustic duo. Utilizing breath-taking harmonization, powerful guitar ballads and song-writing that is nothing short of poetry, Dawn and Hawkes make music that transcends they typical three-minute staple of American music into a thing of beauty.
“I think people appreciate what we’re doing because it comes from an honest place.” Hawkes acknowledges.
Their honesty willingly and openly exposes the quiet parts of their relationship without being commercial or cheap — this is real vulnerability.
"We respect [our relationship] and we are honest with our listeners,” adds Dawn.
Witnessing the duo in person, you will see real love — what was once abstract become concrete. The most precious emotion desired by the human race on display is a pretty amazing thing. To see them live is to see an emotional, soul-bearing performance, an intimacy unfelt in other live shows.
“We know we have something very special,” says Hawkes. “We try to communicate it. We know it’s validating for others to see us, and to feel it, too.”
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Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.