Buy a Record, Make a Difference 7: Dawn Pemberton

Buy a Record, Make a Difference is a new series we have created to help local musicians generate income during COVID-19. It is based on the principle that we should support and reward the hard work local artists have already put into recordings, as it is an immensely difficult undertaking to be creating new material under current circumstances. There is currently a lot of emphasis on livestreaming and innovation in our industry, and while those things absolutely have their place, we think it’s also important to boost projects that have already been completed.

In each post, we’ll ask a local artist a series of the same questions, give them the opportunity to talk about recordings they’re proud of, and ask them to talk about other local musicians whose work they admire. It’s our hope that you’ll take the time to listen to & purchase the work of local artists, or at the very least share their work with others.


Photo: Wendy D Photography
1. Who are you? 

Hi, my name is Dawn Pemberton. I’m a Vancouver based musician, songwriter, choral director, educator and session singer. I am greatly inspired by music created by the African diaspora and I love tracing the many threads and discovering the stories and sounds of the people and the places they went. I grew up playing the piano and singing, however, I primarily work as a vocalist now. The last few years I have spent a lot of time on the road with my own project, and other artists like Linda Tillery, Moira Smiley, and The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer. I feel blessed that my voice has taken me all over the world to perform and study. I have learned so much and have met and collaborated with some amazing and inspiring people.

2. Describe your music as best you can.

My music is definitely motivated by rhythm and can be described as funk, jazz and soul all rolled into one. I really love all different styles of music and am drawn to styles of music that allow for improvisation. I love music that invites the performers and the listeners to interact, music that leaves room for the individual and for Spirit to take hold. I always try to approach my music making with a sense of trust, love, spontaneity and a dash of reverence. I really aim to get out of the way and be a conduit for something bigger than myself, this is how I want to be of service in the world.

3. What’s your latest recording (or a recording you’d like to promote)? Where can people get it?

I’m currently working on some new music. I’m trying to create with no agenda and no attachment to product. I feel called to slow, quiet and lush sounds right now, so we’ll see where that takes me. In the meantime folks can find my album Say Somethin’ here.

I recently collaborated with Odario Williams of Grand Analog and CBC’s After Dark on his new song called Low Light. It’s hip hop, spoken word, with a tinge of gospel. You can find that release here.

4. Is there another local musician whose work you’d like to give a shout out to? 

Yes, there are so many! One thing that I can honestly say is that Vancouver has a beautiful musical community. It may not be the biggest, but I have never met a more focused, committed, united, and curious group of people. Some of my favourites are Gavin Youngash, André Lachance, Tristan Paxton, Lydia Hol, Jonny Tobin, Jennifer Scott, Elisa Thorn, Gord Grdina and Chris Gestrin. My list is way longer of course, but I enjoy how these folk think about music and how they interact on stage. They are inspiring to me and create music with a lot of dimension and soul.