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Dawn Landes turns misfortune into music


When her laptop computer and hard drive containing songs meant for her second album were stolen, Dawn Landes took a page from Ernest Hemingway‘s career and started over from scratch.

“I had read somewhere that Hemingway’s first batch of stories was stolen from him at a train station,” the singer and multi-instrumentalist says. “All sole copies, typewritten — he never tried to re-create them.”

The result of Landes going back to the drawing board is Fireproof, which will be released in the United States on March 4 via Cooking Vinyl Records. The Kentucky transplant recorded the folk-pop album in multiple locations, including an old fire station in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

It was while living in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood circa 2004 that Landes’ apartment was burglarized, resulting in the loss of her intended second album. That experience inspired Fireproof‘s opener, “Bodyguard,” which she wrote about the theft while waiting for the police to arrive.

The song “Private Little Hell” was inspired by car troubles Landes encountered while on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“My transmission blew up one rainy night, in the middle of nowhere, it seemed,” she recalls. “I spent two days in a motel trying to decide what to do with the car, then just left it there, with all my stuff in the back. I wrote ‘Private Little Hell’ in the motel room.”

To achieve the crackling, vinyl record-type noise that begins “Picture Show,” Landes used what she calls her “favorite instrument in the world.” That would be the Optigan, a keyboard instrument introduced in the early 1970s by a division of Mattel.

“It got a bad rep back in the day because it was unreliable, but that’s the beauty of it — unpredictable and fun,” she says.

Landes, who is touring with Will Hoge, expects to be busy once she’s off the road at the recording studio she started with two friends in Brooklyn.

“I’m really excited to get in there and start working on all kinds of projects,” she says. “There’s so much to be done and so many talented people out there who need to be making records.”

— By Chris M. Junior

Dawn Landes on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Feb. 11: Southgate House — Cincinnati
* Feb. 12: The Basement — Columbus, Ohio
* Feb. 14: Magic Stick — Detroit
* Feb. 15: Beachland Ballroom — Cleveland
* Feb. 16: Tralf Music Hall — Buffalo, N.Y.
* Feb. 17: World Cafe Live — Philadelphia
* Feb. 19: Toad’s Place — New Haven, Conn.
* Feb. 20: Paradise — Boston
* Feb. 21: Bowery Ballroom — New York
* Feb. 22: Nightclub 9:30 — Washington, D.C.
* Feb. 23: Satellite Ballroom — Charlottesville, N.C.
* Feb. 24: Soapbox — Wilmington, N.C.
* Feb. 26: Headliners — Columbia, S.C.
* Feb. 27: GA Theatre — Athens, Ga.
* Feb. 28: Bluecats — Knoxville, Tenn.
* Feb. 29: Headliners Music Hall — Louisville, Ky.
* March 1: Cannery Ballroom — Nashville, Tenn.