Sounds Like: John Mayer, if he'd grown up listening to Garth Brooks and worried more about other people's feelings
For Fans of: Hunter Hayes, Andy Grammer, drinking wine alone on a weeknight in your late 20s
Why You Should Pay Attention: Growing up a stone's throw from Folsom Prison in California, Dawson was weaned on R&B, NorCal classic rock and Nineties country, but spent his post-high school years touring with metal band Shadow of the Colossus. He headed to Nashville in 2012 to study songwriting in college, before his mash-up of Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" and "Style" with Louisa Wendorff got over 30 million YouTube plays and a thumbs-up from T-Swift herself. Now signed to Warner Nashville, Dawson released a handful of songs on Spotify earlier this month from his debut full-length, due to be released later this year. The song "All on Me" got almost two million plays in its first two weeks. Dawson is currently touring in support of another songwriter-turned-solo artist: Maren Morris.
He Says: "I learned how to write songs just by listening to country music and how to set up words. The weight of the words we have in this genre is unlike anything. We have the ability to let people in on certain things. Just the culture of songwriting in country music is what I grew up analyzing without even realizing it. [My music] might have more of a soul sonic identity with a little bit of rock, but with more of the honesty and vulnerability of a country lyric. I couldn't do what I do with any other genre because I'm such a stickler for words."
Hear for Yourself: Dawson sets himself up as the complete package in "All on Me," a sugar daddy with an ear to lend, and wraps it all up with a hook that gets stuck in your head by the second refrain. J.G.