The Arts

Abigail Dowd and the Divine Art of Music Making

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When Abigail Dowd decided to become a singer-songwriter, she left her known world and moved all the way to Maine.

She moved to New England from Southern Pines. She had no job waiting. She knew no one. Abigail felt that Maine could make certain things happen, things like music.

Abigail can’t explain how she knew. It was a gut feeling she had, a small voice she heard. Move to Maine, it said.

She got in her Honda and drove north.

Of course, she had her moments of doubt. During one of those moments, she called up a North Carolina friend. “What have I done?” Abigail lamented. “I’ve moved to a state 1000 miles away where I know no one. I have no house. I have no job. Like, what am I am going to do?”

Her friend revealed that she had dated a guy 20 years ago. His brother lived in Maine. Phone calls were made and Abigail met the brother, an architect, for lunch.

“He offered me a job.” Abigail said. “It wasn’t my favorite job, but it was the job I needed at the time.”

Music started to happen, too.

One day, her boss (the brother) decided to give the office a random and totally unexpected bonus. She took the bonus, the entire check, and went to the music store and bought a guitar.

Abigail had studied classical guitar for years. “But when I got my hands on that acoustic guitar, the songs just poured out of me,” she said.

Her time in Maine she describes as, “dark and cold. I was in my own little world. So all I did was go home and write songs and bake apple pie.”

That was seven years ago. On January 21, Abigail Dowd celebrates the culmination of that journey. She releases her debut album, Don’t Wake Me, a collection of songs that “reflect her Irish roots, perspective of the South from a distance, and her strong sense of moving on.”

“I always wanted to make music, I was just too afraid, “ Abigail shares. Her fear wasn’t about failure. It was fear of having to balance her passion with competing responsibilities.

“If I’m going to do something, I have to pour everything in to it. It doesn’t work for me to have a job and do music because I would pour myself into the job,” she explains. “I’d have to be the best at the job. I realized that if I poured as much into myself as I did into all the other things that I pour myself into that never felt right, then I could be as successful as I’m making all the other things.”

Abigail started an art school after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill. Later, she served on the town council in Southern Pines. She seemed to transform everything she touched. If only she could take that energy and put it towards her creative goals.

But fate, of course, did the thing that fate often does: it made stuff happen.

“I came from Maine to Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities to do a residency and to see family. I met a guy on the flight home,” Abigail laughs. “We just kind of clicked. He wanted to have a beer, but I said no.”

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She was dating someone in Maine. Abigail assumed that her life would continue back up north. Yet, the chance meeting with the guy jarred her. She wrote a song about the encounter and assumed she’d never again cross paths with the fellow.

Two weeks later, Weymouth offered her a job as executive director. She didn’t even know the position was open. She said yes to the job, and to other things.

“I got in touch with the guy. Now he is my bass player,” Abigail shared. The guy, Jason Duff, is also her partner of three years.

The song she wrote about meeting him, “Don’t Wake Me,” is the title track of her new album.

Abigail spent two years at Weymouth, cultivating the center to become more arts and writer focused. But, she was still holding out for music.

“I told myself in my head that I’d stay at Weymouth for two years. And I did. And then, I got connected to a producer and we were talking on the phone. He liked my music. It’s basically that minute, I decided to make an album. It was time for me to move on to the next thing,” Abigail shares.

She marvels that she ended up in Greensboro. Abigail feels that the percolating musical energy will put the city on the map, and she is thrilled to be part of that.

“Of all the places for me to land, Greensboro has this amazing music scene,” Abigail points out. “And so many of them are women. I feel like that respect for women has already been established here. There’s just a really cool scene.”

Her praise isn’t just for local female singer songwriters. “There’s these amazingly talented men at the same time. Because there is a balance here, you don’t feel like, ‘Oh, I’m just a girl.’”

People have said her music sounds like a collection of things: British folk, or nu folk, something hard to define, yet intimate.

“I was described by one venue (Honeysuckle Teahouse) as having ‘a voice that is at once strong and generous in its vulnerability.” I’d say there’s a bluesy quality in my vocals combined with my classical guitar finger picking style.”

Abigail knows that things started to happen once she got still and listened to that voice, the voice that sent her to Maine and brought her back home again. “So, in one sense, it is like wow, I listened and it happened,” she said. “At the same time, I think that once you start listening, you kind of have to do the work.”

Don’t Wake Me is a reflection the work. And after a listen, you’ll realize that Abigail is wide-awake and making new worlds known.

Wanna go? The album release party will be at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, North Carolina, at 8pm, January 21. Other musicians on the album, Jason Duff and Ryan Book, will join Abigail. Check www.abigaildowd.com for upcoming shows.

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