Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Maria Dunn is bringing her wide repertoire of original tunes to The Dream Café on May 23.
The Edmonton-based folk musician is on what she’s calling her “Leap of Faith Tour.” It’s celebrating 20 years since she gave up her day job as a psychology researcher with the University of Alberta to pursue a music career full time.
Surprisingly, Dunn said she learned a lot from her years in that line of work, which has helped with her music career.
One such lesson was about passion and finding something you care deeply about to do for the rest of your life. Seeing the passion the professors had for their careers made her realize that she shared that love — but it was for folk music.
“I was much more passionate about the thought of folk music as a career,” she said. “It was a good life lesson.”
The 2017 Juno nominee is often compared to Woody Guthrie for her keen social awareness and unvarnished songs about ordinary people.
Dunn considers her work to illuminate the human struggle and that’s what she is bringing to Penticton in a few weeks after performing at the Vernon Folk Roots festival on May 22.
“I’ve always been interested in telling stories about resilience and grace and people who stand up for an ideal,” Dunn said.
The songs are performed to be inspiring to the audience because they tell stories about people who overcome challenges in life and triumph, she added.
This aspect of her music comes from many influences but she mentioned American folk singer and social activist Peter Seeger in particular.
“Goodness knows we have a pretty negative news cycle going on and Pete Seeger always made sure we heard positive stories.”
The multi-talented violinist and fiddle player Shannon Johnson will be accompanying Dunn, adding her unique brand of jig to the performance.
Dunn’s songwriting has been published in Sing Out! and Penguin Eggs magazines and the Rise Again songbook (2015). Other artists have recorded her work, including Niamh Parsons and Bob Bossin.
Archie Fisher, Andy Irvine and Nathan Rogers have performed her songs as well.