This time last year, things were different for Caryn Dixon.
After a prolific career as a singer-songwriter in numerous cities across the United States — including Chicago and Nashville — Dixon became a mom and decided to take a break from music while she focused her attention on her family.
“I had my kids, which was great,” Dixon said, “but it was really hard trying to think about trying to do kids and singing and networking. I took a break and did some songwriting, went to Nashville and did some collaborations there, but I didn’t play out very much and I missed it.”
So it goes. So it goes.
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Now, Dixon is back, and she’s steamrolled her way to dozens of gigs all over Centre County and trickling out into other areas of central Pennsylvania and beyond. That include a weekly Thursday night gig at Barrel 21 and a weekly gig at Gigi’s that alternates between Wednesday and Friday. She’s playing upward of four or even five nights a week, however, and topped off at about two dozen gigs in August.
“My original goal was to play as much as possible around here,” Dixon said. “I have one original I will be releasing. The style of the music is a little different than what I’ve been performing, so I wanted to hold it back, then someone told me people’s styles are always changing, so I think I’m going to just put it out there.”
Whatever the case, Dixon has a really engaging style of performing. She’s bright, confident and smooth, and the way she plays her guitar is a great complement to those qualities. When I arrived at her Barrel 21 gig last Thursday, she was in the midst of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads,” which is not something I’m typically too interested in, but there was something fresh about Dixon’s delivery and I absolutely loved hearing her sing and play it.
That freshness carried over into her rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and then into all the songs she played leading up to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” There was a consistent thread connecting the songs, and it was her style, which never dragged, steadily moved along, and, again, was a natural extension of her pitch-perfect, sweet vocal delivery.
“Her voice ... it just resonates over the whole room,” friend, fan and My Hero Zero manager Angel Mariotti said. “It’s this gorgeous, all-encompassing, haunting voice and she can apply it to anything. I love her voice. You can tell she is really meant for it. She shines up there and it’s really great.”
Dixon has a rich history of performing and even scored a top 40 hit on the adult contemporary charts with her Chicago-based band Carson’s Window. She lived and performed in Nashville, and to hear her tell it, she’s just getting started on this second wave of her musical career.
“My favorite part is meeting people,” Dixon said. “I’m very social. I like to make new friends. I feel like I’m just making friends every time I go out. Also, though, there’s something within me that just really likes to sing. I don’t even know how to explain it, I really don’t.”
Dixon’s love of singing started when she was 13 when she would lay in bed dreaming about being a singer somewhere, somehow, which led to her first step toward singing in blues bars with a full-backing band by the time she was in her mid-teens.
“I don’t have a good reason for why I like it,” Dixon said, “it just feels good inside to know you have a talent and to be able to use it. I think with creative talents sometimes you feel like you can’t use that gift as your way of making a living, but there’s no reason (why) you can’t do something you love, make a living at it, and have that be a part of your life.”
To that point, Dixon is clearly dropped in. It’s obvious when experiencing her show, and even more obvious when listening to her talk about what it’s like for her to perform.
“When you’re singing a song, something just clicks,” Dixon said, “then you get lost in that moment and it feels really ... it’s almost relaxing. You’re in another place, you’re not in the room, and then you open your eyes and you’re like, ‘oh, yeah.’ ”