The World According to Kimya
It is easy to predict what one will come across backstage after a concert.  There will be the bubbly assistant, the upstaged opening band, and the beautiful blonde, towering over them all with her all-too-cool attitude.  I knew all of these people were coming, I imagined it just that way.  What I could not have predicted was the presence of a young woman of talent, intelligence, and geniune kindness seated quietly between two members of my favorite band.  Perched next to the likes of Albert Hammond, Jr. and Nick Valensi of The Strokes it might be easy not to notice Kimya Dawson.  But she is there. And she is everywhere, and she is doing things her way.

When we meet up the next day at Seattle's Pike Place Market, Kimya is talkative but shy.  She starts talking about something excitedly and then catches herself from time to time and gets a little quiet.  But her personality is what shines through and makes her completely irresistable.  Kimya has her own way of doing things and her approach is admirable.

"I'm really comfortable with the way I do things.  When I go to shows like last night, and I've played shows with them and had a super-fun time on tours like that... but it's really overwhelming."

A founding member of New York City band The Moldy Peaches, Dawson first started writing music with fellow member Adam Green when he was just a young teenager, in 1994.  When both moved to Port Townsend, Washington in 1998 they joined forces with a couple of friends to form the band but, as Dawson says, none of them could ever have imagined performing the songs for a live audience.

A little trouble paying the electric bill later, The Moldy Peaches performed their first show, selling CD-Rs to interested attendees, and their journey began.

That journey eventually took them back to New York City, where Dawson and Green met The Strokes and joined their residency at the Mercury Lounge.  The two groups became quick friends and began touring together as both careers picked up speed.  Dawson describes the tours as "so good" and "a surprisingly perfect thing," because, she claims, The Strokes were saying the same things in a different way than the Peaches.

"We were just different enough and the same enough in being nice kids and wanting to just have a good show."

2002 saw Adam and Kimya's solo careers take off, which has brought them both to today. 

"People say 'Don't you miss big tours and fancy hotels?' and... not really.  I don't consider it a step back to do things the way I do them because I'm totally content.  It's almost like that is a novelty and this is ideal."

"This" is Kimya's solo career in full swing.  With three albums under her belt, Dawson tours the country almost constantly, meeting and greeting fans, family, and friends.  And she loves it.

"I just like nice people," she says and then laughs, "and people who can deal with the fact that I'm, like, the most transient friend."

"Usually every five weeks I'm like 'I'd like to go home' and then after two days at home I'm like 'I'd like to leave.'  I'm just not good at staying in one place."

Dawson's extensive touring included an opening spot for friends Third Eye Blind on their 2003 tour.

"I admire Third Eye Blind.  They are a pop sensation that isn't that pop, that isn't that sensational anymore.  But they are really nice boys and their shows are really fun.  It's just neat to be a part of something that you think is cool."

But opening for the tour proved difficult.

"It's hard to play big shows like that... alone onstage.  And I only know like five chords and my songs are all slow and quiet.  If people aren't listening to the words then I sound really bad."

But Dawson managed to gain a few fans from the tour, and maintained the respect of headliners Third Eye Blind. 

And while Kimya talks about riding in her van with members of Third Eye Blind, or waking up to a call from Adam Green, when asked about her wide variety of friends of all shapes and sizes, she claims she wouldn't want it any other way.

"I really feel like it's not weird for me to be friends with a lot of different people.  It's normal for me to overlap groups but I think sometimes it's strange for people I hang out with at open mic in New York to fathom that I also hang out with Third Eye Blind and The Strokes."

And so on her new album "Hidden Vagenda," scheduled for a September release, Dawson is making an effort to bring all of those groups together.  One song features Dawson's mom, the members of New York band The Baby Skins, close friend singer/songwriter Regina Spektor, and pop singer Vanessa Carlton.

"I wanted people who would probably never usually hear each other's stuff to be involved in stuff together.  You know... maybe they'll like what each other do and check each other out.  I really wanted to cross pollinate scenes and levels of visibility."

After years of being a self-described "fuck up," Dawson has found a sense of solace in making music.

"I was like 'I don't want to be like this, I don't want to be nuts, I have to figure something out.'  And music has made me okay, being totally honest and just putting it out there."

"Before it was intense therapy, now I'm more in the swing of it," she laughs, "I'm not, like, 'at risk' anymore."

Dawson has been clean for five and a half years and it seems to work well for her.  And, her honesty about it, and the honesty of her music, has been well received by fans of all kinds.

"That's what I feel is really neat.  I don't have a core group.  I like being the thing my friends listen to with their moms," she says and then takes on a motherly persona, complete with prim and proper voice and stature, "This is lovely!  She says 'fuck' too much.  Does she have to say 'cock' and 'balls' all the time?"

Dawson may joke about it, but her wide audience is ever apparent.  Her LiveJournal online, Kimya Dawson Loves You, is a place for her to keep in touch with the fans on a personal level.  Dawson's posts update those interested on her whereabouts and they are always pure Kimya.

And, it seems, that is just what Dawson wants.  She has her quiet insecurities, saying "Thanks for being nice to me" as we break off later on that evening at a Strokes radio show.  She has her shy moments, shifting her eyes as she claims her "little obsession with Sting."  But at the core of Kimya is an extra-ordinary individual doing her best to do all she can.  She is appreciative of all she has done and all she will do.

"I'm comfortable.  I have a little mini van that I drive around and meet all kinds of cool people... it's perfect.  And if I can do that 'til I'm really old? - that would be the best."

For more information on Kimya, check out her website, or her online journal at
by Ashley Graham
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