Lyman woman wins singer-songwriter competition

Kira Dawn performs ahead of the Wyoming Singer-Songwriter’s Competition, held in Ten Sleep over Labor Day weekend last month. Dawn, a 20-year-old woman from Lyman, earned $5,000 for the win, along with studio time and invitations to several upcoming music festivals. (COURTESY PHOTO)

20-year-old Bridger Valley resident earns cash, studio time, invites to music festivals

The next great American singer-songwriter just might hail from Uinta County. Twenty-year-old Lyman native Kira Dawn Walk, better known artistically as Kira Dawn, won the 2023 Wyoming Singer-Songwriter Competition in Ten Sleep last month. Having only started writing and performing songs a mere 14 months ago, Dawn is making considerable waves on the state’s music scene.

“A series of sad events happened, I started writing songs on a crappy keyboard, and I thought ‘I don’t like this,’ so I bought my own guitar,” explained the self-taught musician. “I write things on my Notes app all the time. It’ll start like a poem, and then I add music. I think being able to put a melody to it makes it less vulnerable to me. It’s easier to put it into the world with a song behind it.”

A lyricist at heart, the current sophomore University of Wyoming English major prizes wordsmithing above all else.

“I’ve written a lot of songs, but I only have 10 I’m willing to perform currently,” she said.

There were others, but they’re shelved once they start feeling less honest than she’d like them to.

“It’s important for me to hold myself accountable,” she said, “I want them articulated how I mean them, I don’t want them to be interpreted wrong.”

Dawn’s current catalog favors melancholic folk and explores a deep reckoning with her childhood in a small, religious town. Her only recorded release, the audience-voted third place “Ghost Town,” is about the expectations and obligations put upon her in her hometown. “It’s a reality for a lot of people,” she added.

“Straight and Narrow,” which won the competition’s top song award, is about “growing up in a high-demand religion, getting to college, and realizing I wanted something different for myself, then reconstructing my whole existence.”

Dawn is hoping to record and release it soon.

“In the right place, I think it ends up resonating for people, like a captive audience,” Dawn said. “My music is very sad, but it’s cathartic to me [and] also offers comfort to some people.”

Dawn’s entry into the performance arts started at a young age. She had spent her childhood dabbling in theater, and the occasional musical. During a collegiate gap year to focus on her music, her previous experiences helped fortify her confidence to sign up for open mics on the Wasatch Front in Utah.

“I think the first time I thought I could do it, I went to the Velour (Live Music Gallery) in Provo, one of Utah’s most iconic venues. Right after that show, they booked me to play a songwriters’ showcase. That was a really big honor.”

It was in Utah that Dawn became part of the Artistic Underground, a performers community made up of other singer-songwriters, poets and comedians.

“Everyone supports each other, it’s such a cool thing,” she said. “I think doing music as a career is a lot more attainable if you find the right support system,” which she explains she has within the open mic community.

In addition to winning $5,000, Dawn’s prizes also include various 2024 invitations to perform at: Nowoodstock Festival, What Fest, Cheyenne Fridays at the Plaza, the Wyoming State Fair, and FoCoMX.   

She also won an eight-hour recording session with Harmonyx Audio as part of her tie for audience-voted top singer-songwriter, an honor she shares with Adam Kirkpatrick of Lander.

When asked if she has plans to record and release a full-length album, she said, “I’m going off some advice from the Singer Songwriters Association, this [win] is a big shift in my music. I’m going to sit with it for a while, write new songs, then go into recording. It’s in the works, but I don’t have time limits on myself.”