music

The strength to stand alone again

Recovered from anorexia and harsh publicity, a famous daughter spreads her wings

AARON WHERRY March 12 2007
music

The strength to stand alone again

Recovered from anorexia and harsh publicity, a famous daughter spreads her wings

AARON WHERRY March 12 2007

The strength to stand alone again

Recovered from anorexia and harsh publicity, a famous daughter spreads her wings

music

BY AARON WHERRY • Sitting around a table at a midtown Toronto coffee shop not far from where she lives, 26-year-old Dawn Langstroth assures her interviewer, repeatedly, that life is good. And she speaks excitedly about a singing career. But eventually, after some prodding, she arrives at what many would consider the essential truth of her life to date. “I tell you what,” she says, “I’ve been through a lot of s—.”

A little less than 10 years ago, Langstroth was mildly famous. She appeared in People magazine and on Oprah, and was interviewed by Diane Sawyer, who Langstroth will tell you is one of the nicest people ever. But the reason for that fame is not readily obvious now. First, because Langstorth’s official biography dances around the facts of her birth. (“I don’t announce it generally. But, I mean, do you talk about your mom’s job life?”) And, second, because Langstroth, a young woman who once believed she wouldn’t live to see the age of 21, appears altogether healthy.

Though she has always gone by the last name of her father Bill, a successful television producer, Langstroth is Anne Murray’s daughter. And, yes, she’s the same daughter who went public a decade ago, by her mother’s side, to speak about the perils of anorexia. It was a noble attempt to raise awareness, but once you’ve opened up your personal life to public scrutiny, it’s impossible to set limits on the disclosure.

One writer at the time termed the whole media tour an “almost evangelical road show” and a quick search of newspaper archives now leaves little to the imagination. There’s Langstroth’s troubled relationship with an absent mother. Her ill-fated attempt to become a model. Her expensive stay at a

controversial clinic in Victoria. Her parents’ failed marriage and her father’s alcoholism.

This is perhaps just a week’s worth of work for Britney Spears. But then, Britney was once famous for something other than being famous. Langstroth’s life has played out in reverse—famous and subsequently scrutinized before she’d actually achieved anything. “I never really regret anything because I’ve learned so much,” she says now. “You don’t learn from not having any conflict. So you might as well get it done.”

So she did, and so here Langstroth is again, looking to be famous by taking on the one profession she had every reason to avoid. Taking over, say, your family’s novelty T-shirt business would be one thing. Following your tremendously successful mother into the music business—to face critical judgment and public exposure—is something else entirely. “I’m trying my best to deal with the pressure, but it makes me work harder,” she says. “It makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to be a better singer, it makes me try that much harder.”

Langstroth has toyed with it for years. She recorded a duet with her mother, Let There Be Love, around the same time she went public with her anorexia, but only in the last couple of years has she felt ready to make a career of it. She’s played shows around Toronto and

recently returned from a stint opening for the Rankin Family on their Canadian tour. She’s still giddy about the experience, raving even about travelling the country on the stage crew’s bus. By the time the tour reached Hamilton, with her mother watching anxiously from the audience, she was completely at ease. “I took to it like a duck to water,” she says. “I love it... I wish I could be on the road right now. If I could be on the road all the time, I would.”

Without a recording contract, she’s released a five-song EP and is working on a full album. The best display of her talents so far might be You Don’t Want Me, a simple lament co-written with Ron Sexsmith, a fan and acquaintance of Murray’s. “I think she has a beautiful voice,” Sexsmith says of Langstroth. “I’ve always been a fan of singers who didn’t have pretentious voices, who just have really natural voices. And I think she has one of those.”

There is little pretension to her in general. She was amazed Sexsmith would even consider writing with her. After one particularly successful recording session, she says, “I went home and I sat down to sing [the song] and I couldn’t sing it because I was crying. Because I’m like, this is a really good song. This is amazing.” She is conscious of the opportunities her background provides, but entirely willing to confront the whispers and questions that come with that. “I guess I just hope that what I have and whatever I can do,” she says, “whatever that I can sing will be enough. I mean, all I can do is hope.” M