Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith on Unintentionally Creating a Laurel Canyon Record, North Hills
After Dawes' debut album, North Hills, found Americana underground pundits fawning with admiration, the group elevated the anticipation with Nothing Is Wrong, a tellingly titled sophomore set. Showing obvious fondness for the Laurel Canyon crowd -- specifically the '70s sensibilities pervaded by Joni, Jackson, Stephen, David, Graham, and Neil -- Dawes returned again to the borrowed template they so eloquently expressed early on. Although those golden embers of faraway innocence remain embedded in every wistful sentiment, the consolidation of two years' worth of touring helped bolster their confidence. The songs are still draped in incense and patchouli, patched jeans and tattered quilts, but the Day-Glo design is that much brighter and bolder.
Taylor Goldsmith: Thank you very much! We started about four years ago. I was in a band with [bassist] Wylie [Gelber] before Dawes. [Drummer] Griffin [Goldsmith] was always a part of what we were doing musically, but he was still finishing school. We met [keyboard player Tay (Strathairn] through some mutual friends in L.A.
We recorded North Hills without being too aware of the Laurel Canyon scene from the '70s. We had some of the main records like Harvest and Blue and Déjà Vu, but we weren't really aware of the cultural history or the relevance behind it. After making North Hills, people started asking if California music from that period was a big influence on us. We started looking into it more, and that's when we became more familiarized with it.
Not at all. We want to be our own band, but we don't fight our influences if they happen to bleed into our own material. We write and play in the best way we know how, and we do it believing that what matters most is creating strong material, not how original something is. We could be a band with a sound that no one has ever heard before, but that could potentially bring nothing meaningful to the table. We choose to work within a more traditional genre and through the nuances of our personalities on our instruments and searching for a fresh perspective in regards to writing the songs. And by continuing to make record after record, eventually we'll be known for our own sound.
I write the songs by myself, and we arrange them as a band. We trust each other to know what's best for our own respective instrument. It's hard to write on tour, so I try to keep notes and wait till I'm home with some time and privacy to iron the songs out.
critics have responded to it in their embrace of your sound and style.
I think that what could make a song potentially timeless is, again, its quality and not its sound. We are honored when people like our sound and style, but I think there is going to be an audience for any sound and style as long as the material is moving people.
Playing with Robbie Robertson and Jackson Browne were experiences that we never would have dreamed of. Not only getting to meet them but having two of your heroes dig what you do is one of the most rewarding experiences we ever could have asked for.
For us, it was mainly arranging these songs for a live setting. The writing process stayed the same, more or less. We mainly brought in more electric guitars and more energy for the second record, but we feel it's still coming from the same band as the first record.
While our priority with making the records is showcasing the songs, our priority with playing the shows is showcasing the playing, so there are more solos and high energy than there is in the records.
As soon as we can write it and arrange it. We're not at a time in our career where we can afford to believe in breaks. We enjoy working 365 days of the year, be it for playing live or working on our next album.
It's the only thing any of us know how to do. We've devoted so much time to being as good as we can at this one thing, so we never felt fully equipped to rely on any other sort of day job.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.