Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith on Unintentionally Creating a Laurel Canyon Record, North Hills | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


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.

Newer songs like "Time Spent in Los Angeles," "If I Wanted Someone," "My Way Back Home," and "Coming Back to a Man" introduce the album with rousing and resolute refrains, and with few exceptions, the set holds to that tack throughout. "How Far We've Come" and "Fire Away" find a celebratory stance that tempers even their most forlorn façades, suggesting that exuberance and empathy need not be mutually exclusive. An album certain to clinch a nod among the top releases of 2011, Nothing Is Wrong is another impressive milestone in the band's brief trajectory. New Times spoke to vocalist/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith and asked him why he thinks Dawes has done so well.

New Times: First off, congratulations on your two fine albums. Let's start with some history -- how did the band originate? 

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. 

Your influences would seem pretty obvious -- but the sounds you reference -- specifically Southern California, Laurel Canyon, late '60s, early '70s -- were those sounds you grew up listening to, or did you discover that music later? 

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. 

Was it your intent all along, to emulate that music? 

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. 

Can you give us any insight into your songwriting process? 

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. 

Why do you think that sound is so timeless and still resonates? Obviously, fans and
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. 

What's been the most exciting or eventful thing that's happened to you guys so far?

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. 

How would you describe your evolution from your debut album to your second album? What did you do different, and what would you say differentiates the two discs? 

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. 

What can we expect from you in concert? 

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. 

What's next on the radar? When can we expect your next album? 

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. 

When did you know that you could make music for a living and you wouldn't be forced to rely on a day job? 

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. 

Dawes opens for Alison Krauss at 8 p.m. Saturday, August 20, at the Au-Rene Theater, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $45 to $75 . Call 954-462-0222.

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