If Dawes were from Athens, Ga., or Austin, Texas, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
But they are from Los Angeles. And because of that, they are always referred to as a "California Band." "Oh, you have a California thing about you" — this is what people always told Taylor Goldsmith.
"No, I don't," Dawes' singer and songwriter would reply. "I just write folk songs, and we just play them as a band. 'Yeah, but you like Joni Mitchell, you like Warren Zevon, you like Jackson Browne, you like the Grateful Dead, you like the Band's self-titled album, you like Neil Young . . .' Everything that they would refer to was a record that was made in L.A. With the Band's self-titled, or with a lot of those artists, I wasn't even really aware that a lot of them were from L.A."
Goldsmith asserts that Dawes is all over the map. This spring, they toured with pop singer-songwriter Brett Dennen. This fall, they'll tour with indie rockers Blitzen Trapper. And in between, they're touring with folk/bluegrass legends Alison Krauss and Union Station, in a tour that hits Ruth Eckerd Hall on Sunday.
All of the aforementioned bands are good places to start when describing Dawes, whose oldest member is 30 (Goldsmith turned 26 this week; his younger brother, Griffin, is the band's drummer; their father is former Tower of Power singer Lenny Goldsmith). Throw in Bruce Springsteen, Gram Parsons, Tom Petty and Robbie Robertson, who earlier this year asked Dawes to be his backing band in concert.
The group's new CD, Nothing Is Wrong, will appeal to fans of classic rock, alt-country and vintage folk. But will the band appeal to fans of Alison Krauss? That's where we started in talking to Taylor Goldsmith.
What does it say about Alison Krauss that you guys were invited to open for her on this tour?
It shows she's open to a lot of different things. A lot of people might not like what we do. But just the fact that she's open to changing it up — it reminds you why she's Alison Krauss. When someone asks you who she is, you don't simply say bluegrass. It's a lot more than that, and I think this is indicative of that.
Does it take a shift in mindset to go from playing giant theaters with Alison Krauss and Union Station to co-headlining a tour with Blitzen Trapper?
Yeah, it definitely changes. With Alison Krauss, there's a lot of acoustic guitar, there's a lot of mellow singing. We're trying to appeal to her audience. It's a lot softer. If we come out and play a full Dawes rock show, we'll probably alienate a lot of potential fans. And with Blitzen Trapper, we'll very much be focused on being a rock show, and keeping the energy high.
Musically — but also just in a life sense — are you a guy who's more likely to look back, rather than forward?
I don't know if I'm either. I'm having a great time right now. If it were to all end tomorrow, it wouldn't be about looking back and being like, "Man, it could have been so much more." I definitely wouldn't be that guy. I'd be more like, "I had a great time, and I'm very lucky to have experienced some things I wanted to."
But at the same time, while we're in it, we definitely have to have goals. We definitely have to figure out what it will take to maintain this lifestyle, and to take it even further. So in that sense, I guess I think of the future. And in most songs, I tend to be pretty reflective and I think that goes for any songwriter. So yeah, I think I'm a little bit of both. But I focus real hard on trying to remind myself how exciting each day is, and stay in that, and not look at these crazy situations that I find myself in. It's not about, "This'll be a fun story to tell," or "I can't wait until tomorrow, when we get to do this other thing." It's more just like, "Look at what we're doing right now."
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
Oh, I was like 12. I had a crush on some girl at school. It was terrible. I had learned like three chords on guitar, and I was like, "I'll write a song now!" So that's what I did.
What was it called?
Oh, it was something like, "Why Don't You Like Me?" or something. It was terrible. As it should be at that age. Maybe some guys at 12 can write something good. But I sure couldn't.