Rock band

Folk/rock group Dawes talks about the pressure to create “great music”

Taylor Goldsmith, leader of the Californian group Dawes, writes for the pleasure of writing. He’s not afraid to keep putting pen to paper, even if not all the ideas stick. In the spirit of his heroes, Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell, he creates, writes and records with a free spirit, letting each song be complete as it is.

It is, he says, what relieves the pressure of being a career artist. By constantly creating and not letting fear and competition to release “the next big thing” paralyze him, his music thrives.

Since the beginning of their career, Dawes has released an album almost every year or two, starting with their debut album Northern Hills in 2009. The group has seen eight more albums in the 11-plus years of its existence – no mean feat for an artist with a career-long average of four or five albums.

From their debut in 2009 to their release in 2020, good luck with anything, the group has experienced evolution and maturity since its inception, especially in lyrical content. Evolving from the limits of relationships and breakups, Dawes came of age by immersing himself in the subject of humanity and learning to face the awkwardness of it with confidence.

Goldsmith says their process lives at the time of recording, flowing freely from minute to minute. Once completed, they move on, leaving no room for detail.

“We make a record, we go on tour and we start thinking about the next one,” Goldsmith told American Songwriter. “And so many of my heroes and musicians and such have always been those kind of people who kept coming back to the plate again and again and getting more bats.”

This attitude towards music, says Goldsmith, is what keeps pressure and expectations at bay. When he looks around at the artists who take a good four or five years to produce their next album, he finds that fans will raise their expectations to impossible levels, often shrouding the next project in that unreachable shadow of anticipation.

“When these artists go away for a minute, the longer that time lasts, the more I anticipate something big, because he’s a fan,” he says. “It’s not like I’m not lifting my finger on anybody, but I’m just like, I can’t wait to hear what you guys have been doing for four years. And then it shapes my impression before I even have it And when I look at going back to big influences, especially like old jazz, it’s gonna be crazy for a jazz artist not to be in the studio for a year, twice in a year. They’re still there. They’re doing records in a day. They write songs fast. They fidget all the time. And I think in a way, us with a really fast clip of releases, it kind of shows that it’s just a step on the way.

“It’s a moment with Dawes,” Goldsmith says. “That’s not the destination.”

This attitude is abundant in their 2020 record good luck with anything, that offers an acceptance of the world and its flaws as it is. This “live and let live” perspective is what Dawes embodied for the record, but as a way to shape their future careers.

As a fan of laid-back folk favorites such as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, Goldsmith says the natural urge to keep performing, writing and touring keeps the fear of waiting at bay.

“When I listen to any Neil Young record, when I listen to any Franks Zappa or The Dead or Joni recording, I get that sense of urgency, you don’t think about it too much,” says -he. “This is being created, written, recorded, and then in a very creative way they let it go because it’s over. It’s behind them now.

“And for me, I feel less pressure to make one record a year than the thought of waiting five years,” Goldsmith adds. “It seems a lot scarier to me. It doesn’t feel like a break. Looks like we better correct ourselves.

Continuing with their driven spirit, Dawes joins Head and Heart this spring for their ‘Every Shade of Blue’ tour alongside Shakey Graves and Jade Bird. The tour officially begins May 20 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Click here for tickets.

Listen to their title track from their latest album, good luck with anythingbelow.

Photo by Matt Jacoby.