“How did you know, when you named your last record We’re All Gonna Die, that Donald Trump was gonna get elected? How did you know? You’re so prophetic!”
So begins Chris Shiflett’s interview with Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith, this week’s guest on Walking the Floor. Beginning with a humorous jab at our president-elect and ending with a solo performance of Dawes’ “Quitter,” the podcast episode dives deep into Goldsmith’s musical history, from his high-school band with childhood buddy Blake Mills to his membership in the New Basement Tapes. Names like Marcus Mumford and T Bone Burnett pop up along the way, making this episode not only a conversation about Dawes, but a broader dialogue about some of the biggest names in American roots music.
As usual, we’ve rounded up several highlights from the episode, which can be streamed in its entirety below.
Producer Blake Mills deserves credit for steering We’re All Gonna Die into adventurous territory – and, apparently, making sure it didn’t sound too much like Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
“Growing up [and] meeting Blake at 10 years old was a true gift,” says Goldsmith, who teamed up with Mills to form his first band before he could legally drive. “If I didn’t have that [influence], I don’t know if I would’ve been good enough to play music for a living. He was born with this incredible genius, and I felt I was always just trying to glean anything I could off him.”
Initially tapped as the producer for Dawes’ third album, Stories Don’t End, Mills didn’t officially join the band in the studio until this year’s We’re All Gonna Die.
“He has such a gift,” Goldsmith says. “Whenever you bring something to him that’s at all referential or associative with another time or another genre, that’s exactly when he’ll wanna change courses. There were certain riffs that I had planned for a certain song that reminded me of something off Thriller, and I was like, ‘Doesn’t it sound like Thriller? Wouldn’t that be cool?’ And Blake would be, ‘That’s exactly why we shouldn’t do that.'”
There are no family feuds in Dawes’ lineup, whose two brothers – Taylor and drummer Griffin Goldsmith – get along considerably better than, say, the Black Crowes’ Robinson siblings.
“For some reason, brothers in bands … it’s always bad,” admits Goldsmith. “But for some reason, we’re always texting each other, like, ‘What are you up to?’ We always wanna hang out. We’re very lucky.”
Asked to pinpoint the source of that luck, Goldsmith credits the pair’s parents. “We come from the same set,” he explains. “We learned the same tools in terms of communicating, and in terms of describing what you feel musically.”
As a member of the short-lived band Simon Dawes, Goldsmith was once a teenage heartthrob.
Formed with a teenaged Blake Mills, Simon Dawes enjoyed brief success in the Malibu scene before going national with 2006’s Carnivore. The band hit the road that year, opening up for a string of Top 40 pop bands and alt-rock acts. First up? An amphitheater and arena tour with Maroon 5.
“Huge audiences!” Goldsmith remembers. “8,000 people. And their fans are so specific. They’re these young, extremely passionate girls. It really gave us the complete wrong impression of what touring was. We played our first show, and we were like, ‘We’re gonna go to the merch booth in section A-23,’ because the place was so huge, and we went there and we were literally chased to the merch booth … Obviously, after that tour, it became clear that would never happen again. Nor should it.”
Later, during a tour with Incubus, the band decided to pull the plug, with Mills going on to focus on his career as a producer and hotshot guitarist. Goldsmith came back to California, booked a series of solo shows and began laying the foundation for the band that soon became Dawes.
Over in the U.K., Dawes’ name sounds an awful lot like Jim Morrison’s famed band.
“Everyone just assumes we’re saying ‘Doors.’ An English friend broke it down for me, saying, ‘We pronounce ‘pawn as in ‘pawnshop’ the same way we pronounce ‘porn’ as in ‘pornography.’ With [the words] Dawes and Doors, they’re not hearing my accent when I say ‘Dawes.’ They’re hearing theirs.” Every radio interview, someone has to say, ‘It’s not who you think it is. It’s this other band.'”