With their third album “Stories Don’t End,” Dawes has tapped further into the classic rock ethos and dependably insightful songwriting we’ve come to know them for. On the eve of their three-day stint in Colorado (Mishawaka on Friday, Meadowgrass on Saturday and the Gothic Theatre on Saturday), Reverb sat down with Dawes lead singer and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith to talk indie success, opening gigs and the coolest thing that’s ever happened to him.
Other than when you’re playing with Shovels and Rope, it looks like you’re going to be playing with a lot of local bands on this tour. Your band is big enough now that it’s a big deal to open for you guys. Do you remember any opening gigs when you were starting out that had that “big break” feel to them?
When we recorded our first album, we were just hoping we could go on tour. And then our good friends Delta Spirit said, “Hey, we want to take you out for the first month of touring.” They were doing a headlining tour and they invited us to be first….it was so far beyond what we thought was going to happen for us with that record. We were just like, ‘oh my god, we made it!”
So I think for us, that’s when it really hit us, when Delta Spirit asked us to open for their whole headlining tour. We felt like, “Oh my god, opening tour with Delta Spirit on their headlining tour!” We played a sold out Bowery Ballroom and Belly Up in San Diego. It was just so exciting for us.
Do you get a chance to spend time with the openers when you’re not touring with them?
Sometimes. I feel bad because sometimes we’re tired, or there’ll be times when I’m just trying to not talk until I sing. It sounds kind of silly, but sometimes it’s like that. And there might be an opening band that you’d like to hang out with, but we just don’t get the chance to. But then there’s other times when we’ll spend the whole night together, we’ll go to one of their houses and hang out all night. It really depends.
How was it when Bob Dylan tapped you guys for an opening spot?
That was pretty cool. That was an honor. We never really thought that would happen, so it was a dream come true. I mean, he’s the master songwriter. Also, it’s funny, cause what we were talking about [with opening bands], it’s a real exercise in that sort of compassion for us because he’s 72, and he’s probably the most sought after songwriter ever, including the Beatles. I mean, he’s larger than life at this point.
He kept so private, that we just barely, barely crossed paths with him. It would be very easy to say, “oh, Bob Dylan, he’s so mean or he’s so arrogant.” But I choose to believe that none of that’s true. He takes very good care of the people close to him, like his band and his crew. He’s very considerate and a great guy. But I think in order for him to get from one district to another, he has to retract within itself, or else he’ll just put out this friendliness of “I’m willing to talk to anybody that’s willing to talk with me” and I just don’t think he’d ever get the chance to catch a breath.
That’s kind of like the ultimate opening gig. Another person I wanted to ask about is John Fogerty. How’d he come about tapping you guys for the guest spot on his album?
His managers reached out to ours. I don’t know how it really came about, but we’re obviously really honored. He’s up there with the groups we were listening to when we first started the band—a very meat and potatoes group of bands. It was the Band, Bob Dylan, John Prine and Creedance Clearwater. That really makes up all of who we were really digging when we made [our debut] record. There’s other stuff in there too, but a lot of artists that eventually became really important to us like Warren Zevon, Joni Mitchell…we weren’t very familiar with them on our first album. But Creedance, we were very familiar with. So for him to invite us to play one of our favorite songs of his was so cool.
There’s something interesting about indie success where you can be doing these huge collaborations and still be relatively anonymous. I met your brother (and Dawes drummer) Griffin at Bonnaroo last year at the booth for Relix magazine. At one point, he was standing next to a guy wearing a Dawes t-shirt who had no idea who he was.
Yeah—it’s cool because, we’re at a point where we’ll be walking through an airport and someone will come up to me and be like “Oh, you’re Taylor for Dawes,” and I’ll be fired up and fucking thrilled to say thank you and meet that person. It just doesn’t happen enough for me to be like “can you just give me my privacy back.” It’s really in a cool spot.
It was funny, the other day, I was in the farmer’s market with my friend and he was buying something in the produce section, and this busker behind us started playing “Million Dollar Bill.” I thought she was just kind of giving me a hard time and poking fun of the fact that I was standing there. So I turn around and I smile cause I think it’s funny that she’s singing the song I wrote. And she just looks at me very innocently and says, “oh, do you like Middle Brother and Dawes?” I didn’t know what to say so I just nodded my head and said “yeah!” (Laughs) She had no idea who I was.
When I think about it, that’s actually one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. It was such a meaningful thing.
Dylan Owens is Reverb’s indie and bluegrass blogger. You can read more from him in Relix magazine and the comment sections of WORLDSTARHIPHOP.