Dawes influenced by life on the road

Jessica Fischer • Sep 13, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As the torchbearer of Los Angeles’ country-rock community, Dawes has spent much of the past couple of years on the road, honing its blend of earthy, acoustic-based music and poetic lyrics. It’s no surprise then that “Coming Back To A Man” and “Time Spent In Los Angeles” — two tracks off the band’s new album “Nothing Is Wrong,” released in June on the ATO Records label — have a restless, unsettled quality evocative of life lived on the road. The collection of songs builds upon the foundation laid by Dawes’ 2009 debut “North Hills.” “With the first album it was more like I want to go out there and just get my hands dirty. I want to go out there and experience things, and I want to see this world that I’m not very familiar with because I was very young and I hadn’t been on tour that many times,” singer/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith said during a recent phone interview. “With this album it was more like now I feel like I’m a little more in the thick of it. Life is hard but nothing is that bad.” Goldsmith and the rest of Dawes — including Taylor’s brother Griffin on drums, keyboardist Tay Strathairn and bassist Wylie Gelber — will showcase songs from both albums this weekend during Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Dawes will perform at 7:45 p.m., Saturday on the Piedmont Stage and again at 4:45 p.m., Sunday at the Paramount Center for the Arts. Tickets are $30 on Saturday and $20 on Sunday. Weekend passes are available for $50 through Sept. 15 or $60 at the gate on Sept. 16. Indeed, the guys have plenty to be thankful for of late. Dawes opened a string of sold-out concerts for bluegrass darling Alison Krauss and Union Station, and recently wrapped a European mini-tour supporting Jackson Browne, who provided guest vocals on the new album’s “Fire Away.” “We feel very lucky because we’ve been able to go out on tour with more indie rock acts, being able to go play a show with Deer Tick or with other bands along those lines, playing the same festival as My Morning Jacket or play a big tour with Edward Sharpe, and then at the same time being able to play in front of other audiences, more of an adult kind of thing like with Alison Krauss or Jackson Browne,” Goldsmith said. “So we feel very lucky that we can do both because I don’t know if a lot of bands get to do that.” Dawes took advantage of all that time on the road by using the stage as a way to focus and arrange the material for “Nothing Is Wrong.” Songs got to live and breathe in front of an audience rather than in the hermetic confines of a rehearsal space. “I feel like we arranged this second record with the stage in mind, whereas we weren’t really thinking that with the first one because we weren’t really on the stage that much,” Goldsmith said. “So with the second record I feel like there’s a lot more energy, and it’s geared toward what will work live. Obviously the song comes first for us but it’s definitely something that we are very mindful of.” Dawes has generated quite the buzz with its live shows, which crank up the volume and the energy of the band’s more reflective, laid-back studio performances. “I feel like a good part of contemporary music today, new contemporary rock and roll, there’s an aspect of it that’s sort of like pull your hat down, garble your words, and it’s cool, I like it,” Goldsmith said. “It’s something that people can relate to because a lot of people might feel that way themselves, but for Dawes, we’re a little bold — maybe some people would say too much so, I don’t know. We don’t really hide behind anything. There’s no real effects going on. We try to get every world across. We don’t try to hide any of that. It’s a direct experience, and we feel very strongly about our music and the main thing is to have a good time. We look passionate and we are passionate, but we’re also just having a great time, so when I’m jumping up and down and singing real hard and all of us are kind of getting into it, it’s not because we think that looks cool, we’re just excited.” After Rhythm & Roots, Dawes will hit the road again, this time with Blitzen Trapper on a national co-headline tour that will bring the quartet to Asheville for an Oct. 21 gig at the Orange Peel. Smoke Fairies will support the first leg of the tour, with Belle Brigade supporting the final half. Find out more about Dawes by visiting www.dawestheband.com . For more information about Rhythm & Roots, call (423) 573-4898 or visit www.bristolrhythm.com .

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