You could say that Dawes has never afforded itself much time to grow up.
Over the course of five studio albums released in seven years, the acclaimed Los Angeles band has gone from a self-titled 2009 recording that was rich with the relaxed, folk-flavored poetics that emanated from the neighboring Laurel Canyon region four decades ago to a vibrant, industrious pop glow on 2016’s “We’re All Gonna Die” that sounds proudly contemporary.
Mention that maturation process to Dawes frontman, guitarist, singer and principal songwriter Taylor Goldsmith, and he’ll tell you that having a sound that continually shifts simply reflects the way Dawes works. The music’s progression, he says, largely comes about on its own.
“We’re not the kind of band that would even know how to sit down and discuss conceptual shifts or conceptual directions,” Goldsmith said. “I think we all listen to what we like to listen to, we all learn to play the way we like to play, and then we kind of bring it all together to appease our own tastes when we come up with these songs.
“We’ve always had this trust in that when we are active and when we are most inspired by the music we make, the feeling will transfer to the listener. So all we ever try to do is please ourselves and get ourselves excited despite how different ‘We’re All Gonna Die’ is from our first record. All of our records are a little bit different from each other, but they all belong to one big family. I don’t think any of these albums are a reaction against anything else. If anything, it’s an embellishment upon how we chose to play the songs that day, that month and that year. So I like to feel there is a real strong through-line with all the Dawes records by the wide range of things we’ve done within them.”
All of our records are a little bit different from each other, but they all belong to one big family.
Luckily, artists and audiences alike seem more than eager to follow Dawes through their various musical currents. A champion of the band’s earliest recording session was Connor Oberst, who also recruited Dawes — which includes drummer Griffin Goldsmith (Taylor’s brother), bassist Wylie Gelber and keyboardist Lee Pardini — as his opening act and his backup band for a 2014 tour that included a concert in Lexington. Also in its corner was John Fogerty, who secured Dawes as his band for a 2013 performance of the final Creedence Clearwater Revival single, “Someday Never Comes” on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” This year, Dawes will share arena and amphitheater bills with John Mayer in August and Kings of Leon in September and October, between headlining dates of its own.
On Saturday night, Dawes will be the penultimate act at this year’s Master Musicians Festival in Somerset.
“When we have the whole night, we really take our time with certain aspects of the show, whether it’s the more popular songs or the longer jams or faster songs,” Goldsmith said. “When we play our own show, we can take it all the way down. We can also play our slowest, quietest songs and trust the audience is going to go there with us.
“But it is also a thrill to go up and know that when we have an hour opening set, we’ve got to win an audience over with nine or 10 of our strongest songs, whether those are the fastest ones or whatever. It just changes our mindset. It changes the nature of our relationship with the crowd. But it’s something I always look forward to. If we were just to do headlining sets from here on out, I’d miss that kind of conversation with an audience that doesn’t know us. Besides, in the first three years of our career, it felt like every crowd we played to was a crowd who didn’t know who we were. So, I mean, we’ve done that before.”
To be able to look back and now say there are songs that were written by Bob Dylan and Taylor Goldsmith is pretty surreal.
Taylor Goldsmith has traveled a few stylistic paths outside the band, too. In 2014, he teamed with Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Rhiannon Giddens, and Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons for a project called “The New Basement Tapes.” Its mission was to compose music for unpublished lyrics by Bob Dylan written about 1967. The resulting album was titled “Lost on the River.”
“It was one of the greatest joys I’ve ever had as a musician,” Goldsmith said. “I was there by the grace of Marcus. He was the one who went to bat for me and asked for me to be included. So I felt so lucky and honored to be there. I’ve really maintained a lot of the relationships. We opened for Elvis the other day out in New York. Jim (James), who became a very close friend, moved out to LA, so I see him all the time. Just in the relationships created, it was an enriching experience.
“Obviously, though, to be able to look back and now say there are songs that were written by Bob Dylan and Taylor Goldsmith is pretty surreal. I didn’t sit down with Bob Dylan or anything, but it was a dream I didn’t know I could have that was coming true.”
If you go
Master Musicians Festival
When: July 7 and 8
Where: Festival Field of Somerset Community College, 808 Monticello St. in Somerset
Tickets: $25 (July 7), $45 (July 8), $65 (weekend pass)
Call: 1-888-810- 2063
Frontier (4:15 p.m.)
Roanoke (5:30 p.m.)
The Wooks (7 p.m.)
Colter Wall (8:30 p.m.)
Old 97s (10 p.m.)
Burn Hislope (11 a.m.)
The Local Honeys (12:30 p.m.)
The Rooster’s Crow (2 p.m.)
Roots of a Rebellion (3:30 p.m.)
Edsel Blevins Tribute (4:30 p.m.)
Shannon McNally (5:15 p.m.)
Parker Millsap (6:45 p.m.)
Dawes (8:15 p.m.)
Blackberry Smoke (10 p.m.)