DAWES – ” Good Luck With Whatever “

Posted: October 15, 2020 in MUSIC
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Taylor Goldsmith admits that he’s been pretty lucky during the current stultifying Pandemic lockdown, all things considered. He and his wife of nearly two years, actress/musician Mandy Moore, get along great and didn’t mind spending so much time together in their native Los Angeles, and they’re actually expecting their first child, a son, in early 2021. They often co-write together, as on the missus’ new Silver Landings comeback, her first album in 11 years, and Goldsmith, 35, has spent the rest of his free time perfecting the Dave-Cobb-produced Good Luck With Whatever, the seventh effort from his folk-rock quartet Dawes, and its first for legendary imprint Rounder Records.

Moore’s spring tour was cancelled, as was his, he adds. “So I look forward to concerts coming back, but sometimes I feel like it’s around the corner, and other times I feel like it’s three years away, and anybody who says they know for certain one way or the other is lying to you.”

So for his extracurricular viewing and listening entertainment, he’s been consciously steering clear of anything that reminds him of the COVID-19 existential crisis. “If it’s something that’s going to drag me through the dirt, I just can’t do it,” proclaims the singer, 35, who put thoughtful, cheerful topspins on Band-retro new Dawes tracks like “”Still Feel Like a Kid,” “Free As We Wanna Be,” “Between the Zero and the One,” and the childhood reminiscence “St. Augustine at Night.”

“Whereas if you’re going to uplift me and make me feel like there’s a reason to move forward, I find myself going back to those records—like the new Killers album Imploding the Mirage—over and over again. I just can’t stop listening to it, because it makes me feel hopeful, strong, and positive.”

His followers will probably soon be viewing the charming, disarming, yet subtly cynical “Good Luck” in the same optimistic light. “Although obviously, our universe is much smaller.

Taylor actually co-wrote some material with Brandon Flowers, recently. There’s a B-side song on his album The Desired Effect called “Desired Effect.” Then the other song was “Never Get You Right,” which was really cool the way it got written. I was on tour with Conor Oberst—we were Conor’s backing band—and I was texting back and forth with Brandon, who needed lyrics for a song, so we were trying to write something remotely. But then Conor and I just sat down and wrote this batch of lyrics and sent it over to Brandon, and he said, “It’s not the right thing for this song, but I really like ’em.” So he took those lyrics, embellished them, and wrote “Never Get You Right,” a whole new song just from those words.

“Memorized” from NBC’s This is Us, just got nominated for an Emmy Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. that started from zero. And it was a trip to do, because Dawes isn’t a “hit” band, you know? We’re very aware of our own particular lane. But the mission was to write a fake hit song, something that the audience would perceive as an arena-sized hit, because that’s how this artist is portrayed. So I was like, “Wow. I’ve gotta try to go for something I’ve never written! And I have to make it believable.” People have to hear it and intuit as, “Oh, I can see that being a hit.” So Sid, the guy that scores This is Us wrote the music, and sent it over to me, and I came up with a draft, and the chorus with the title was there from the beginning. So then we just started chipping away at it, until it made sense for me and Sid and the creators of the show. And it was a blast—up until recently, I’d never done anything outside of just writing songs about my feelings, for Dawes. So to be asked to do that, I was like, “I don’t know how to do this, I’ve never done it before, but I’ll give it a try.” And it ended up being so satisfying,

We are tapping into The Band, circa “The Weight.”. They have always been this guiding light for us. With our first record—like a lot of people’s first records—I was like, “I don’t know how to do anything other than honour my heroes and hope that some personality comes through.” You listen to early Dylan, and it feels like Woody. You listen to early Springsteen and it sounds like Dylan, and early Tom Petty sounds like The Byrds. And I think that that’s a beautiful time in any artist’s career. So when I listen to our first record, it feels like “How do we sing The Band songs, because we really just love The Band?” And then as time goes on, you try and get away from it, and you hope that your personality, your singularity, your idiosyncrasies, just find their way through, no matter what.

So for us, as time has gone on, I’ve always been like, “You know, I have no control over this, because you don’t get to invent your own signature, you don’t get to invent your own fingerprint.” It’s a synthesis, and it just happens on its own. And with every record that we make, we’re tuning the focus a little more and making it that much clearer who we are and how we’re separate from everything else. So while The Band were this very obvious influence, initially, they’ve still always been a beacon for us. Nobody in that band is the best at what they do, and yet when they’re together, there’s something in their DNA that can only happen when those five guys are playing together. That’s the same way I feel about the Dead, the same way I feel about the Stones. So we’ve always wanted to make sure that came across — with our band. I really want you to feel Griffin (Goldsmith, his drumming brother). I want you to feel Wylie (Gelber, bassist) and Lee (Pardini, keyboardist)and myself. And I don’t feel like I’m the greatest guitar player, not even close. But I do feel like I have a better sense of reading—and reacting to—Griffin and Wylie and Lee, and them to me, than anybody else possibly could.

This is interesting because the bass rides herd on “None of My Business,” but with “Didn’t Fix Me,” “Still Feel Like a Kid,” and the title track, you let the keyboards control everything.. Goldsmith: Yeah. And a lot of that is just the mix. When we were doing “Didn’t Fix Me,” that is largely a guitar riff. And the way that Dave Cobb found the mix that he was looking for, the keyboards were kind of out front. I still hear it as a shared riff between the two of them, And Dave really has this incredible sense of catching a spirit.

“St. Augustine” had me believing that you were actually born in Florida, and I had to double-check that you actually hail from California, as I’d thought. I chose “St. Augustine” because we had family there, and whenever we were on tour and had a show in, or near, St. Augustine, we would ask our agent for a day off so we could all hang out and go fishing or whatever. So this song is a composite—it’s not about one person in particular, but it’s based on my experiences there, and based on my conversations with family, and just seeing how that town is, how everything is interlocked and everyone knows everyone. So it’s about St. Augustine in name and references, but I’m hoping it will be relatable to anybody that has a home town. Which is everyone.

I wrote songs like “Good Luck With Whatever” and “Between the Zero and the One” right after reading “Gravity’s Rainbow.” That book loomed large. But in songs like “Zero,” where I mention the Tarot, I had to look shit up, because I didn’t know how the Tarot works. And I needed to, to write that verse, to put it over the top of believability. So I actually bought a Tarot deck and studied it to find out what card means what.

And with “Free As We Wanna Be,” it’s funny, because when I watched “The Social Dilemma,” I thought, “This song is about that movie, So we don’t treat that world with the respect that it needs so it won’t keep zapping our brain. So I’m still learning how to draw my own lines, and I’m not really encouraged by my results so far. And “Free As We Wanna Be” is about our complicity.

“Good Luck With Whatever Dude.” It just feels like a big shrug, as humanity hurtles toward its own extinction. That song is all paranoia. “There’s a man with a chainsaw standing out in my yard.” And it’s trying to be funny, like it could be my gardener, or it could be Leatherface. Or you see a car parked across the street, and you populate it with your own details to make that story as horrific as you want. And that’s something that we all do, and it’s the basis of the conspiracy theorist in all of us.

For me, even during COVID-19, even during this election, like I was telling some fiends of mine, “I am the worst fortune teller that you have ever met. Everything that I decide to be scared of, and every way that I interpret a situation — like “Oh, my God—this could happen!”—you could pretty much take that to Vegas as insurance that it won’t. Because everything that I get concerned about is just not the way that things unfold. And I think we’re all really bad fortune tellers. If you told all of us two years ago that COVID’s on its way, and these are the general points of what it’s going to be, I think we’d all tell the worst version of that story imaginable. So while what we’re dealing with is needless and sad and horrific and scary in a lot of ways, we’re also cracking jokes, we’re also seeing family, and we’re also singing songs. And that’s a weird thing to say.

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