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On The Road With Dawes, The Band Behind The Band

The country rock band Dawes has built a grassroots following opening for other bands. As they release their third album, Stories Don't End, they're preparing to tour with their biggest headliner yet: Bob Dylan. Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin speaks two members of Dawes, singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith and keyboardist Tay Strathairn, about life on the road.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

DAWES: (Singing) Grab your cigarettes and follow me out of the living room. And I'll get drunk enough to tell you how I feel...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is a new track by the band Dawes. The band just released a third album. It's called "Stories Don't End" and it features the kind of roots rock they've been playing on tour for the last several years. The band spends a lot of time on the road, opening for artists like Alison Krauss and Jackson Browne. I caught up with two of the band members when they stopped by Washington, D.C. recently. Tay Straithairn plays keyboard and Taylor Goldsmith plays guitar and he sings. They described what it's like to get to know the country concert by concert. Here's Taylor.

TAYLOR GOLDSMITH: We'll come visit certain legendary cities and people will say did you check out this, did you check out that? And we're like, honestly, we just couldn't.

TAY STRAITHAIRN: I mean, I like going to a different place every day. But at the same time, even though you don't get to see it as if you were, like, a tourist, you've been to every city there is to be to, you know.

GOLDSMITH: Yeah, it's really worth a lot to be able to not only go to these cities once or twice but to go to them repeatedly and then all of the sudden have friends there and be familiar with communities there. I don't know. I feel like the most I've ever learned about anything has been from traveling and witnessing different ways of life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

DAWES: (Singing) The next time I see you and my conscience tells me that the episode has long since been closed, 'cause he's not the one that gets up every morning and wonders how the memories keeps it hold. And how much that the man beside you knows, and how much of the toll it's taken shows.

MARTIN: Do you do all the writing, Taylor?

GOLDSMITH: Yeah, yeah.

MARTIN: So, how does work for you on the road? Do you just assume that when you're touring that's not going to be a creative time for you?

GOLDSMITH: Yeah, I mean, I'm able to finish stuff on tour but it's hard for me to, like, have those moments of inspiration and starting a song on tour. I haven't been able to do that yet. But I read interviews with other artists and I see, like, even recently reading an interview with Bob Dylan talking about how he gets his best writing done on tour. And so I wonder if it's more of a like a muscle someone needs to learn to develop where it's like how to fall in love with the motel rooms. And it's something I want to definitely explore and get good at. It's something kind of have to eventually 'cause we're so busy.

MARTIN: So, you mentioned Bob Dylan. Might you who have been doing a little research on the man? I understand y'all are about to go on tour.

GOLDSMITH: Yeah.

MARTIN: That's - I would say - maybe completely amazing on one hand and completely horrifying on another hand.

GOLDSMITH: It's definitely both those things. I mean, maybe not all bands would care, whereas we are huge Bob Dylan fans. A goal of ours is to write the kind of song that you can get together with your friends on a Saturday night and pass a guitar around and one of our songs could come up, you know? That's the kind of band we want to be. And that's how Bob Dylan songs are. And then to find out that, you know, our agent called us and says Bob Dylan wants you to open his whole spring tour.

MARTIN: Did you get the phone call, Taylor?

GOLDSMITH: Yeah, he called me first then I called the guys, like, one by one.

STRAITHAIRN: Yeah. He texted me. Like, it was late at night.

GOLDSMITH: I was, like, get on a conference call. I want to tell everybody at once. And everyone - it didn't work. So, I ended up calling everybody and told the news three times.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

DAWES: (Singing) Stars that shined away from me, show the one that I have followed to see how far I've come. The sun that slowly sets on me, be the same to rise tomorrow to see how far I've come. These are the days where you...

MARTIN: So, how does this work? Like, if you run into him, I mean, are you guys going to eat meals together? Do you call him Bob? Do you call him Mr. Dylan?

STRAITHAIRN: Honestly, I mean, I've heard such different stories, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't meet him, and that's OK. I can totally understand that he doesn't want another band to gush and tell him what he means to them anymore. And if you're listening, Bob, we promise not to do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

DAWES: (Singing) Oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh, oh...

MARTIN: So, other bands - I actually saw you open for Alison Krauss a couple of summers ago. You've also opened for Jackson Browne. I mean, like you said, these are really big names. What do you learn, if anything? I mean, whether it's, you know, actually sitting down and having a cup of coffee or a beer with Alison Krauss and having her share some kind of songwriting tips or just by watching, just by being on tour with these people, being in their ether.

STRAITHAIRN: Yeah. I mean, everybody, I think, passes off something different, you know. Like with Jackson and people that have been around longer, you kind of see what it takes to be playing music for over 40 years and to be touring for that long. You know, you learn how to relax from other guys that don't take it super-seriously or don't take each show as kind of, like, life and death. And that's something that I, you know, I've learned as I watching people that play a lot is, like, this show isn't the end-all, be-all. Do your best on this show and then you haven't another show tomorrow or the day after. And you have to, like, do the best you can. It may not have been perfect and move on to the next one. And you see a lot of guys that play all the time have that kind of more relaxed attitude towards touring and playing.

MARTIN: I imagine that's a balance, though. You still have to be aggressive. It's a tough industry. But at the same time, learning how to just release. Is that something you're both...

STRAITHAIRN: I mean, you'd lose your mind if every show was like you felt like your career was hinging on every show that you play.

GOLDSMITH: I think Dawes, that was kind of how the band started was we're not going to be in this band if it's not the most fun thing we can think of doing.

STRAITHAIRN: If we continue to play to the amount of people that we play to right now and that afforded us the opportunity to continue making records, then we'd be four of the happiest guys in the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Taylor Goldsmith and Tay Straithairn, both members of the band Dawes. Their new album is called "Stories Don't End." You guys, thanks so much for coming in.

GOLDSMITH: Thanks for having us.

STRAITHAIRN: Thanks for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

DAWES: (Singing) You found me on the other side of a loser's winning streak. Well, my thoughts all wander...

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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