Unrelenting: An Interview With Griffin Goldsmith Of Dawes

Dawes began their journey seven years ago and have steadily grown to a beloved name in music. Often compared to Jackson Browne and Neil Young, their sound carries a sense of timelessness. In 2014, All Your Favorite Bands solidified their place in music and launched them into larger venues and well deserved, worldwide acknowledgment. Recently we caught up with drummer, Griffin Goldsmith to discuss the new record, favorite kits and go-cart racing.

Blank: When you we’re a kid, you switched from playing piano to drums. Do you remember what kind of kit?

Goldsmith: It was a green Pearl that was in my parents garage. The first one I ever bought was a Ludwig fiberglass kit.

Blank: Since then, you have become known as a man who likes to collect gear. On the last recording, All Your Favorite Bands, you switched and added constantly to hone in on the sound that created the backbeat for the album. Is there a dream kit out there? Your white whale? Or is it something you have built already?

Goldsmith: I definitely have some kits that I just love dearly and that at one point were the kits I dreamt of having, but as a drummer and professional musician, I feel that part of what develops as you spend time on the road with the ability to gather tools and play them, is the compulsion to collect. I saw a Gretch kit once. In L.A., there is this guy called “The Drum Doctor,” and he rents kits out to sell. He had a kit in there once that was an 80’s Catalina, that was pretty much out of the box. It was 10 and 12, 14, 16 and 18 inch bass drum. I’ll never forget it. I sat down to play it for five minutes. I look for it everyday. It was just too much money at the time.

Blank: Maybe it’s knowing that it is out there, that makes all the other pieces that you put together that much more special.

Goldsmith: Definitely.

Blank: Do you remember your first time on stage? Not necessarily professionally, but as a kid, getting on stage in front of people and performing?

Goldsmith: I don’t remember the very first time, but definitely remember playing weddings with my brother, and sitting in with Blake (Mills). Simon Dawes was the band that preceded Dawes, before I was old enough to join. I do remember the first time that I ever played outside of Los Angeles. I was sixteen and a buddy of ours, who is very gifted drummer named Travis Graves, who went under the moniker Mt. Egypt, asked me and my buddy Tim, who was one of my best friends and still is, to go to Hawaii with him to play an OP Festival. My parents thought that was insane. “There’s no way in hell that we are letting you do that.” But we convinced my dad to come with us, because he was cool with it. (Laughing) Funny, I had much fewer inhibitions before I realized that people were paying attention. There was a naivety that allowed me to get outside myself. I used to be in all the plays and musicals and sing songs on stage, but not behind the drum kit. Now, if I’m not behind the drum kit, I don’t know what to do with myself.

Blank: I play guitar and I’ve watched a lot of people who are used to playing an instrument. If you put them on stage without one, they tend to wander back and forth. Like, “Give me something to hold.”

Goldsmith: I think ultimately it takes a certain kind of person to be able to subject themselves to an audience to share their secrets; to reveal their intimate feelings. That’s never been something the I wanted to do. Luckily my brother does it so well.

Blank: You also sing…

Goldsmith: The singing…I love singing. I never have to do it from the front. I’m totally comfortable from behind the kit.

Blank: So it’s the early Genesis, Phil Collins side of things. But you don’t want to jump forward and be the lead.

Goldsmith: (Laughing) No. I don’t have any aspirations to do that. I do think we’re going to start incorporating an aspect of the show where I come up and sing one with Taylor. Maybe an acoustic section.

Blank: Speaking of new things, is there any new music coming down the pipe?

Goldsmith: Yes. We just finished recording a record last month. The mixing process starts in May. Hopefully we’ll have it out by the end of this year. That’s the goal.

Blank: All of the records have been a solid progression, while hanging on to the distinct Dawes sound. Can you talk about the direction of the new record?

Goldsmith: It is definitely still Dawes. It’s hard for me to look at it objectively, because I have been a part of it every step the way. It is different from the previous stuff, for sure, but I feel like it is just the next logical step. If our last record was the “live record,” then this is the “studio record.” It’s much more honed in and reserved in a lot of ways.

Blank: Recently, we caught Thao and The Get Down Stay Down in Nashville. They were excited about a day off excursion where they got to go to the world’s biggest tree house. Is there anything in recent memory that sticks out as something from the road that, besides the music, was an exciting excursion?

Goldsmith: We’ve definitely had some incredible experiences. This tour, we got to go fishing on a day off. We’re pretty easy. We like to eat a lot. You can be sure that on any day off, that we are eating at a very nice restaurant or just getting really get food.

Blank: Is there a favorite style of food that is currently your passion?

Goldsmith: My whole life, Japanese food is what really gets me going. Especially in L.A. The Japanese and Mexican food…there is so much of it that is incredible. It’s just too expensive to become a habit. I’ve got this cool app called, “Where Chef’s Eat,” that is an app made by chefs, that tells you where to go, anywhere in the world. It is always dead on. 
(Laughing) One of the best times might not seem that exciting. In November 2014, we were in Nashville making our last record. We had been sitting around for a couple of days while our producer was tape editing. We all went go-carting. It was incredible. I think it was one of the most fun experiences that I have ever had in my whole life. They told us at the beginning, “No bumping. None of that.” Immediately we were being as aggressive as possible.

Blank: (Laughing) If they say something like that in a go-cart setting, I think, Wwhat’s the worst that could happen? Are you going to keep my five dollars? That five dollars can disappear if it has to.“

Goldsmith: (Laughing) You can keep my deposit.

Blank: In talking to some of the younger generation, I have found that many think that things like American Idol or The Voice is a viable way to “make it.” I’ve also heard a lot about how Youtube is the way to go. It’s not as often that I hear about gigging, sleeping in cars and hoping to get a free meal. It is such a tiny amount of people that that concept works for. What advice would you offer young bands that are willing to do the work to push through.enable JavaScript if it is disabled in your browser.

Goldsmith: Be unrelenting and obsessive about what you are doing, because there is always someone better. I fell that the only way we have been able to get ahead at all, is being competitive. I realize that I might not be the best drummer by any means, but it doesn’t stop me from spending all my time bettering myself. I feel that once you become obsessive about your art, that you learn from your senses. For all of us, it has been a work ethic. 

Blank: What is something, over your course of touring, that really stands out? Something that is found only out on the road? 

Goldsmith: As cheesy as it sounds, it’s when someone comes up to you after touring and says something like, “I listened to your band through my divorce and it helped me get through that.” Or, “I listen to you with my kid on the way to school and that’s how we bond.” It’s always really flattering and reaffirming. Also, to be recognized by people you really admire is a huge honor. It is something that we never dreamed of when we started.

Check out a full listing of their tour dates, including SOLD OUT shows in Nashville on 4/20 and Knoxville on 4/21.

About The Author

You can find me wherever live music is happening. I teach Insanity Live in Nashville, TN, and am creating my own workout to be taught in a live format. I am a singer/songwriter with a penchant for punk and American roots rock. @goseelivemusic

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