When it comes to compliments, Taylor Goldsmith is impressively modest. The lead singer and songwriter of California rock quartet Dawes doesn't want to hear that the band's the most talented, the coolest or sexiest. "When someone hears a song by us they've never heard and says, 'That's Dawes'--that's our proudest moment," he says.
The sentiment isn't unfounded: Nary a fan or critic referred to the band's acclaimed first two albums without a caveat of how much they sounded like the legendary '70s rock of the Band, Jackson Browne, Neil Young or Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Due April 9, "Stories Don't End," Dawes' third album--their first on the band's own HUB Records after leaving ATO Records--isn't likely to put a halt to those comparisons. By Goldsmith's admission, it's a natural growth from 2009's understated debut, "North Hills," and 2011's rawer "Nothing Is Wrong," not a left turn. But with intimate production by Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones) and some of Goldsmith's strongest songs yet, "Stories Don't End" will likely mean the singer hears his favorite compliment more than ever before.
"Competing for most modern sound, Dawes will get beat a million times over. We didn't hang up our guitars for washed-out keyboard sounds," Goldsmith says. "We'll always be a band that looks at a guitar solo as a big part of a song, and arranges a performance with bass, guitar, drums and a keyboard."
That no-frills approach made Dawes' debut a sleeper hit, even among their idols: By the time "Nothing Is Wrong" arrived two years later, the band had spent time backing the Band's Robbie Robertson and even befriended Browne.
In September 2012, at King's suggestion, Dawes skipped town to record in Asheville, N.C., and wrapped "Stories Don't End" five weeks later. The record takes off with ascending harmonies on "Just Beneath the Surface," a fitting introduction: catchy and rich, with the guitar and piano in constant conversation, propelled by the shuffling percussion of Taylor's brother Griffin.
Meanwhile, first single "From a Window Seat," released in February, is already garnering "That's Dawes" sentiments. The song's gaining traction at radio, hitting No. 24 this week on Billboard's Triple A chart--a confidence boost for the band's HUB imprint, named for Hard-Up Bastards, bassist Wylie Gerber's grandfather's 1930s gang. "I don't know how much of a gang they were," Goldsmith says with a laugh. RED Distribution, which pushed Dawes' ATO albums, will get "Stories Don't End" in stores.
"It's all about control," says Marc Reiter of Dawes' management company, Q Prime. "They know what they want. For them to control their destiny at this point in their career is a blessing."
An April tour opening for Bob Dylan, a nine-show run at South by Southwest and a May 16 performance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" are just a few more. But for Goldsmith, to be a working rock band in 2013 is a godsend in itself.
"When a rock band was cruising through your town, that used to be the biggest experience you could dream of," he says. "Now, you could have the Rolling Stones onstage playing their greatest songs, but if you have Swedish House Mafia after them, it'll be a more sensational experience. But rock'n'roll, that strength--people had never experienced anything like it."