Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith and his younger brother, drummer Griffin Goldsmith, were introduced to Mavis Staples and The Staples Singers through the 1978 concert film The Last Waltz. The group has gone on to perform with Staples several times over the years, including at one of her 80th birthday parties earlier this year. So it’s not a great stretch for the older Goldsmith to be added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s upcoming Rock Hall Honors concert for Staples.
“Obviously it’s an honor,” Goldsmith — who will join Jackson Browne and Valerie June in paying tribute to Staples during a Sept. 20 concert at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square State Theatre — tells Billboard. “Back when we were starting out and trying to come up with our fingerprint and identity they played a huge role in early songs like ours, especially ‘My Girl to Me’ or ‘That Western Skyline.’ They had a lot to do with the choices we made. At a time when our inspirations were very few, they were on a very short list.”
Goldsmith adds that Dawes’ continuing relationship with Staples has been rewarding as well. “Every time we’ve been around here she’s like, ‘Dawes!'” he says. “She’s very aware of us in a way that means the world to us. I wouldn’t have expected that. That she’s wanted us to share the stage with her more than once obviously is a huge dream come true for us.”
Staples, a 1999 Rock Hall inductee, is the first featured artists in the Rock Hall’s new Honors program, which in addition to the concert will include a limited-time exhibit feature Staples’ performance gowns, a Fender Telecaster played by the late Pops Staples and photographs from her own collection. Staples will dedicate the exhibit on Sept. 21, with a performance by the Valerie June Trio, while on Sept. 19 Case Western Reserve University will host “The Voice: A Symposium on Mavis Staples” panel discussion that will include Jessica Edwards, who directed the 2016 HBO documentary Mavis!
“Mavis Staples is the very soul of rock ‘n’ roll,” Rock Roll CEO and President Greg Harris said in a statement. “Her powerful voice has uplifted audiences around the world in gospel churches, civil rights marches and festival stages. We’re thrilled that Mavis and friends will share an intimate night of live music and legendary performances with us. Her message music is as important today as it has ever been.”
More details about the Rock Hall Honors celebration can be found at rockhall.com.
Goldsmith, meanwhile, is busy wrapping albums both for Dawes and for his wife Mandy Moore. He describes the Dawes album, produced by Dave Cobb and expected out during early 2020, as “probably our most rock ‘n’ roll album. I’m definitely singing the hardest I ever sang on an album. We’ve always tried to figure out how to close the gap between what we do on stage and on record, and this record is the closest we’ve come to closing that gap.”
As for Moore’s album, which features other members of Dawes as well, Goldsmith says that, “I’ve never heard anything like it. It’s very diverse, but all these songs feel like they belong together. That’s from her steering the ship. You can hear that she’s singing live with the band; It’s not super-produced, and it’s really exciting.”