From the “special kind of sadness” of their native Los Angeles that kicks off proceedings to the lingering daydream of love and matrimony that flutters at the tail end, Nothing Is Wrong (released June 7 on ATO) is a resounding denial of the supposed “death of the album” being moaned about in this MP3 time. Its 11 tracks intermesh for something considerably greater than the individual parts, and with Dawes the individual parts are already gut-level satisfying. Without overly echoing the many ancestors they get endlessly named checked with, Dawes does seem to exist on the same plain that gave us Neil Young, The Byrds and Jackson Browne (who recently tapped the band to back him on a string of dates).
There’s not a lot of fanfare to Nothing Is Wrong, all the energy put into making rock of enduring solidity dappled with no small measure of grace and warts-and-all understanding of the human condition. The thump and rattle of this song cycle keeps things close to the ground even as ideas spin skyward, wax wings straining above a City of Angels, all the traffic and noise below still faintly audible even as Dawes reaches for something above and beyond it all. Produced by fellow SoCal super-talent Jonathan Wilson, Nothing Is Wrong aims for touchstones like The Band’s classic self-titled second album and Browne’s Late For The Sky, works that endure because they strike directly to the bramble-riddled truths that exist in each new generation, struggles of heart and spirit that don’t go away no matter how we try to get our heads around them.
We asked singer-songwriter-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith to walk us through Nothing Is Wrong.
Time Spent In Los Angeles
That song I wrote during the Middle Brother period when I was out in Nashville with John McCauley. We even recorded a Middle Brother version of it, but I knew it needed to be a Dawes thing, in terms of what it’s all about and how it represents all of us. I felt like its home was with Dawes.
If I Wanted Someone
It’s always been interesting to see how people respond to this song. I’ve had a lot of women and even guys say, “Wow, you’re really an asshole [laughs].” There are a few examples of women and men who just get it, who can see that place in a man’s perspective. The whole song is sort of about how men are always reaching outward, outward, outward and asking questions, trying to find the keys to the universe. And women, at least in this particular example dealing with me and this one girl, represent what a connection really means, what family means. This song is about not wanting to keep fleshing things out and turning over every stone, and how I just want to sit here and engage your company and know that’s all that matters…and I’m having trouble with that [laughs].
My Way Back Home
This was the first song I’d done for the new album that we were playing live. We were actually playing it live when North Hills came out. I feel like that song is the best gateway song into Dawes. For me, I don’t feel we changed that much [between the first and second albums], we’re just taking the next step. This song is a representation of what connects us from North Hills to this album, lyrically and musically.
Coming Back To A Man
This song and “Little Bit of Everything” were the last two songs written for Nothing Is Wrong. I’m really happy with this one because it was the one song we’d never played live before we recorded it; all the other songs had a lot of experience onstage and this one didn’t. We were all really happy with how it turned out but weren’t sure it was going to be on the record. I was happy with it as a song but wasn’t sure it would fit, and I’m glad it did because I think it’s now one of the main tracks.
Like “Little Bit of Everything,” it’s a song where I’m taking steps to introduce new perspectives and tell stories that don’t necessarily involve my personal experience. I was in love with a girl – actually the girl behind a lot of the songs on the album – and when that stopped working out because of my lifestyle and me being gone so much, she found someone who was everything I wasn’t – older, a lot more stable and successful in terms of his career, and was wanting and capable of this new life she wanted and I couldn’t give her. What I kept thinking about how she was the same person but loved by two people for completely different reasons. The girl that I loved her as was not the girl he loved her as, and yet it’s the same person. So, this song was about one person but representing something different to three different people based on what their needs are and what they’re looking for.
How Far We’ve Come
I’ve never told anyone this because it’s kind of embarrassing, a spur of the moment thing. A buddy of mine was on the Barack Obama campaign, traveling around with him state to state. So, I decided to see if I could write something that would work for a campaign. So, I wrote it and sent it to him and said, “Hey, I know this is ridiculous and more of a joke than anything else, but take a listen and maybe it’ll work somewhere.” He ended up parting ways with the campaign but he said, “Cool song.”
I started it in Nashville – just the first verse and chorus – and then I finished it at home later on. It’s a song about a really good friend of mine who was dealing with being a drug addict and going through rehab. It was my way of saying, “However you need me right now, I can be that friend. And if what’s gonna help you the most is hating me because I’m telling you how I feel then I’ll accept that. Or if knowing that there’s someone who’ll be cool with whatever you’ve had to go through to get clean is what will help most, I can be that.” Having Jackson Browne sing at the end was a real honor.
Moon In The Water
“Moon In The Water” or “How To Become Jaded And Lose Your Faith In Love” [laughs]. I feel like I’ve gone along very idealistically thinking love was too easy. I think I’ve fallen in love too easily for a long, long time. The girl this song is about said, “It’s not as simple as that and you don’t know what you’re talking about if you think it breaks down into spending six months together and thinking it’s great and we’re totally in love.” I’m really happy with this song. It might not seem like a Dawes song to some people but it called for a stripped down, simple, glide along track, which is new for us.
Million Dollar Bill
It’s definitely very ridiculous and the denial in it is very strong. This song was started before Middle Brother and then finished with Middle Brother, and we all sang verses on the album version. When we went to do Nothing Is Wrong we thought it’d be cool to cut a version for a b-side or some exclusive where Dawes plays a Middle Brother song. That was the original idea but we were really happy with the recording and how it rounded out the record. It really gets across qualities in the song the Middle Brother version doesn’t.
The Way You Laugh
This is the only song where there’s no line or chorus or refrain to really hang your hat on. It’s just words and words and words. It added a dimension to the record, and I think the recording came out cool. Our friend Ben Peeler is playing lap steel on it and that’s so lovely.
Little Bit of Everything
This was finished while we were recording Nothing Is Wrong, and I thought it would be the first thing in the next batch of songs [for third album] because I didn’t think I would finish it on time. When I had it done and I played it for the band it was clear it needed to be on this album.
For more on Dawes check out Dennis’ recent interview with Taylor Goldsmith.