Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes’ Songwriting Survival Kit

Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes’ Songwriting Survival Kit
Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes' Songwriting Survival Kit

Taylor Goldsmith: “I tend to like going between the guitar and piano to see if one can unlock anything in the other.”

The LA indie band’s frontman is a sucker for a good pen; find out what else he can’t do without

We’re always interested in finding out a little more about our favourite artist’s essential songwriting equipment. The right gear can inspire and empower, it can be a conduit, a muse and the perfect vessel for getting those ideas out of your head. Whether a tatty old notebook or a beautiful grand piano, there are always items that songwriters need in order to make their music.

The latest musician to share their Songwriting Survival Kit with us is Dawes’ frontman Taylor Goldsmith. With the Southern California indie rockers set to drop their new album, Passwords, it’s a perfect time to dig a little deeper into Goldsmith’s armoury…

1. Gibson J-45 1965 guitar
“I’d say about 90 percent of my songs are written on guitar. This one in particular was a gift for my 18th birthday from a bunch of friends but led and chosen by my buddy Blake Mills. I try to bring an acoustic with me everywhere I go, whether it’s on the back of the bus away from the rest of the touring gear or in a hotel room on a trip completely unrelated to music. For me, the moment the first seed of a song shows up is never when you expect it. It’s always on the move or when I’m in the middle of something else. The times I’ve tried to just sit at my desk and be available to the muse has never really paid off. So it’s become integral that a guitar is always nearby. Ideally, this specific guitar!”

2. Yamaha C1X grand piano
“Once the beginnings of a song are written on a guitar, then I sometimes take it to the piano. It opens up all sorts of new ideas and options of where to take things melodically and musically. Sometimes a certain move or chord change that might seem tired or hackneyed on the guitar can feel really fresh on piano. Or there’s a certain stranger direction that didn’t present itself on guitar that becomes clearer on piano. The songs that seem to be predominantly written on piano tend to have denser or more colourful progressions. The guitar songs can often be simpler, which allow themselves to be a bit easier to treat more aggressively. The more notes in a chord, the harder it gets to play it loud. If I’ve had a song for a while and am tying up loose ends, I tend to like going between the guitar and piano to see if one can unlock anything in the other.”

3. Notebook
“I’ve never been good with anything resembling a diary entry. For me, a notebook ends up as a sort of catch-all for any words, or phrases or ideas that I might come across that I feel could work well in a song. The little entries can come from a book, an article, a conversation, or even a daydream. It ends up looking like a series of bullet points. And then once a song starts coming together, I’ll write it out in the same notebook. A lot can get crossed out or written over, but it’s nice keeping it all in the same place because a lot of times, what doesn’t work in one song can work perfectly in a different idea.”

4. Drum machine
“My brother let me borrow this. Pretty sure it’s from some time in the 80s. It’s been fun to see how it can change the ideas I’m having when there’s a beat to play along to. It makes the guitar and piano almost different instruments. I tend to keep anything too technological away from the writing process. Not because I think it’s bad, but just because I find myself getting caught up in the wrong thing. I also find that if I land on some specific sound or part that I like, we end up trying to chase down the demo, which I hate. These songs have lives and sometimes exploring something for the first time creates a magic that can’t be found again. So I try to keep the demos as plain and simple as possible and allow that first moment of exploration to be behind the microphones with the rest of the band making a record.”

5. Pen
“I’m always a sucker for a good pen.”

Passwords is out 22 June. For more info, head to dawestheband.com

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