Live from Laurel Canyon

The epicenter of folk, psychedelia and nearly every other genre roped of the late 1960s and early '70s, Laurel Canyon was once home to Neil Young, Frank Zappa, The Doors, David Crosby, Joni Mitchell and various others who helped define the voice of a revolutionary generation.

The tiny terrestrial corridor between West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley has since been infiltrated by A-listers and seven-figure real estate, but some still believe in the area's creative fertility — like the four 20-somethings collectively known as Dawes.

Dawes was formed in 2009 by singer-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith and bassist Wylie Gelber as an offshoot of a band formerly known as Simon Dawes; the name changed and the lineup was slightly re-arranged after the departure of co-songwriter/guitarist Blake Mills. Taylor's younger brother Griffin joined on drums when he graduated high school, and keyboardist Tay Strathairn rounded it out.

The four-piece recorded its debut full-length, North Hills, later that year with notable Laurel Canyon producer Jonathan Wilson. Bathed in warm analog sounds and the retro folk influences of area legends like Crosby and Young, the 11 tracks muse on love, personal tribulation, and what it means to mature in the 21st century.

Maturing, Goldsmith told me in a recent interview, is also a prominent theme of Dawes' first single and likely best-known song, "When My Time Comes."

"People would say, 'You're way too young, you haven't lived enough to make that one great song yet,' and it wasn't like I disagreed with them necessarily, but I wanted to say, you know, when my time comes, hopefully I will."

Uplifting and blaze-ahead, "When My Time Comes" also contains reflective moments that paint a nuanced picture of brazen adolescence. "I thought that one quick moment that was noble or brave / would be worth the most of my life," Goldsmith sings, until he realizes how futile young confidence can be. "So I pointed my fingers and shout a few quotes I knew / as if something that's written should be taken as true / but every path I had taken and conclusion I drew / would put truth back under the knife."

The song is visceral, almost like gospel, and Chevy snatched it up for its Silverado TV ad campaign. "They came to us and asked. It was completely unexpected," said Goldsmith. "That was Bob Seger and 'Like a Rock' for so long. For them to feel 'When My Time Comes' should come next in that line was a real honor."

In a musical era that is seeing radical change, an indie band that accepts a commercial offer isn't necessarily seen as selling out or compromising the principles of indie-dom, but as simply doing what it takes to stay above water. "You know, it's trucks," Goldsmith said. "It's nothing amoral, like we're playing in the background of a cigarette ad or something. They help us out and the exposure is phenomenal."

Exposure is the name of the game, and the members of Dawes have spent a lot of time putting themselves out there beyond TV. Their tour schedule for the next three months alone is exhausting to read, and includes 45 dates across the U.S. and Canada supporting Brett Dennen. "That's how we support ourselves," Goldsmith told me. "No one can make a living off just album sales anymore."

Earlier this year, the band caught another break when they got a phone call from Robbie Robertson's manager. The one-time guitarist and songwriter of The Band was actively seeking a group to back him for some TV appearances in support of his first solo album in 13 years, How to Become Clairvoyant. At the recommendation of his manager, he selected Dawes and things immediately clicked. They've now played a few late-night spots — Letterman, Kimmel — and might join him for a few festival appearances in the near future.

"They're really good and they're a band — it's different than just getting a bunch of individual musicians and trying to make them click and blend," said Robertson in a recent Rolling Stone interview.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, Dawes recorded another album, Nothing is Wrong, with Wilson behind the boards again. The new LP has a bit more teeth than their first effort, due largely in part to touring.

"We got to write and play a lot of this material on the road, so we had a little more confidence going in," said Goldsmith.

Some argue that the music biz is growing more and more lackadaisical by the day, but bands like Dawes keep on truckin' to prove otherwise.

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