Newport Folk Festival: Exclusive Dawes Interview

It’s Saturday at Newport Folk Festival and who better to chat with than with the WERS favorite Dawes? I sat down for an exclusive interview with Griffin Goldsmith, Taylor Goldsmith, Tay Strathairn, Wylie Gelber and before they hit the main stage this afternoon to hear about their thoughts on Newport, how they perform, and their growing fame.

Nina: What’s it like playing at a festival? Do you find it’s very different from playing at concerts or indoors?

Taylor: Yeah, you definitely arrange it differently. You play different songs and it’s more about the energy rather than the songs themselves, in some cases. But with Newport it’s a little different because with Newport, you can get quieter with a crowd than a way that you can’t at other festivals.

Nina: Do you find for festivals you wind up playing bigger hits because it is a festival and not as in-depth as concerts?

Taylor: I think we’ll do maybe a new song or two for the people that are aware of us but also just for ourselves to make sure we’re having a good time. We like playing the old stuff, but it brings a nice, fresh quality to it. Most effective stuff at festivals is stuff people are aware of and familiar with. We’ll definitely be doing a good amount of that.

Nina: Newport is a little bit different from other festivals in that people right up in front are sitting in chairs instead of the normal setup where it’s a huge crowd of people standing and those who are seated are on the outskirts somewhat. Is that weird at first when you’re onstage, having a set-up like that?

Griffin: It is; it’s different. Weird? I don’t think so, but only because we’ve played shows like that before. Anything is going to be great, though.

Nina: Recently you’ve been getting even more attention – we just added “If I Wanted Someone” to our WERS playlist – and you’re on the main stage.  Is that odd at first? Does it take a while to sink in?

Taylor: It’s amazing. There’s almost so many ways you could justify it to yourself like, “Oh, well we’ve been here three years in a row,” and “Oh, well Jay likes us,” or ways to maintain our disbelief. It’s truly an honor; for the last bands on the main stage to be Alabama Shakes, Dawes, Patty Griffin, and My Morning Jacket, it’s a huge honor to be a part of that.

Nina: I know Jackson Browne is on the bill for tomorrow night, so how is that for you guys? I’ve heard he’s a big influence.

Taylor: It’ll be great. We’re going to go up onstage and play some songs with him and stuff. We’re really happy he’s here. It’s cool because between Robert Ellis, Johnny Corndawg, Johnathan Wilson, Deer Tick, Conor Oberst, Jackson Browne. There’s a lot of family, a lot of bands that are really close and a lot of our best friends.

Nina: Do you guys feel like you’re joining this family, that you’re becoming good friends with them?

Taylor: Hopefully the relationships are something people respond to. They happen to be our good friends.

Nina: Has radio had a big impact on your lives growing up?

Taylor: Oh, definitely. Radio has been everything for us, especially as a band. people think it may not be as relevant as it used to be but it’s 100% that whenever there’s a radio station that reps us, it’s a good market for us, without fail. We’re very indebted to radio and always trying to do whatever we can to help support that.

Nina: Is there anything in the past few years that you guys have learned from this experience as a band, stuff that has really changed the way you perform?

Taylor: Yeah, a lot of it.

Griffin: It’s hard to articulate, but when you’re onstage playing with a festival crowd that large, it forces you to play differently.

Tay: Being at festivals and seeing other performers, like seeing Bruce in London at Hyde Park, you can see the way that they captivate an audience in that large setting – you can take a lot from that and apply it to your own.

Nina: Is there anything recently that you guys want to implement into your gameplan?

Taylor: You know, just looking at our heroes and other people we admire and being like, “How does work? Why do such large groups of people respond to this?” And obviously adopting qualities that are more universal but also working on ourselves and how do we set ourselves apart from that and have a lot of identity.

Nina: What are you guys most looking forward to about your show this year at Newport?

Taylor: We’ve seen a lot of acts from the main stage, but that will be our first time there.

Tay: The view!

Check back on WERS soon to hear more from the interview and our footage from the interview!

By Nina Corcoran

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