Songwriter U: Dawes Frontman Taylor Goldsmith Talks the Right Amount of Narcissism

In an industry that relies on a lot of confidence and ego, how much narcissism is too much? This is a never-ending question. If you have too much, you’re full of yourself. If you don’t have enough, you don’t have what it takes to succeed. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith of folk-rock band Dawes sat down with American Songwriter to navigate the “grayscale of narcissism” and how having a little bit of it isn’t actually a bad thing. 

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Taylor: It’s funny bringing it back to the songwriting. I remember a talk with my therapist […] He said if you had more narcissism, narcissism isn’t only a bad thing. 

American Songwriter: It’s a grayscale? 

Taylor: It’s a spectrum. And if you’re too high or too low on it, it can be a problem for different reasons. And he’s like, and Taylor, your knob is pretty low. If you had more narcissism if you really could step into…

American Songwriter: I’m a rock star. 

Taylor: I’m fucking good at this. You might not be as good of a friend to a lot of people in your life, but you would be a lot more successful. And that’s not a hard and fast rule. There are a lot of very successful people that are the most thoughtful and most lovely people I know. 

But it is that funny thing of like, I’ve never been great at that thing of I deserve credit. That’s such a weird thing for me to feel or think. It’s always been this overwhelming sense of gratitude. My brother, Griffin, from the band, he’s got probably the best attitude about it because there’ll be that thing that’ll happen sometimes where our manager is like, ‘okay, there’s this show. You have to fly this far and it’s one day. And then you fly this far home. And by the time we cut it all up, you’ll all get maybe 150 bucks in your pocket, or at least that’s how it sounds. And Griffin is like, let’s do it. And I’m like, wait, what?

American Songwriter: He’s like $6 per hour, what the hell are you talking about? 

Taylor: And when we’ve talked about it, he has this beautiful long game attitude of I get paid to play drums. It’s my favorite thing to do and I get paid to do it. And so if there’s a chance for me to continue to bring in just even a little bit, then I just can’t believe how lucky I am. So, I really admire that. Because sometimes I’ll lose sight of it being like, I don’t want to be on a plane for- 

American Songwriter: I don’t want to fly from here to St. Louis to play for 48 minutes and then fly to Portland. 

Taylor: Totally. 

American Songwriter: No, I don’t want to do it. 

Taylor: But I do think he’s right. I think if you were to ask 15-year-old Taylor, ‘would you do this?’ He would’ve said absolutely. That is mind-blowing that I would even have the chance. And I think the pandemic gave everyone that perspective of like, ‘Oh, I’ve taken a lot of this for granted.’ I’ve always had fun. I’ve always been present during shows. I’ve always been trying to live in the song, live in the lyric when we’re singing it and playing it. But there’s also that part of me of like, wait, how many days do we get back home? 

Photo courtesy Taylor Goldsmith

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