The Current's Guitar Collection: Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, 1965 Gibson J-45

conor oberst and dawes in studio 3
Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes with his Gibson J-45 in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Leah Garaas)
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On tour with Conor Oberst as both his opening act and backing band, Dawes stopped by The Current's studio during a two-night stand at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes took some time to tell us about his trusty Gibson acoustic guitar — and about an important life lesson he learned from a taxi trip in Chicago.

It looks like you were playing a Gibson today.

Yeah, it's a '65 Gibson J-45. My buddy Blake Mills, who's the greatest guitarist I've ever seen, he got it for me; for my 21st birthday or something, he got all of our friends together to put in a little bit of money and he went out and found it, and he knows guitars better than anybody.

I've never found another acoustic I've liked as much; I'm sure we all feel that way about our guitars, but it just sounds so good and it's so easy to play and I've always used it for every single record — just about every single acoustic guitar on any Dawes record is this guitar.

So this is pretty much your workhorse?

Not live, just because I don't play acoustic live ever. We're a quartet and there's only one guitar player, so if I go to acoustic it really changes the dynamic range of a song, so I always end up just staying on electric and I'll just roll it back if I need to be softer or something, but I avoid acoustic live — as much as I'd like to play it.

But yeah, when it comes to writing and recording, it's the only guitar I play when it comes to acoustic.

You've had it for a while, have you needed to have the frets redressed, replaced, or other maintenance?

I did, I had to get the bridge fixed. I guess with old Gibson bridges, they're done using this certain kind of glue that starts getting a little wonky as the years go on, so I had to get the bridge redone. I still have the old bridge in case I wanted to sell this guitar — I'm never going to sell it — but if I ever wanted for some reason to put the old one on, I could. I'm not going to do that, but I have it anyway.

Do you ever do any arranging with acoustic guitar?

The way we arrange stuff, we wait till we're a full band to really work out arrangements. I try to get that out of my head as much as I can just so that I'm not dictating what other people are doing, because arranging never works out that great that way. So when it comes to arranging, at that point, I'm playing electric guitar. We're a band.

Do you have any stories to share about this guitar?

Not this one, but I had a really beautiful Gibson L-00 that I loved and I left in the back of a cab in Chicago. I'd only had it for about a month. It was a 1942 model — it was the most beautiful guitar.

We'd played a radio thing that day at WXRT in Chicago, and it was funny because we were playing a song in the studio and I was thinking to myself, "Man, this guitar is so amazing." It's smaller than the J-45, so it was really perfect for radio stuff just in terms of it wasn't big enough to give that bass feedback thing. After the radio session, we were going to the guitar store to get a case for it, and I left it in the back of the cab. And I never saw it again.

The driver just drove off?

He drove away. We called the cab company, we found out the name of the cab driver — I don't know if some other passenger saw it in the back and snagged it or what. But it disappeared.

So a hard life lesson, then?

Yeah. That'll never happen again.

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