Augustana’s star forced to mature, and band followed

On a recent radio tour promoting his sophomore album “Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt,” 23-year-old Augustana leader Dan Layus turned to his band mates and asked, “Do I look old to you? Because I feel five to 10 years older than I am right now. I feel like I have so much more deep purple and blue in my eye sockets, so many more lines in my face, and so much more grit in my belly. I mean, I really do feel a lot older.”

Perhaps maturity has something to do with it. The SoCal songwriter, who plays with his band Friday at the Fillmore, was still a teenager when he penned Augustana’s now-signature anthem “Boston,” not yet of legal drinking age when it hit No.1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart in 2005.

And he’d just turned 21, he adds, when he got the most unexpected news of all. His girlfriend Nina phoned him on tour to inform him she was pregnant. “And I remember, again, being on the road in Raleigh, N.C., and talking to her on the phone,” says the now-married Layus. “And there was just this moment where I understood, this is it, this is the right thing to do. This is going to save me, this is going to save her, this is going to save us. And we decided right then to have the baby, and whatever struggles we might have, it was going to be worth it.”

Daughter Eloise is now nearly 2. And directly, or indirectly, she and Nina inspired almost every track on the decidedly grown-up “Can’t Love,” which finds Layus making quantum leaps forward as a hook-savvy composer and emotive, truly original vocalist.

The change is exemplified by the new single “Sweet and Low,” a meat-and-potatoes platter of savory folk-rock that’s the perfect antidote to ubiquitous Coldplay schmaltz.

In it, Layus says, “I was imagining a letter my wife might write me, in the verses anyway, like ‘When you get out there on tour, this could happen, and so could this. So don’t forget this.’ And the chorus is me replying back to her ‘When the worst comes, hold me low to the ground and protect me in a way that only you can.’ Because I don’t want to make the same mistakes my parents did.”

Layus, a child of two divorces, now calls three guys dad, and is barely acquainted with his biological father. And it wasn’t until he struck out on his own for college in Illinois that he truly found himself, and formed Augustana with some simpatico classmates.

If he’s fast-forwarded into adulthood too fast, he doesn’t seem to mind. “It’s funny, because I don’t know that I’m a great musician, I don’t know that I’m even a great songwriter,” he sighs. “I’m not really sure and I doubt myself a lot on the road. But I know — and I mean really know — that I’m a good dad. That’s the one thing I know how to handle — it’s the most solid thing in my life, it’s like my rock.”

IF YOU GO

Augustana

Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $20

Contact: (415) 346-6000; visit www.thefillmore.com

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

City officials closed San Francisco County Jail No. 4 on the top floor of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. in September, reducing the number of beds in the jail system by about 400. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
SF jail closure prompts doctor to call for release of more inmates

Reduced space increases risk of COVID-19 spreading among those in custody

Cyclists have flocked to Market Street since private vehicles were largely banned from a long stretch of it in January. (Amanda Peterson/Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Plans for sidewalk-level bikeway on Market Street dropped due to costs, increased cyclist volume

Advocates say revisions to Better Market Street fail to meet safety goals of project

Prop. 21 would allow San Francisco city officials to expand rent control to cover thousands more units. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tenant advocates take another try at expanding rent control with Prop. 21

Measure would allow city to impose new protections on properties 15 years or older

Tenderloin residents are finding benefits to having roads closed in the neighborhood. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Should there be fewer cars in the Tenderloin’s future?

The pandemic has opened San Franciscans’ eyes to new uses of urban streets

Singer-songwriter Cam is finding musicmaking to be healing during 2020’s world health crisis. 
Courtesy 
Dennis Leupold
Cam challenges country music tropes

Bay Area-bred songwriter releases ‘The Otherside’

Most Read