Alec Ounsworth Of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on Bob Dylan

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How did you first get into Bob Dylan?

My parents had the record Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which I first listened to at a very young age. I don’t think I entirely understood what was happening on the record at that point but something about it grabbed me.

How has he influenced your music?

In every way imaginable. He is probably the reason I attempted to write songs in the first place. He might also be the reason I’m keeping on and somehow I imagine he’ll be the reason I stop too.

How many times have you seen him play live?

I think I’ve seen him seven or eight times at this point. All of the shows I’ve seen of his have been after Love and Theft, so that would mean seven or eight times since about 2001. He seems somehow to get better every time he comes around. Of course, he has a lot of material to work with, but the way he makes his old songs new (different arrangements, keys, vocal technique) is quite impressive. For me, he is more interesting now than ever.

Does it bother you that he borrows so much in his music?

Everybody borrows a bit and I don’t think he has ever made any secret of it. Borrowing is not stealing.

Did it take you awhile to get into Bob Dylan, given his strange singing style?

No. As I mentioned, something drew me to him right away. I never thought his singing style strange. That’s how he sings… Nashville Skyline, however… He knows what works and he has the courage to give it a try.

What’s the closest you’ve ever gotten to him.

I saw him perform from about 50 feet away in Altoona several years ago . . . I’ve never gotten close to working with him.

Do you have a favorite Bob Dylan quote or lyric?

“Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb.”

What are some of your favorite songs or albums, and why?

All of them have their merits. I really like what he has been doing recently, Modern Times, Together Through Life… What I prefer changes with my mood. Lately, Modern Times. That is, within the last couple of days or so… Tomorrow, Street Legal.

Is there a period of Dylan’s music you think is underrated or overrated?

I apologize but I can’t be sure what that means. I know what I like and don’t like and that’s all.

What do you admire about Bob Dylan?

His boots.

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