Danny Schmidt on Bob Dylan

How did you first get into Bob Dylan?

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I first started listening to Dylan when I was an angst-ridden 15-year old. I was especially drawn to his stream-of-consciousness mid-60s era stuff… Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61… that stuff. Dylan came off as the one sane voice in a whacked out world, and though I was listening 20 years later, to have discovered another sane mind, and more importantly, someone else who recognized the madness all around us, and who could articulate it much better than I could. That was hugely comforting.

How many times have you seen him play live? What were those shows like?

I’ve seen him three times. One was gawd awful, one was hit-or-miss throughout, and one was absolutely brilliant. He seems to be playing for his own edification, which is why we love him so much as an artist. Doesn’t always make for an enjoyable process for us as fans. He’s ballsy as hell that way.

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

No, I loved it immediately because, as I’ve always said, Dylan doesn’t have a great “voice,” but he’s a brilliant “singer.” He knows how to deliver a line, a phrase, better than anyone out there. As a singer, his voice is incredibly expressive, and can punctuate where there needs to be punctuation, and underline where there needs to be highlight marker. I always found his singing to be incredibly compelling.

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

I’ve never had any contact. Kinda don’t want to.

What are some of your favorite Dylan albums and songs?

The song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” was really important to me when I was a teenager. I transcribed several of the verses onto index cards and put them on the wall next to my bed. That was really the song that helped me feel like there someone else out there who could see through the madness of our society. And that was hugely comforting for me at the time.

Desire has always been one of my favorite records. It just oozes spontaneity, energy, and madness. It’s a crazy record, but I love it.

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

I think they’re all rated about right. It’s not like any Dylan stuff is gonna fly under anyone’s radar. I do think the albums he made of interpretations of traditional songs were really good and maybe didn’t get their due because he didn’t write the songs himself. But he’s a brilliant interpreter of traditional songs. He knows that material inside and out. He’s a student of the traditions and he’s great at finding the heart of the songs, and delivering them with empathy.

What do you admire about Bob Dylan?

I admire his prolific-ness, and more than anything, I admire his willingness to ignore the clamoring of the masses. He’s really seemed to follow his own inspiration, to create what he wants to create, and to do it how he wants it done. And he doesn’t seem concerned with whether any of us will like it.

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