Nicole Atkins on Bob Dylan

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How did you first get into Bob Dylan?

I first got into Dylan when I was young and watching an episode of The Wonder Years. “Like a Rolling Stone” was playing in a scene and I just out of nowhere started bawling crying. The song moved me that much. It kinda freaked me out.

How has he influenced your music?

The main way he’s influenced my music is his lyrics showed me not to be afraid with lyrics. To find intelligence in humor with lyrics. I think he also introduced me to my first murder ballad, “Romance in Durango.”

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

I saw him open for the Dead once in ’95. I didn’t really get to see him though. I just watched through the gate. It’s kinda fuzzy.

Does it bother you that he borrows so much in his music? What’s your stance on that?

All great art comes from borrowing. His genius was that he made it seem all his own. He borrowed but never copied.

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

His voice was definitely a hinderance for me in the beginning. I stuck to his electric stuff at the beginning so i could put the sound over his vocals. It wasn’t until I was older that I was fully able to appreciate his songwriting and in turn the charm in his unique voice.

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

Not too close. I think the closest I’ve ever really gotten is doing this show every year at Bowery Ballroom called Dylan Fest. Austin Scaggs from Rolling Stone magazine and this guy Alex Levy put it on every year. He’s in the house band and they have guest singers like me, Norah Jones, dudes from the Strokes, etc. It’s a blast. I also got to do a Dylan tribute with his guitarist Larry Campbell and Levon Helm’s Ramble Band. That was the musical equivalent of skydiving for me.

Do you have a favorite Bob Dylan quote or lyric?

I always loved the knock knock joke in “Po’ Boy,” off of Love and Theft.

“Knockin’ on the door, I say, ‘Who is it and where are you from?’
Man says, ‘Freddy!’ I say, ‘Freddy who?’ He says, ‘Freddy or not here I come.'”

What’s your favorite Dylan album?

Desire is my all time favorite Dylan album. It was the first one I ever got. And I loved how loose and tragic the band sounded. Like they were ready for a standoff in the desert.

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