Videos by American Songwriter
How did you first get into Bob Dylan?
The first big Dylan album was Highway 61. I worked backwards from there and then eventually forwards. I thought that between the lyrics, the performances, and the tones of that record, I had never heard a clearer example of what rock and roll meant to me.
How has he influenced your music?
In a lot of ways, but more than anything else, his structure really shaped how I write. How he filters down to a title and how, in a song like “Tangled Up In Blue,” he’ll rhyme the end of each verse with “blue” to really set it up definitively. Devices like that have been something I’ve always wanted to get better at.
How many times have you seen him play live? What were those shows like?
I’ve never seen him play live.
Does it bother you that he borrows so much in his music?
I don’t mind it at all. It’s all applied very well, and no one could argue that he doesn’t maintain a strong singular voice. As long as that’s the case, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with borrowing anything.
Did it take you awhile to get into Bob Dylan, given his strange singing style?
I grew up with more of a regard for conventionally “good” singing, but eventually with Bob Dylan I felt that his sharp voice and very annunciated words brought more focus to his performance. Sometimes when I hear great singers cover Bob Dylan songs, I lose sight of the words and the song itself and get more caught up in the performance, and, personally, I don’t like that as much.
What’s the closest you’ve ever gotten to him?
Never worked with him, but once Robbie Robertson told our band that Bob Dylan doesn’t “make records” as much as “document his songs.” I thought that was a real interesting take on it.
Do you have a favorite Bob Dylan quote or lyric?
“Inside the museum infinity goes up on trial / voices echo ‘this is what salvation must be like after a while'”
What are some of your favorite songs or albums, and why?
Blood On The Tracks has an insistence that I’ve never heard on any record by anyone else. He makes you feel like he’s writing it while he’s singing it.
“My Back Pages” has always felt to me like the marker between the first Bob Dylan and the second. It seemed like he was starting to see through fierce conviction and pronouncing truths and lies and started to realize the world is a little more complicated than that. That the grey area was bigger than he initially thought. I feel like there were no more The Times They Are A-Changin’ written once My Back Pages came along. I could be wrong, but it’s fun to think about.
Is there a period of Dylan’s music you think is underrated or overrated?
I’ve never spent time with a Dylan record that didn’t eventually seem to really have a lot to offer. Some more than others obviously, but for anyone to say a guy like Bob Dylan has a “overrated period” is really missing out on some great stuff, in my opinion.
What do you admire about Bob Dylan?
Beyond the obvious things like the albums and the songs and live recordings and cultural relevance and all that, I admire that he’s released 34 studio albums and 13 live albums. Those numbers are so far beyond songwriters that he is often compared to. I realize that quantity does not mean quality, but if nothing else, I feel like it’s evidence of a man who has truly dedicated his entire life to songs.
Read more 30 Days of Dylan.