I really enjoyed the article in the latest edition of Acoustic Guitar magazine that featured Jakob Dylan. He discusses his latest, Women and Country, and waxes poetic on songwriting in general. Here’s a little snippet, but check out the whole article:
When you’re working on a song, do you feel as if you understand what you’re writing about, or do you even want to understand?
DYLAN No. I think the people who are really good can’t explain how they do it or why, and you should be very suspicious of people who can. Truthfully, when I am asked to explain a song, I always find it an awkward question because I think the song is the explanation. But that’s just the kind of songs I write. If you were able to ask Phil Ochs what his songs were about, he could probably tell you because they are very specific.
Some people aim for a kind of writing where words fall out that on some level make no sense.
DYLAN But what’s unique about that is he or she is the only one who had that idea drop out. You know, a lot of times you let that happen, and you look at the page and you wonder, “I don’t know, is that right or not? Does that make perfect sense?” But if you question it too much and try to use too much logic, it’ll slip away.
Do you ever share songs in progress with your father (Bob Dylan)?
DYLAN No, I never have, and really for no other reason than that I was always confident, especially when I came up in groups—we were chasing our own ideas. I don’t know that somebody like him could truthfully give anybody . . . I think if you’re that good, it’s very difficult to put into a dialogue how [someone else] can also do it. It’s very hard to point somebody in that direction.
I don’t mean necessarily that you’d ask him to explain or teach, but just simply to be an audience.
DYLAN No, I honestly don’t do that with anybody. Also, I really like writing a song and keeping it until the very last moment of playing it for who is going to be playing it with you, because there’s a snapshot that happens one time. There’s an exciting moment when you first record a song; that’s probably the most lasting impression anyone will have of a song, but really it’s just the way you wanted to record it one day, one afternoon, and who knows why.
And now for a treat… a Tiny Desk Concert put on by Mr. Dylan and his cohorts in the NPR offices…