Bob Dylan - 'These songs have a more romantic edge'

Bob Dylan talks to Bill Flanagan about his 'surprise' new album


A lot of the new album feels like a Chess record from the Fifties. Was that sound in your head going in?

Well, some of the things do have that feel. It's mostly in the way the instruments were played.

You like that sound?

Yeah, very much so... The old Chess records, Sun records: I think that's my favourite sound for a record.

What do you like about that sound?

I like the mood – the intensity. The sound is uncluttered. There's power and suspense. It's alive.Kind of sticks in your head like a toothache.

Do you think the Chess brothers knew what they were doing?

Oh sure, how could they not? I don't think they thought they were making history, though.

Did you ever meet Howlin' Wolf? Muddy Waters?

I saw Wolf perform a few times but never met him. Muddy I knew a little.

Do you have a picture in your head of where these songs take place? Where is the guy in "Life Is Hard" standing when he sings that song?

Well, the movie's kind of a road trip from Kansas City to New Orleans. The guy's probably standing along the way somewhere.

Movie?

Yeah.

How did you get involved in that?

The French director Olivier Dahan approached me about composing some songs for a film he was writing and directing.

What did you find intriguing about that? You must get approached for movie songs all the time.

I had seen one of his movies – the one about Edith Piaf – and I liked it.

What's this new one about?

It's kind of a journey... a journey of self-discovery... taking place in the American South.

Who's in it?

I think Forest Whitaker and Renée Zellweger are in it.

And he wanted you to do the soundtrack?

Yeah, pretty much. But he wasn't too specific. The only thing he needed for sure was a ballad for the main character to sing. And that's "Life Is Hard".

Were all the songs on this record written for the movie?

Well no, not really. We started off with "Life Is Hard" and then the record sort of took its own direction.

The record's very different from Modern Times. It seems like every time you have a big hit, next time out you change things around. Why don't you milk it a little bit?

I think we milked it all we could on that last record. All the Modern Times songs were written and performed in the widest range possible so they had a little bit of everything. These new songs have more of a romantic edge.

How so?

They don't need to cover the same ground. Modern Times' songs brought my repertoire up to date, and the light was directed in a certain way. You must have somebody in mind as an audience.

What do you mean by that?

There didn't seem to be any general consensus among my listeners [concerning their preferred Dylan eras]. My audience feel style and substance in a more visceral way and let it go at that. Images don't hang anybody up. If there's an astrologer with a criminal record in one of my songs, it's not going to make anybody wonder if the human race is doomed. Images are taken at face value and it kind of freed me up.

In what way?

Well, if there are shadows and flowers and swampy ledges in a composition, that's what they are in their essence. There's no mystification.

Like a locomotive, a pair of boots, a kiss or the rain?

Right. All those things are what they are. Or pieces of what they are. It's the way you move them around that makes it work.

'Together Through Life' is released on 27 April on Columbia

Arts & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit