Back in the late '70s, Dylan complained in an interview about the bizarre range of topics about which interviewers would ask him.
“Well,” said the interviewer, “what do you think they should ask you about?”
“I don’t know," he answered. "Maybe music?".
That was always my intention going in, and a sensible one, to talk about songwriting with the man who has profoundly transformed it over the years. And Dylan - like so many other songwriters' we've spoken to -was happy to talk about this ancient art to which he's devoted his life, and which has been so profoundly shaped by the impact of his own work.
It was a promise I'd always emphasize in my interview requests, that my goal was to have a serious conversation about songwriting, music, songs and the creative process – nothing else. Nothing about the personal life, or anything unrelated to music. Dylan had read some of the past interviews and liked the approach, especially my two-part interview with Paul Simon.
Being a lifelong and devotional songwriter myself, I came informed and inspired to these interviews, which was usually fun and refreshing for those being interviewed, as it's rare for songwriters to be asked about the mystery and mechanics of music itself, although it is there that their genius lives. And as musicians know - we talk to fellow musicians differently than to civilians. Because music itself is a different language - one which reaches beyond words - and seeing the world through the eyes and heart of a songwriter is a distinct experience, as in being an artist in the music industry.
Unusually I'd let on that I was a songwriter and musician by discussing a song's key - or chords - which always registers. Because though they rarely discuss it, that is where songwriters live: not only in lyrics and rhymes, but in the many colors of musical keys, major and minor, and those chords used forever to discover and propel melodies. Dylan is a remarkable craftsman - his care for intricate rhyme schemes, perfect meter, singability has been prominent since the start - and he happily answered questions about keys, chords, rhymes and the rest.
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