Jakob Dylan was here in August to perform at Farm Aid, a benefit for American farmers. On Sunday, he’ll perform at the Midland theater, and the show will benefit Harvesters, the local food bank. When he spoke to The Star, Dylan was days away from joining Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in a two-day benefit for a college radio station in Los Angeles.
Dylan, who is expecting to go into the studio early next year with the Wallflowers, will perform Sunday with members of the Los Angeles band Everest. He talked about this tour and his urge to get back in front of a rock band and make some racket after recent mostly acoustic tours supporting his two solo albums, “Seeing Things” and “Women and Country.”
Q: How did you hook up with Everest?
A: We have a lot of mutual friends. We had been trying to get together and see if there was any compatibility. We did record something, and it went fantastic so we brainstormed about taking some of the songs I’ve got and going out and playing them. I haven’t been out in nearly a year, and I’ve been wanting to get out and play.
What we’re doing is not “Women and Country” or “Seeing Things.” We’re taking a lot of those songs and putting them with the entire body of work I have and trading the acoustic guitars for electric guitars and making some noise out of these things. We had a great time with “Women and Country,” but I missed making a bit of noise.
Songs from those albums presented themselves for a certain kind of atmosphere and a certain kind of show. With Everest, we’re reworking them to see how pliable they may be, and I’m satisfied most of the songs from those records can be supported by some noise as well.
Explain the differences between writing songs for solo records and songs for a band, like the Wallflowers.
There are certain things the Wallflowers do that I can’t do on my solo records. And vice-versa. It’s very different being in a band. You’re writing for a lot of purposes. It’s very different from writing for solo records. I’ve never thought that people make great solo ‘rock’ records if they don’t have a proper band in place.
It’s pretty tricky to find a cohesive band to put behind you for a solo record that is a rock band without just casting musicians. I don’t think that works as well for an upbeat record as for something you want to cast a mood for, like “Women and Country.”
Is one style more natural or satisfying?
I’m glad to have the opportunity to do both. The Wallflowers have been together for a while, and we toured for quite a while and the break we’ve started — and we’re still somewhere in that break — was needed for all of us. We never broke up.
I learned that lesson from other people. It’s very hard to start bands later in life. If you have a good band, it’s worth being patient with it and figuring out how to keep it going. We never had a knock-out blowout reason to not be committed to one another. We just needed to stop and take a break.
But there’s a big difference. Being on a tour bus with people who feel the same way about the project you’re working on is a different experience than doing the solo records. To be able to share whatever that is with other people who have as much spirit toward it as you do is something you really appreciate when you’re not with your band anymore.
How has your life over the past 15 years and the things that have happened to you affected how you write songs?
Well, that’s interesting. … I don’t know. I mean of course it does but not in tangible ways, I don’t think. Certainly I was, you could say, self-conscious when I began writing songs, for obvious reasons. Over time, that has been alleviated. I’m still a fan of the same kinds of songs I’ve always been. I’m still impressed by the same songwriters as I was back then. The goals are still the same. Sometimes I’ve hit it; sometimes I haven’t.
Who are some of those writers?
A.I was looking through Smokey Robinson’s songs the other night, and it’s still very impressive. That is still the goal. Listening to Tom Waits’ new record, that’s still the goal. It was like that 20 years ago; it still is. I get equally motivated and depressed when I see how that stuff can reach you. It can put wind in your sails and take it out, too.
There is a lot of social and political unrest in the world right now. Does any of that find its way into your songwriting?
Are you talking about Occupy Wall Street? No, that hasn’t found its way into my songs.
Do you consciously keep issues like that out of your music?
The implications are there and thematically I might find them interesting, but I’m not a reactionary writer like that. I could try. And I have tried. But that’s not where my better material comes from. That’s not where my sweet spot as a writer is.
I think I find a way to infuse those ideas and concepts into my music, but I’ve never really felt that stuff is why I want people to listen to my music. I think I put a lot of those things in there. Often the trick is to say what’s important to me but say it in a way that if you just want to sing along, you might not notice.
Jakob Dylan performs Sunday in the Midland theater, 1228 Main St. Admission is $12. Show time is 6:30 p.m. The show is a benefit for Harvesters, a local food bank.
| Timothy Finn, The Star