Amy LaVere on Bob Dylan
How did you first get into Bob Dylan?
Who can remember that? He just always “was” for me. It seems like I was born knowing he was on the top floor of the tower of song. I do remember the first time I seriously heard Blood on the Tracks… and then listened to it almost exclusively for a few weeks.
How has he influenced your music?
That’s hard to say. Surely he does, but it’s an esoteric / unconscious thing. He raises the bar.
How many times have you seen him play live?
I’ve seen him perform only five times now. The first time was at the Pyramid in Memphis. I had nose bleed seats and that venue sounded so terrible it was like looking down on a stick figure Dylan and just hearing a fire truck on stage. I did end up back stage at that show. I was with my friend the artist Lamar Sorrento, and he was buddies with Charlie Sexton who was playing with Bob at the time. Dylan came into the hall and was talking to Paul Burlison who was backstage too. I’d met Paul a few times and was about to walk over so I could meet Bob, but he disappeared back down the hall before I could get over to them. Probably for the best. I might have been annoyingly gushy.
I saw him again at a casino in Tunica. He was playing keyboards all night and it was really wacky and I was digging it. This idiot, drunk frat kid screamed “pick up the acoustic Bob!!!” through the whole show. For me, it added to the experience and I was proud Dylan chose not. I think half the audience wanted to strangle the kid and the other half wanted to chant with him. It was wild. The next was Memphis in May which was great. I was right up front and a little drunk actually. It was an enormous singalong. The entire crowd was under his spell. It was beautiful.
My favorite time was at the baseball stadium when he and Willie Nelson were touring together. If I had been a little less broke, I would have followed them like the Dead for the entire tour. Dylan was overwroughtly doing that thing where he changes his songs and his vocal style so much that they were half over before you recognized them. I loved it. The last time was at the Orpheum Theater. It was subdued and almost too polished in there, but I was grinning from ear to ear the whole show. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
Did it take you awhile to get into Bob Dylan, given his strange singing style?
Do you have a favorite Bob Dylan quote or lyric?
She says, “You can’t repeat the past.” I say, “You can’t? What do you mean, you can’t? Of course you can.”
What are some of your favorite songs or albums, and why?
Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde, Street Legal, Nashville Skyline, and Time Out of Mind have probably been in the heaviest rotation in my life although there are plenty of others I’ve loved. The Rolling Thunder Revue stuff is great. I do a version of “Railroad Boy” from that stuff. I’ve always loved the song “Winterlude.” A lot.
Is there a period of Dylan’s music you think is underrated or overrated?
Nothing’s overrated – it’s all subjective and there’s no accounting for taste.
What do you admire about Bob Dylan?
I admire Dylan for being himself, being fearless and continuing to be a generous thought provoker. I admire him mostly for, at the expense of his privacy and surely countless other sacrifices most could never imagine, sharing himself with us.
Read more 30 Days of Dylan.