Matthew Ryan on Bob Dylan
How did you first get into Bob Dylan?
I can’t remember not being a Bob Dylan fan. For a songwriter, it’s like asking when did you get into breathing?
How has he influenced your music?
In Dylan’s work there’s always been a progressive traditionalism. I fear that’s often overlooked since for us now it seems like it’s always been here. But that marriage of old and new along with simple and complex has always intrigued me and ignited my own sense of what was possible via creativity as it relates to the present, and as the present relates to the future.
How many times have you seen him play live? What were those shows like?
I’ve seen Bob Dylan twice. And just as the folklore suggests, one was pure genius and the other screeched, thumped and mumbled like a very thorough train wreck. Both were beautiful in their own ways.
Did it take you awhile to get into Bob Dylan, given his strange singing style?
I loved Dylan’s voice from the beginning. I just thought he sounded cool. The first things I heard were the earlier recordings, the more spare and folky ones. His voice matched perfectly the worn tragedy where cynicism and hope create friction. It sounded a thousand years old to me and somehow seemed to carry the wisdom of all of that time. There’s a thin line between a threat and a promise, Dylan’s voice always rang that way to me. At the end of the day the truth is rarely pretty, so why should the voice delivering it be?
What’s the closest you’ve ever gotten to him?
I’ve walked on the same street as him a couple times, just not at the same time.
Do you have a favorite Bob Dylan quote or lyric?
My favorite Bob Dylan quote is, “Peace is the time it takes to reload your rifle.” My favorite lyric is, “The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken.” I was a kid when I first heard it, and I got the joke. That made me feel perty cool.
What are some of your favorite songs or albums, and why?
There are brilliant gems to be found in every era of Bob Dylan. But my favorite album is probably The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It’s just so pure. I don’t suspect he quite knew what he was then. Earnest, genius, timeless, troubled, romantic, and funny. And on and on and on.
Is there a period of Dylan’s music you think is underrated or overrated?
I couldn’t say really. He’s an artist, you get the feeling he does exactly what he’s compelled to do. I appreciate some songs or periods above others, but I assume all of it is art.
What do you admire about Bob Dylan?
I honestly don’t know what I admire about Bob Dylan. I just know he inspires me. He’s made music for every occasion and has helped me to commiserate with almost every feeling a man can have.