Musician Jakob Dylan

The singer-songwriter discusses his return to the Grammy-winning band, the Wallflowers, with the new disc, “Glad All Over”—the group’s first album in seven years.

As the son of an iconic singer-songwriter, Jakob Dylan may have had a few doors opened for him, but the legacy was an equally heavy burden. He began his own music career when he formed the platinum-selling, Grammy-winning band the Wallflowers. After five albums with the group, he began a solo career, touring with T-Bone Burnett and releasing his first CD in 2008, followed by a sophomore project in 2010. He's also written TV show theme songs and collaborated with other artists. Dylan continues making his own mark with a return to the Wallflowers for "Glad All Over," the band's first album in seven years.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: Pleased to welcome Jakob Dylan back to this program. He and fellow bandmates from the Wallflowers are out with their first new album in seven years now. The disc is called “Glad All Over,” and starting next spring, the Wallflowers on tour with Eric Clapton.

Before we get to that, here now some of the video for the song “Reboot the Mission.”

[Clip]

Tavis: I’m loving that video.

Jakob Dylan: It’s good, right? (Laughter)

Tavis: That is pretty cool.

Dylan: Yeah.

Tavis: That’s pretty cool. I was saying to you while the video was playing that when I first hear that I didn’t immediately connect that to Wallflowers, the sound.

Dylan: Yeah, it was a little unexpected for some people.

Tavis: I love it, but it was just, yeah.

Dylan: Yeah, it’s just one of the grooves, one of the things we hadn’t gotten to. I think the parameters of rock and roll are so wide that that’s what keeps you in bands, is there is no – I don’t think we ever found a pocket that’s the one you’re supposed to stay in.

Tavis: Yeah.

Dylan: So we always try to find different grooves we haven’t hit yet.

Tavis: Yeah. What’s the greatest challenge in getting back together after seven years? Clearly, the band hadn’t broken up. You did your solo thing. Matter of fact when you were on – last time you were here you were talking about your solo project.

Dylan: Yeah.

Tavis: So clearly, the band hadn’t broken up. But in music, as you know, things change so quickly, so never mind the expansive field that you can play on where rock and roll is concerned. Fans change tastes, they change interest in seven years, yes?

Dylan: Oh, yeah, I think so. But we’ve been around a long time and I think we have a dedicated audience that – I think we had to do that. I knew we did. We all knew that we needed to take a break, and I’m glad we did, and I wish more bands did that instead of hitting bumps in the road and calling it quits.

Tavis: Seven years is a long time, though, Jakob.

Dylan: It is a long time. We did a lot of things, though. Our lives aren’t just about the band. When you start when you’re young, that is, but I wanted to make a couple of different records that probably weren’t appropriate for the band to make, and they wanted to run around and do different things.

Everybody – there’s a lot of stuff that you want to do in your life. It’s not just about your band. Rather than call it quits at that time, we were wise enough to just take a break. I didn’t think it’d be seven years, though. (Laughter) I thought maybe two, three.

Tavis: When you come back together after that long of a break, where the music is concerned, how do you figure out what does make sense for the Wallflowers, to your earlier point, because the solo stuff you did needed to be solo? So how do you know what’s right for the band?

Dylan: Well, it’s simple. There’s five of us who were injecting – that’s what bands are, they just don’t work unless you have the chemistry of people, and it’s not just the musical chemistry. It’s a personal chemistry. It’s a chemistry with your personalities that make bands count.

It’s only a little bit about – or I should say a lot less of it’s about musicianship. It’s about the chemistry of the bands, and I think that’s something that we’re protective of that and we’re aware of it and we respect it, that we have it, and we respect one another that it’s not going to be one person’s vision.

That’s not what makes groups great. So we share that and when I make records on my own, that has nothing to do with that. That’s really exactly about what do you want to do, which is not what you do in bands.

Tavis: Was there a starting point when you guys got back together? What was the genesis for the tracks on the project?

Dylan: What was different in some regard is that we’d gone down to Nashville really with – I had just a lot of lyrics, I had a couple songs, and that was something that was intentional. Previously I had always taken the burden of writing the 15 songs before we’d go and really making sure they were all buttoned up and finished.

The guys wanted more involvement; I at the same time had felt like I needed someone to share that with. Because when we started, I don’t think anybody else was really writing songs. But over time, people have learned how to do that.

So it really just started with us in the room, making a racket, and then chasing the songs as they developed and not being as precious about it as we have been other times.

Tavis: Yeah, see, I’m still in the studio at that racket phase.

Dylan: You are? (Laughter) It’s the best place to be. No, it really is.

Tavis: I haven’t gotten past the racket part yet.

Dylan: That’s the best place. (Laughter) That’s where you want to be, yeah.

Tavis: Yeah, well, I’m there. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be there, but I haven’t even got past the racket part.

I read somewhere where your father referenced Mick Jones, and you’ve been able to – from The Clash, of course – and you’ve been able to do something that your father hasn’t been able to do yet. I read at one point where he wanted to try to get Mick Jones on tour with him, and maybe even on a record, and it didn’t quite happen at that time. But I notice he’s on your project.

Dylan: Yeah, I wouldn’t say he failed to get him in a project.

Tavis: Well, fail, but -

Dylan: If he wanted him, I’m sure -

Tavis: It didn’t happen.

Dylan: Yeah, it didn’t happen.

Tavis: It didn’t happen, okay. (Laughter)

Dylan: It didn’t happen.

Tavis: Excuse me, yeah. Sorry, Mr. Dylan. I never want to call you a failure at anything. It didn’t happen.

Dylan: Yeah. I’m not sure how it actually went down, but it’s Mick Jones. He’s been admired certainly by my generation, but some of those guys come through that are younger than that generation, and they wow everybody too.

So the fact that he responded to him, he’s just an undeniable presence and talent. Of course – I’m sure you know that material. But I’m sure if they wanted to do something, they could or would.

Tavis: There must be a list of people, though, who you would love to gig with, like Mick Jones.

Dylan: Yeah. I don’t spend too much time – I don’t have, like, a wishlist.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dylan: But when it pops up, it’s good for everybody, I think. I try to – when I came up, a lot of that generation was really kind to me and allowed me on their stages or came to the studios when I was working. And I like now, it’s nice to kind of get to the – I’m able to do that now, and people who came up listening to my band’s music, I try to be available to the same thing. I think it’s just important to have that exchange as often as you can.

Tavis: Yeah. You have said before that you aren’t comfortable having to explain the content of your lyrics, that you think that every song is left to the interpretation of the listener. Not every songwriter feels similarly. Tell me why you feel that way.

Dylan: Well, I think that’s what the exchange is. I think that’s the responsibility of the artist and the listener. When I write songs, that’s what I’m depending on. I’m depending on it, and I believe in the people who listen to music. I believe that they will find that relationship in there. I think that it’s required.

I’m not writing term papers for people. (Laughter) It’s just as much for them as it is for me. There’s nothing factual about any of it. It’s really just meant to be listened to, and I don’t want to get in the way. We’ve all had that experience where we hear a song that we’ve liked for many years, and we finally hear what the writer tells us what it’s about, and you’re often disappointed.

Something gets taken out of it. So I think that magic, that’s important to the process.

Tavis: Yeah, although you do have me thinking now. I wonder what’s more lucrative these days – writing term papers for kids or doing records?

Dylan: I can answer that. Want me to answer that?

Tavis: Yeah.

Dylan: Well – (laughter) I haven’t seen the exact numbers, but I have a hunch.

Tavis: Yeah, I saw “60 Minutes” or somebody did a big piece about that.

Dylan: Yeah.

Tavis: That’s a pretty big business, writing papers for people.

Dylan: Yeah, yeah.

Tavis: I digress on that point. So how excited is the band about doing this Eric Clapton tour?

Dylan: It’s pretty great. I had a chance to play with him on one of the solo records that I did, “Seeing Things,” 2008 or ’09. I got to do some shows in Germany with him, and then I got to play “Crossroads” with him.

Tavis: Ooh.

Dylan: So it’s not an (unintelligible) that I get to again, but I had a lot of fun. The guys haven’t played with him yet. They’re excited.

Tavis: How do you know, circling back to the new project, “Glad All Over.” First of all, the title, “Glad All Over,” I’ve been working at that for 40-some years, trying to be glad all over. Tell me about the name of the record, the title of the record.

Dylan: Well, just like we were talking about before, it can be interpreted a few ways. It doesn’t mean that you’re simply happy. It could mean that, or it could be just really glad that it’s over.

Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter)

Dylan: That’s kind of – again -

Tavis: I walked right into that, didn’t I?

Dylan: Yeah.

Tavis: I walked right into that, after that last question.

Dylan: I’m banking on our relationship that you’re going to figure that out.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah. (Laughter)

Dylan: Obviously it’s been traveled, that term. Carl Perkins and Beatles and Dave Clark Five, but I like that. It’s traditional, I think, and you can’t always try to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes you’ve got to go with stuff that’s real sturdy and solid, and I like that.

Tavis: Is there ever any – was there ever any trepidation when you got back together with the Wallflowers after seven years, that once you got past the racket phase and all this came together, any concern that the fans would get it, speaking of getting it and figuring it out?

Dylan: Well, yeah. I think there’s a lot of different areas bands work in, and the people who respond to the group and what I do, I had no doubt that they would respond to that. But that’s not always – you’re going to lose some people, always. You’re going to get new ones, too. I think that’s what you’re trying to do.

The ones that are faithful, I don’t think they’re turned off by any one record anyhow. You might have a favorite band and really dislike one of the records. That’s fine. But I don’t think – I don’t know that that happens to us. I think we know what we do, and I think we don’t see parameters, but I think naturally what we do, no matter what the song is, has a familiarity to the people who’ve followed us.

Tavis: Have you had a chance yet – I don’t know the extent to which you guys have been out yet, trying this out – have you had a chance yet with this new project to assess what your fan base looks like seven years later?

Dylan: Well, some of them have gotten older. Some have gotten younger. (Laughter) The band’s gotten older, so -

Tavis: You’re killing me, Jakob; you’re killing me, man. (Laughter)

Dylan: They’re trapped in a time machine. They look great. All of them.

Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter) You know what? I’m done with you. Okay.

Dylan: Yeah. (Laughter)

Tavis: That’s it, I’m tired of (unintelligible) my chops getting busted in this conversation.

Dylan: No, I don’t mean that. We had been playing, we’ve been touring for over 20 years, so I see that – as long as younger people are comings, that’s what bands and artists, I think, are encouraged by. You want new fans. You have to have new fans.

Obviously it’s not about an age, it’s just you just want to see it turning over and finding new people as constantly as you can.

Tavis: I love Jakob Dylan because he’s been here before and I’m sure will come again, but can I be honest? I’m glad it’s all over. (Laughter) The new project from the Wallflowers is called “Glad All Over.” Jakob, good to have you on. I hope to see you again.

Dylan: It’s good to be back.

Tavis: No, man, glad to have you. That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for watching. As always, keep the faith.

“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.

“Wade Hunt:” There’s a saying that Dr. King had, and he said, “There’s always a right time to do the right thing.” I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. And Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we can stamp hunger out.

“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

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Last modified: December 15, 2012 at 1:03 am