Entertainment

Jakob Dylan's music nothing personal

JANE STEVENSON, QMI Agency
Roots-rock singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan.

Roots-rock singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan.

Jakob Dylan says people shouldn't look to his songs for any insight into his personal life.

And that includes his latest roots-rock, country-infused collection Women + Country - his second solo disc since 2008's stripped-down Seeing Things.

"When you get labelled a singer-songwriter, everything appears to be confessional to people," said Dylan, 40, relaxing at The Phoenix nightclub in Toronto before the only Canadian stop of his current North American solo tour.

"I never really wrote much about myself. I think if anybody was curious about me, I don't think you'd learn anything in my songs about me. I don't think that kind of stuff makes better music, being honest, and I hope singing about myself wouldn't be interesting. There's so many other interesting things to sing about ... When people say, 'You know, it's just really honest and raw,' I don't know what that means. Like, you didn't work hard at it? It just fell out? That doesn't appeal to me."

Based in L.A., Dylan is the father of four sons (aged two to 16) who married his childhood sweetheart, a former actress.

Oh yeah, and he has a famous dad as the youngest of four children in Bob Dylan's first marriage to Sara Lownds. The couple divorced in 1977.

Dylan began playing guitar at the age of 12, and says despite the passage of time and a considerable career - 15 years and five albums as the frontman for L.A. pop-rock band The Wallflowers (currently on hiatus), and two solo albums - people still haven't forgotten those family ties.

"I think it's still an issue for everybody," he said. "I think it's probably going to hang around for a little while longer, which is just fine. I didn't think any recognition would change that. I thought time would change that. But it hasn't. It's still endlessly fascinating to people. I mean, everybody's got a lot in life to deal with and if that's mine, I'm not complaining."

As for his own children - Dylan said all of his boys listen to and play music, but whether they will follow in his and grandpa's footsteps remains to be seen.

"They all play sports and they all do an instrument," he said. "My kids are all musical and I hope music is a big part of their lives and I'm sure they will be. But then the next question usually that follows that is that if they want to make records and do all that. That I haven't considered. We'll cross that if we ever get there."

Meanwhile, the music on Women + Country is pretty, somber and slow-burning with titles like Down On Our Own Shield, Lend A Hand, We Don't Live Here Anymore and Everybody's Hurting.

It feels like a reflection of the tough times America and the world is currently going through. But Dylan said he's never written upbeat songs.

"It's not particularly happy music," Dylan agreed. "You know, I read a great quote recently from Tom Waits. He said he wants beautiful melodies that tell him terrible deaths and I related to that. I don't feel unlike that."

Women + Country also reunited Dylan with producer T-Bone Burnett who helmed The Wallflowers' 1996 breakthrough album, Bringing Down The Horse, which garnered two Grammys for One Headlight.

It was Burnett's idea to feature Neko Case and Kelly Hogan singing backup on eight of 11 songs on Women + Country and the two women are currently on tour with Dylan.

"We talked about it early on that we wanted some women to sing with me and it was (T-Bone's) idea because that's how T-Bone thinks - whatever you're doing you should get the best," said Dylan. "We had a very short list of Neko and Kelly and that was it. It's been nothing but a blast really. I knew we had chemistry in the studio singing together but it's been a treat to listen to them sing each night (on tour)."

Burnett previously paired up Led Zeppelin rocker Robert Plant with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss on the multiple Grammy-winning album Raising Sand, and some people have gone so far as to call Women + Country, Raising Sand II.

"People like that record a lot so I don't mind if they say that," said Dylan.

He and Burnett always talked about working together again and have remained friends.

"I visited him when he was working on the Crazy Heart stuff," he said, referring to the Oscar-winning music from the film. "And he asked me if I had songs, and I only had one song written, Nothing But The Whole Wide World - which I'd written with Glen Campbell in mind. So it kind of put me on the spot when T-Bone responded to the song. You need a tipping-off point, always, and I realized that I'd already begun that with the song and I just chased that. I liked what I was hearing."

Dylan teams up with 2 Dixie Chicks

Jakob Dylan has two women - Neko Case and Kelly Hogan - singing backup vocals all throughout his new sophomore solo album, Women + Country. They're also joining him on tour.

So it only makes sense that two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks - sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison - tapped Dylan to sing on a song, See You In The Spring, on their new side project Courtyard Hounds, whose self-titled debut comes out May 4.

"I didn't know them. I certainly know their work, and I was asked if I was in town and had time to do that, and I'm glad I did," Dylan told QMI Agency.

"I was intrigued about what they might do because I think there's something really special about family that sings together. There's a natural blend and of all the things we can shove through a computer and make sound better, they still haven't figured out how to fake that so those girls have the last remaining thing that can't be manufactured, which is family singing."

jane.stevenson@sunmedia.ca