The Nashville December 2, 1978 Interview

This interview was conducted at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville by an unidentified female reporter. The interview tape is circulating among collectors but it is a frustrating 18-minute listen. Dylan's incessant guitar picking/strumming too close to the microphone drowns out the interviewer's soft voice making it nearly impossible, and downright irritating, to attempt to discern her questions. On the Tracks' scribe, Cyndi Bentley, spent hours of ear straining effort turning the jumble into a verifiable transcript that we feel is as accurate as possible to the original meaning.

Q: How do you feel about this tour so far?

Well, it's an alright tour. It's been good. You mean the American one, the stateside tour. Ah, I feel good about it.

Q: Despite the reviews, are you going to continue on?

Well, we haven't got bad reviews everywhere. You know, they single out the bad ones. Maybe one'n every ten reviews is a real negative one. But that's all. It hasn't been extremely... I mean, extremely bad. If it were extremely bad I wouldn't be selling records and people wouldn't be showing up. So what it comes to is the audiences. They're gonna to know; they'll know if they like it or not. And I've always based my opinion on how I'm doing, on where they are. [He laughs]

Q: So what are you doing after the tour?

We'll probably be touring again. I'll probably be working on some records and we'll go back on the road.

Q: It had read in another interview that you said that the sound you had in Blonde On Blonde was like the closest to the sound you hear inside you.


Q: I wondered if you feel that you've heard that in any recent albums or any recent songs?

I tried to do that on the Street Legal album but I heard the album on the radio and it doesn't have it, what I thought it did have, sound- wise.

Q: Is that surprising?

Yeah. No... Yeah, it was surprising, but we did that album with a remote truck. And so I didn't find out until much later, after the record was even out, is that what they were getting in the truck, Wasn't what was happening in the room.

Q: How do you feel about that? Is there anything you can do?

There is nothing you can do about it now.

Q: What about when you have something inside you, I mean do you know what it is inside you and you hear it.


Q: What's the process to get it out - like you said this time when you thought this was there, and it wasn't.

It's always a struggle, you know? It wasn't there for a variety of reasons. I hadn't become too familiar with the songs. Sometimes that's the case. I mean I would record a song... years ago I used to do the song live before you ever made a record, so it would evolve. Then I got into just taking the songs into the studio before I was too familiar with them and making the record, and as time went on it would evolve into something else. So I'm gonna try harder next time though to make a more, you know, accessible record.

Q: Do you do any new songs in concert now?

Once in awhile we do some, yeah.

Q: How have they been responded to?

Ah, fine.

Q: Will you be doing any tonight?

We'll probably do one or two, maybe one.

Q: What is your favorite one?

Well, I don't know if I'll record it. But I have a song called "Baby, Am I Your Stepchild?"

Q: Is that different from a lot of the songs on Street Legal?

No. Uhmm, content-wise, it's not. It's a more simplified version of, ah, just a man talking to a woman, who is just not treating him properly.

Q: A lot of reviews have said you are more aware of the audience now than you were or let's say maybe you relate more openly to the audience. Do you agree with that?

Well, I always did that. I always did that because I started out in clubs. I think the tour you might be referring to, where people say that - they refer to the last thing you did - they don't... That's the way they figure it's supposed to be. [Laughter] I've made so many records now, first of all, people should realize that the content of my songs is gonna be within a certain area, but they should also know by now that I'm still reaching for a certain sound, and I'm gonna do anything I can in order to make that sound happen. As far as... [Very long pause] I don't know... What was your question?

Q: About relating to the audience...

As far as that, I think you are referring to the Bob Dylan/Band tour where there were no words spoken during that tour, except maybe a couple of thank yous and whatever, you know? That was an unusual tour. There wasn't much we could do on that tour, except play it. It was a highly acclaimed tour; artistically, I'm not sure what it was all about. I think it had a lot of notoriety because of what had happened before that - in terms of myself and The Band - before they were The Band. But as far as playing anything new, we didn't do any of that. We had a lot of sound problems on that tour also. The energy level was up so high that it was hard to relate to the people in the crowd.

Q: So you don't feel it that way at all then?

About relating to the crowds? No, I'm always related to the crowd on one level or another but this is a show of songs. It's not really a show of too much rapping. I've always kept it there.

Q: One thing I wondered about a lot is, when you are creating, when you finish something, do you ever go through a kind of a cycle where there is an emptiness after you finish something...


Q: empty space... Now do you deal with that? Do you have to just keep working?

Yeah, you just have to keep going beyond it and sooner or later that song, or whatever it is, gets a... See, when you do it all the time - I know myself, I can't speak for any other performer but I'm sure what I have to say is true for a lot of them - is you're never satisfied with what you've done. It's always something ahead of you which is, you know, where you are going, it's not where you have been. It's where you're going that matters and you're always concerned with that because you're always left alone with that, after whatever it is that you created is there out on the street. You know, that's fine but you can't live on your past credentials.

Q: So you think it's a never-ending cycle?

I do. Well, once you set up your mind to be creative in that type of way...

Q: You said Bob Dylan wasn't actually in "Renaldo and Clara". I wondered - does that mean that Bob Dylan isn't in the poetry and the music you write?

I am in there. I'm not consciously aware of Bob Dylan being in there. I am in there. It's a fine line between where I am and where I'm projecting and what I know about; what I'm familiar with; what I know to be the truth happening to - could happen to me, it could happen to anybody - what I know about that, whether I tend to make that personal or not. There really isn't any line. Or if there is a line it's a very fine line on what I tend to make personal of other people's situation. I can easily do that. I do that whenever I feel like it.

Q: As far as like the image that other people have of you, it's like they are interpreting you by what they see. Then are you trying to control what they see?

Well, what they see of me is me, ya'see I'm a live performer so that image of me is gonna be pretty... is gonna be pretty... The image they see - what they see is, what they get. Whereas, you go to a movie - the performer might do that take a hundred times. There are a lot of people behind the scenes. And when we are walking down the street, we see many people who give us faces that might not necessarily be what they are thinking. Everybody learns to make a face - if they are sad they put on a happy face. People get conditioned to doing that. With me now, you can't fool crowds night after night and that's the situation I wanna be in because that's the one thing that counts to me is live performing. I'm not interested in being a legend or having an image. All those - they don't give you nothing, you know? You can't go too long on that kind of thing. If I'm in legendary status, that only means I've passed through a lot of different phases... and I've survived it.

Q: Has there been for you a conflict between your inner-self and your outer-self that other people are making you out to be?


Q: Not at all? Before your motorcycle accident - that was related to a very wild period. I remember you said you had to step away to actually see what was happening. Now do you feel like you stay at one with your life, But then you need an existence to have insight, at the same time.

You have to get back every once in a while and go where there isn't anybody, there's just you and yourself. I do that... just step back.

Q: Do you mean that actually physically or do you mean a kind of withdrawal into yourself

Well, I always was drawn into myself because I'm always thinking about something which you can't see. I might have a song in my head, or I might have something I'm concerned with.

Q: Do you ever feel a danger from ever being too close to yourself?

Yeah, sure. Well, you know, you have to believe that it's coming from another source whatever you are doing. And ah, so when I feel that danger about myself - I'm just not recognizing that's it's not really me who's doing it, it's coming from another source.

Q: Seems like pain and loss seem to be a kind of an emotional status in some of this stuff. Why do you think that is?

Pain and loss? Well, pain and loss are always with us, you know? We tend to believe something, and then we find out it's not true. It's gonna lead to pain and loss.

Q: So how do you deal with the separations in your own life? Everybody has different kinds of separations: from themselves, from people, from their art... Or does that happen to you?

No. No, I don't separate myself from... from... from my music.

Q: You feel that's never a problem for you then...


Q: ...having to reconnect?

To reconnect? You mean, with the inspiration that leads you to create music? No, I'm pretty much always there; walking in the same environment as where my music comes from.

Q: [With a smile in her voice] That must feel good.

Well, there really is no other way, you know. You're either doing it, or you're not doing it.

Q: Why is it that every time you do something new then, you're put down? It seems like everybody wants to put Bob Dylan down.

Well, people like to think that they, ah... [Long pause] I don't know, why that is. I'm sure it's only true in a certain sense, and it's not true in another sense. As far as music goes, a lot of people have played a lot of different kinds of music. [Pause] They put Ray Charles down when he did his country album. It didn't bother him too much.

Q: Well, it seems like people are like asking me why are you doing the tour? Or they are putting you down. [Nearly indignant] If you make money it's not good, or something.

I don't know.

Q: [She's embarrassed herself now. She giggles and then mumbles.] I don't know.

I don't know. You'll have to ask them...

Q: Do you do anything else besides being involved in music?

No, I don't. Well, I do, but then again I don't. [long pause] I like to fix things. I like to work with tools.

Q: Do you ride motorcycles anymore?

I have one. I don't ride it too often.

Q: What about friends? Do you have a lot friends?

Naw, I got a few. I can count 'em on one of my hands.

Q: Do you live in California now? It that your home-base?

Sort of, right now, it is home-base.

Q: Where will you be in the '80s?

[He speaks without hesitation] In the '80s, I'll be on the road.

Q: Still? [She giggles, taken back by his humor and directness.] What do you think will happen when no one wants to pay to see Bob Dylan anymore?

I guess, I'll have to play smaller halls. I don't know.

Q: [She again giggles at his devil-may-care attitude.] I have a close friend in Jacksonville who says there's a song of yours for every mood that he could possibly feel. I think that's kind of unique that an artist could span a whole spectrum of emotions.

[Bored] Yeah.

Q: How do you feel, right before you go on stage?

Oh, I'm getting used to it.

Q: [Interviewer realizes Dylan's increasingly distracted.] Is it hard to talk now?

Well, now I'm starting to think about some songs... some things I'm gonna do, yeah.

Q: Oh, how long do we have before you "go on"?

About five minutes, I think.

Q: Oh. okay. [She begins to tell him something-it sounds like she's beginning to explain that she could have asked many, many more questions if there'd only been more time - then she shuts off the tape recorder.]

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