ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 25, 1993
By Steve Newton
I’d never heard the Wallflowers until about a week ago, when a fellow Straight contributor suggested I might like their rootsy style—the Black Crowes meet The Band. After rounding up a copy of the group’s self-titled 1992 debut, I fell under the spell of 22-year-old singer/songwriter Jakob Dylan’s poetic craft and the group’s rough-hewn, authentic approach to bluesy pop. After repeated listenings, I felt I had a fair understanding of the band and was ready to do an interview that delved deeply into its art with questions like: “So whose dog is that on the cover, anyway?”
“Oh, that’s Gracie,” says Dylan, on the phone from his home in L.A. “She’s the band dog. She travels with us and she’s a wonderful dog. And if we get a little more momentum goin’ on the record, we’ll be including dog bones or something in our rider.”
If there’s any justice in the music biz, the Wallflowers’ excellent debut release will achieve enough momentum to allow them to buy Gracie her own doggie bus. Meanwhile, you can see them in action—with Seattle’s the Squirrels and Vancouver’s She Stole My Beer—on Sunday (February 28) at the Town Pump.
“We all just wanted to record a real simple record,” says Dylan, “and everyone’s ideals just revolve around real organic, natural music that just really centres around a good song.”
Dylan didn’t start writing his own songs till he joined the Wallflowers. Before that, the New York-born tunesmith played guitar in bands around L.A. “That became a little unsatisfying,” he says. “Then, when I was about 19, I just decided that I wanted to give a little more into it. I felt like I had it in me to be able to write songs, so I just started that adventure.”
Although Dylan looks, and sometimes sounds, quite a bit like his famous father—yes, that Dylan—he tends to downplay the musical influence.
“Is he a big songwriting influence? Yeah…but there’s a lotta big ones. I mean, he’s obviously a big one for a lot of people: he’s not a lightweight, and I was certainly always aware of it. But there’s a lot of people that were big-weights for me, you know. Van Morrison was always and still is a big one, and Paul Westerberg [of the Replacements] is someone I relate to a lot today.”
The Wallflowers’ Virgin Records biography doesn’t even mention Dylan’s family connection, and it’s not something he cares to discuss in detail with the press.
“I wouldn’t say that it bothers me,” says Dylan, “but it’s not what I’m here to talk about. I made a record that I’m really proud of, I worked my ass off to get as far as to make a record, and that’s my work. So when people have those other questions…I understand that their curiosity wants to be settled, but I’m not the key to people’s curiosity. It’s just not important, ya know.”