I always loved the weirder, longer Dylan tunes — the ones that never made it to the radio. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ones that DID make it to the radio just as much — maybe more — but the crazy ones….they will always hold a special place in my songwriter’s heart.
And so, of course, I went through a crazy Dylan period. I wrote elaborate, exhausting, allusive, elusive, indulgent, relentless masterpieces that would go on for verse after verse after verse. The problem, I later realized, was that only Dylan could actually really pull off that kind of song. Take a song like [insert long Dylan song title here]. You can still listen to the six, eight, ten or more verses, even after hundreds of hearings. and not lose interest. Sure, he wrote killer refrains that come back after each verse imbued with a little more mystery and power. But the verses themselves compelled you to listen, too.
Alas, I was no Dylan.
What finally snapped me out of my faux-Dylan period and set me to writing real “Jason Hunt songs” was actually a question — from my mother, of all people. I had just come home from somewhere — New York, D.C., Nashville, I don’t know, somewhere — and I had played her my latest Dylanesque tour de force. I finished, let the last chord ring out till the string were finally still, and awaited her response. Approval, admiration, awe –whatever it might be.
Instead, I got the following advise that changed the course of (my) music history:
“I wonder,” my mom said, half to me, half to the now quiet room, “why do all your songs have to be so long and boring?”
I thought long and hard, but could produce no answer to that, so I stopped writing long (and boring) songs.
Luckily, when I am in the mood for a not-boring, long, mystical, mythical composition, we’ll always have Dylan.