Last August, singer-songwriter Emma Swift released Blonde on the Tracks, a Bob Dylan tribute album, and now she’s heading on her first national tour to celebrate the iconic musician. Complete with a full band featuring members of Powderfinger, JET, Clare Bowditch Band, and Kate Ceberano Band, Swift will be performing the eight covers from her latest record, plus a selection of Dylan favourites and rarities.
Originally from Australia, Swift moved to Nashville in 2013, where she recorded and released her self-titled debut EP. This EP garnered glowing reviews and saw the songwriter nominated for the ARIA Award for Best Country Album of 2014.
We caught up with Emma Swift via Zoom to have a chat about what inspired her to create a Bob Dylan tribute album, her upcoming Australian tour, and how she has been spending her time in lockdown.
Music Feeds: You’ve just released a new album full of Bob Dylan covers, what were the steps that led you to create a Bob Dylan tribute album?
Emma Swift: I am a massive Bob Dylan fan, obviously, and I was living in Nashville and I had writer’s block – pretty severe writer’s block and depression, and I didn’t really know what to do creatively. I felt a bit lost. And so, I decided to go ahead and record some Dylan songs and it became just a fantastic project to get my head inside and to kind of, celebrate his music. I didn’t even know, really, if I would put it out as a record when I first did it, but then when the pandemic hit, I had this collection of songs and I thought yeah, I’m gonna put it out.
MF: You’ve got an upcoming tour of Australia starting in the next couple of months. Will your tour set be exclusively Bob Dylan covers or will you be putting in a few originals too?
ES: The whole set is a celebration of Bob Dylan. It’s his 80th birthday in May and so the whole set will be the eight songs from Dylan that I put on the record, but then a selection of Bob Dylan favourites and some rarities as well. I wanted to have fun with that and I’ve got a great band who are putting it together, and it’s gonna be really good. I do write my own original material but that’s for another tour.
MF: I read that you were in America for the past lockdown. What did you do to pass your time?
ES: Um, I just worked and I mean, I was blessed to have a lot of support behind the Blonde on the Tracks album. So, I’ve been talking to a lot of people like yourself all around the world about the record and I’ve been mailing the record out from my house and I perform live shows every week on the internet. It’s been a kind of remarkably busy time, it’s just been a very different experience, you know, not really going anywhere and being quite isolated. It’s quite strange, like, the introverted part of my personality really loved being at home [laughs], but then, you sort of forget how to interact with the rest of the world. Like, when I get to Australia, that’s going to be my first kind of, I guess taste of what a normal life might be like for a year. It’s been very intense, like, the pandemic over on this side of the world has not been… I mean, everybody’s had their own like, challenges with it but certainly, it looks nice to get back to Australia.
MF: Yeah, we’re pretty fortunate here with how things have been.
EM: Yeah, yeah. I should say too like, aside from work, I mean, I’m spending a lot of time with my cats who I love, and I just binge-watched all of Line of Duty [laughs]. Which I’m totally obsessed with.
MF: Do you have any other TV show or podcast recommendations?
EM: I listen to a really great podcast called This Jungian Life, and it’s three therapists who talk about different life experiences from a Jungian perspective. It’s really fun, I really enjoy that. TV-wise I loved a comedy called Back, which is the guys from Peep Show.
MF: I love Peep Show!
EM: It’s so funny, you’ll love it. It’s really, really great. And I also loved Succession…It’s got kind of Shakespearean-level family drama. Back is very silly, you’ll enjoy that.
MF: I’ll add it to my list! What’s your earliest musical memory?
EM: I was given a pink cassette player for my fifth birthday and that’s my earliest musical memory. I loved… it was a pink Sony cassette deck and I would tape songs off the radio. You know, I was a kid in the eighties so super into Kylie Minogue and the B-52s and all that kind of stuff.
MF: Do you have any singles or records you’re working on right now?
EM: Yeah, I put out a single in October last year called ‘The Soft Apocalypse’ and that’s an original song, and I’m writing a song a week at the moment as part of a creative project that I began at the beginning of this year. So, it’s been a really fun experiment for me because I kind of, I just have to do it. I can’t procrastinate my way out of it. I’m usually more of a slow-moving person. So, I’ve been writing a song a week and they’ll go on a new record that I hope to put out next year if all goes well.
I guess that’s part of the lockdown experience too, is that I’ve had so much more time at home to be
creative, so I’m trying to be as productive as I can because once the world opens up again, you
know, obviously I’d like to be out on tour and doing the other part of the music stuff.
MF: I’m just gonna ask a couple of rapid-fire questions, if you don’t mind?
EM: Yeah, absolutely!
MF: So, would you rather be too warm or too cool?
EM: Too warm.
MF: Would you rather live in a high-rise in the city or a cabin in the mountain?
EM: High-rise in the city.
MF: Pineapple on pizza, yes, or no?
MF: Would you rather be able to speak with animals or speak all human languages?
EM: Oh, speak with animals! [At this point Emma says she’ll show me her cat, and picks him up to show him to the camera. He’s grey and beautiful].
MF: Oh my gosh, precious! I’m such a cat person! What’s their name?
EM: Tubby! I mean, I love all… I’m a big animal person.
MF: What do you have planned for the rest of 2021?
EM: I guess sort of… the tour in Australia is the first kind of, emerging from my cocoon – my pandemic cocoon. And then after that, I think I’m gonna try and get some travelling in, as soon as it’s safe to do so. So, I do these shows and then I go over to the United States and I’ll play the Newport Folk Festival, that should be really fun. And then I guess, yeah, try and get back out into the world as things happen. I mean, I desperately want to go on vacation [laughs], and I’m sure everybody in Australia is feeling that same thing too.
Emma Swift will commence her Australian tour this June. Dates and details here.