Blonde on the Tracks (Deluxe Edition)

Blonde on the Tracks (Deluxe Edition)

“The love and the reverence that I have for Bob Dylan is so clear to anybody who listens to this album,” Emma Swift tells Apple Music. It’s true. The Sydney-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter’s collection of Dylan covers are here presented in an entirely personal manner, while equally paying homage to an artist she understands so deeply. The songs were selected from five of his albums released between 1965 and 1975, with the exception of one from 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways. Swift initially focused only on Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks (hence the title), but quickly realised they contained some of his most frequently covered music. “I thought it might be more fun to take a deep dive into some less-explored Dylan songs,” she says. “When I was making the record, I couldn't listen to other people singing Dylan songs because that just would've been way too intimidating. I mean, if I'd thought too much about Nina Simone and Joan Baez and Marianne Faithfull, the record would never have been made. I would've been too frightened.”
The project came out of a dark period in Swift’s life, during which she turned to Dylan’s music for personal guidance. “I was trying to get myself out of a rut—and I had writer's block,” she says. “I didn't know what to do with my own art, so I turned to Bob Dylan. He may be many things, he may have suffered through many things, but he's never lacked confidence. I knew I had something to learn from him. It was a bit like enrolling in the school of Dylanology.” Indeed, she found herself able to bring these songs into her life, and her music, interpreting them—rather than reinventing—with her own voice, meaning, and context. “That's why so many of the song choices are really quite sad,” she says. “They're pretty pensive and reflective, but that's my vocal style. I grew up listening to Linda Ronstadt albums and I loved that sense of yearning and longing. It’s a quality in my voice that's not necessarily in Bob Dylan's voice. I think he's a great singer, but he's not necessarily singing with that same vocal timbre. So it meant that I could give the songs a slightly different meaning, or a different way of looking at them. It was absolutely made out of love and self-compassion.” Below, Swift talks through each Bob Dylan song on Blonde on the Tracks.
Queen Jane Approximately “We had so much fun making that track. It's an obvious homage to not only Bob Dylan, but also The Byrds. It's got that 12-string Rickenbacker guitar sound and tone, and it was just a really fun track to do. The original recording of that song is so ramshackle and wonky, and I love that about it. I think that it really says what the record is straight away, which is that I'm not trying to reinvent Dylan songs in any way. I'm having a lot of fun performing them, but in many ways, it's a very faithful take on these songs.”
I Contain Multitudes “When I first heard ‘I Contain Multitudes,’ I became completely obsessed and possessed. It's a really beautiful homage to poetry and literature, music and art, and also popular culture. And when Bob Dylan released it, it was at the beginning of the pandemic. I'd been in my house for about six weeks by that point, and it became a meditation for me. I’d recorded six Bob Dylan songs at that point, and then this song came out and it was a bit like the missing piece of the puzzle. I knew Blonde on the Tracks wasn't quite right, and what was missing was an acknowledgment that Dylan has continued to write fantastic songs for decades. So it felt really lovely to include something so fresh. The other thing is that his songs are covered by so many people and it’s very hard to get in first. But I believe I'm the first person to do this one.”
One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later) “I wanted to explore how romantic and sad this song can be, because when you listen to the Dylan version, it's a lot more acerbic. He's got a wonderful snarl in his voice, and I love that. But I think that this song is in many ways about love and everything that can go wrong with it, and how, on the other side of bitterness, there is tenderness. And I wanted to bring that to the song. I've lived in Nashville for a while and I'd been resistant to putting pedal steel on this record. But this is the one track where I just went, ‘You know what? Let's get some of that weeping, crying pedal steel in and wring every emotion out of this song that we possibly can.’”
Simple Twist of Fate “This song, like ‘I Contain Multitudes,’ is another lockdown recording. Every other was made in a recording studio. ‘Simple Twist of Fate’ is recorded in my lounge room. So all that air that you can hear is actually just the ghosts in my house. A lot of people have recorded ‘Simple Twist of Fate,’ and I don't necessarily believe I have anything to add to the canon on this song, but I'm such a hopeless romantic and a hippie. And I believe in fate and love and destiny. And I wanted to celebrate that.”
Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands “So ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ was the first song that I chose to record. I have been absolutely obsessed with this song for the longest time. I'm completely in love with it. Captivated by it. It's a bit like deciding to climb Mount Everest. It's like, if I'm going to do Dylan, I'm just going to go out there and do ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.’ I really wanted the challenge. And I loved the challenge, and it was extremely difficult. And that's part of the fun of it. I mean, it's such an extraordinary, beautiful song. He has all kinds of subgenres because he's written so many songs. He's got the protest ballads and he's got the kind of snarly rock, but this is one of his most kind of gorgeous and poetic explorations of what it's like to love someone and how challenging romantic love can be. It's just one of those deeply beautiful, pensive, desperate Dylan love songs.”
The Man in Me “I'm very interested in the way that the masculine and the feminine exists within us all and what it means to sing, ‘The man in me will do nearly any task.’ It seemed like a flirty antidote to so much of the despair lingering on the rest of the record. It was mostly about having fun and providing a little bit of light relief. It explores ideas of masculine confidence, and here I was as a female artist dressed up in Dylan's clothes. I think it gave me a bravado and a sense of devil-may-care that I don't have when I'm singing my own material. Because when you perform these songs, you're safe in the knowledge that the material is good; it's Bob Dylan's material. He's the only songwriter to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. There's a certain amount of swagger that singing Dylan's material gives you. There's power in language, especially when it's so beautifully crafted.”
Going, Going, Gone “‘Going, Going, Gone’ is one of the most autobiographical-sounding songs on this album. When I listen back, it very much captures the time and the place and the headspace that I was in. The vocal is quite sad and mournful, but also quite alive. Very in-the-moment and floating on top of this magical band of players. I mean, it's Robyn Hitchcock playing the guitar and Jon Estes is playing the bass and Jon Radford's playing the drums. And the band is all kind of moving and grooving together. Really, singing that song felt a little bit like floating. It was quite a magical experience.”
You're a Big Girl Now “The way that I think about ‘You're a Big Girl Now’ is it's a bit like having a conversation with the self. I don't think that that aspect of the song is in Dylan's original version or intent, but to me, it was very much interpreting the song as a coming-of-age story. I think that that's something that we can all relate to, where you have those life experiences and suddenly you wake up and you go, ‘Oh, gosh. I was a kid yesterday and I'm an adult today.’ There's some kind of tectonic shift that happens. I think that’s a good way for this record to end, because that is the place where I left this record. I’d gone through a transformation and a really quite exhilarating and life-changing experience by doing these songs. So it seemed like an appropriate place to finish it off.”


Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada