Following a sell out debut tour earlier this year, Monique diMattina and Rebecca Barnard are bringing Dao of Dylan to FRINGE WORLD with five dates perfectly situated in Ace’s Cabaret – Downstairs at His Majesty’s Theatre from Tuesday, February 13 to Saturday, February 17. It’s your chance to catch a vibrant selection of Bob Dylan’s unparalleled song catalogue performed in fresh and unexpected styles including jazz, rock, roots and more. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to Barnard about how she and pianist diMattina managed to bring the show to life, her favourite Dylan one-liners and just what to do about that ‘inimitable’ voice.
Rebecca Barnard is an Australian indie icon best known for fronting Melbourne band Rebecca’s Empire in the 90s with hits like So Rude and Atomic Electric that attracted scores of fans and critical acclaim right across the country. Dao of Dylan marks a fascinating new endeavour for Barnard, who has undertaken the challenge of recreating the character, wit, and undeniable genius of one of her inspirations into her own likeness.
Firstly, what was it about Bob Dylan that made you want to form a show to recreate his works? Was he a major influence in your music and songwriting.
Monique came up with the concept of doing Dylan after listening to him incessantly after a bad break up. I’ve always been a huge fan of his music, particularly his lyrical genius. I wouldn’t say he’s been a huge influence consciously but I’m sure he has seeped into my subconscious and has influenced me in some way.
How did the two of you come together to be part of this production?
Mon and I have known of each other for ages but only started to work together about 18 months ago in a jazz setting. We have a similar musical aesthetic and are both December Capricorns which is special. We both love Bob and have tried to be philosophical as to how we interpret the repertoire we’ve chosen. Songs of love, songs of lost love, positive and negative. Some of our versions are unrecognisable until you hear a familiar lyric.
What kind of styles of music do you use to reinterpret Dylan’s work and how do you go about choosing what songs to perform and how to approach them?
We chose songs that resonate with us emotionally and to try and make sense of what this man is trying to say… he’s a tricky, complex mix of contradictions. He’ll hit you with the most beautiful love song you’ve ever heard like Make You Feel My Love and then hit you with something like Positively 4th Street. Stylistically we muck around with feels and tempos we think enhance the songs.
And what song do you perform that you feel is furthest from the style of the Dylan original?
There are a few; Like a Rolling Stone, All I Really Wanna Do and lots more but I don’t want t to give the repertoire away. You’ll have to come and see the show!
Dylan is certainly more recognised as a songwriter than a vocalist, but still his vocal style is one in a million. How do you go about emulating his approach when so much it is based on his character and message rather than being, say, pitch perfect?
For me that’s the beauty of doing his songs. He is a genius songwriter and if a song resonates with me it’s such a pleasure to perform it in my style. I’m definitely not trying to emulate his voice! People do that as a joke which is sort of stupid. A lot of incredible male songwriters are unusual singers like Leonard Cohen and Neil Young and Bob.
No doubt you’ve gone through a lot of Dylan’s work to come up with a setlist you decided upon. Was there anything you discovered about him that maybe you hadn’t noticed before now you were listening a little more attentively?
Yeah just how bloody incredible he is. It’s reinforced my respect and admiration for him.
And in your opinion what is Bob Dylan’s greatest lyrical moment and why?
I’m sorry that’s almost too hard to answer but I can say certain songs that have blown me away lyrically like Tangled Up In Blue, Lovesick, Not Dark Yet, The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Sarah Jane.
Your show Dao of Dylan incorporates more than just the music. What other elements make up the show that maybe shed a light on Dylan that audiences might be interested in knowing about?
Well it’s subjective you know, like art, we all interpret things in our own way. We don’t have any gossip as such but we preamble with things that maybe get people thinking about a certain song in a different light.
If you had to pick one Dylan song that summed you up as a person what would it be and why?
Impossible to answer but I’d like to think someone would dedicate Wedding Song to me. It’s the ultimate love song and I’m a romantic.