Charlie Daniels is best know for delivering the world with the hit song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and numerous others. Today on April 1st, 2014, The Charlie Daniels Band is releasing their first album in 7 years called “Off the Grid – Doin’ It Dylan”, which is a tribute of songs to the great Bob Dylan. Charlie has been in the business since the early 1950s and shows no signs of slowing down.I know it is April 1st but no this is not an April Fool’s Joke, Media Mikes had a chance to chat with the legendary singer/songwriter about the new album and what we can expect.
Mike Gencarelli: This is your first album since 2007, tell us about how “Off the Grid – Doin’ it Dylan” came about?
Charlie Daniels: Actually, it came about in an rather offhand way due to a TV show called “Hell on Wheels” that takes place back in the 1800’s. We were asked to do some music for this show and we had these instruments that were around the 1800’s, which were acoustical instruments. We had never done any acoustic work before. We always used electric instruments in one degree or another. We were so impressed with the different sounds that came out of the band that we decided that we should do a whole album of acoustics. Well, we taught what better well to draw on than the Bob Dylan catalog since you can never run out of material that way. I am a big Bob Dylan fan and I just wanted to pay homage to Bob and some of his music in our way. We tried to pick songs that we could put our mark on. We didn’t want to copy anyone else’s arrangement or something. As a result we get “Off the Grid – Doin’ it Dylan”.
MG: How did you end up choosing these specific ten songs (and only ten songs) from Dylan’s library to cover?
CD: Well, we went through the common process of trying to do songs that we felt we could do totally different than they have been done before. We didn’t want to copy “Mr. Tambourine Man” like The Byrds did it or other people’s recordings of his songs. We were looking at his songs and seeing if we could make a CDB song out of it. We simply approached it like it was new music like we were doing for these songs for the first time. We came across one that we felt that we couldn’t get far enough away, which was “Lay Lady Lay”. I really wanted to do that song but we could not find a way to do it that would take us away from the version on “Nashville Skyline”, so we decided to leave it alone. The great thing about it though like I said is that with Dylan, you can never run out of material.
MG: Did you have a plan upfront to add your unique style of music to Dylan’s songs or did it just happen in the studio?
CD: Yeah, we had a plan. We knew that they were Dylan songs but we wanted them to come out as CDB songs, if you will. It’s not that they still weren’t Dylan songs after but we wanted to have people to realize that it was a Dylan song but it was Charlie Daniels Band re-doing it.
MG: You previously recorded “Country Pie” on Dylan’s album “Nashville Skyline” in 1969; how was it getting to record this song again?
CD: Yeah I recorded “Country” Pie” with Dylan back on “Nashville Skyline”. I was also worked on his albums” Self Portrait” and “New Mornings” as well. I had fun recording that song both times though [laughs]. It is such a great song.
MG: Why do you think that these songs are still so relevant in today’s times?
CD: Well, they are classics and a classic is a classic. Half the time we don’t know what Dylan is talking about anyway [laughs]. We all can draw our own conclusions for some of them. “Time They Are a Changin'” and songs like that are very clear. But there are some that he leaves up to us to find out what they are about…and that is a beautiful thing. Everyone in this generation can find their own meanings.
MG: Was there any order to the composition of these songs?
CD: No, we didn’t anything chronological or genre-wise for this album like let’s pick one from the 60’s and then from the 70’s, nothing like that. We just went through his catalog and picked the songs that we were capable of doing that, like I said, we could put our mark on. Our main criteria was to make them CDB songs.
MG: Did you find that any of these songs were more difficult to cover than another?
CD: Well some of them were to an extent. Dylan writes his songs in his own way. Some of his songs have longer verses than others. I tried to make them basically the same length. I actually cut out some stanzas in order to make that work. I did it though without violating what the song was about. It didn’t affect the tune at all. But I also did it so that the song sounded our way, which was the goal.
MG: Having been in the business for 50+ years; what inspires you to continue making music?
CD: I love what I do. I am in LOVE with playing music and entertaining people. I just love it. It is just a blessing from God that I have been able to make a living doing something that I love so very much. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
MG: Do you have any plans to tour for this album this year?
CD: Oh yeah, I am on tour right now. As I speak with now, I am in Pennsylvania. So stay tuned because we have a lot of dates scheduled in the upcoming months.