Interview: Dylan Jakobsen Learns to Win Over New Fans, Make the Most of Busy Summer Tour
After releasing his debut album, From Where I Began, in March, rising country singer-songwriter Dylan Jakobsen has been spending his summer packing show after show -- small clubs, big festivals, county fair opening spots -- into his weeks. Life's been busy, but the artist is relishing the opportunity to "expose ourselves to as many new markets as possible and [see] who is out there and listening."
The crowds aren't always big, and the time slots aren't always the best of the best, but the experience is teaching Jakobsen to, as he tells The Boot, "just go out there and give it our all and just have fun."
"Regardless of the crowd, you go out there and ... you just put on the best show you can and have fun," he continues.
During his sets, the up-and-comer weaves a few select covers in with his own original material, both from From Where I Began and from his self-titled EP, using well-known songs such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Free Fallin'" as a way to, every so often, bring the crowd in with a familiar tune before hitting them with tracks of his own.
"It's tough, because when you're an up-and-coming artist, no one knows your original songs, so you've got to find that good balance," Jakobsen explains. "[I use covers] as a way so the crowd knows what's going on, and then you get away from them for a little bit, play some original material."
At his summer shows, in addition to "Free Fallin'," Jakobsen has also been covering David Lee Murphy's "Dust on the Bottle" and Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying." The Petty tune, Jakobsen has been playing so long that he's slightly altered its melody and vocal line over time into something that's just a little bit his own; Murphy's country classic continues to be "a good way to get the crowd going;" and that McGraw smash hit? It speaks to Jakobsen as a writer.
"I love songs that tell a story, and that song, it really tells a story," he notes, adding with a laugh that it does take some guts -- and "a really deep breath" -- to pull off that long (very long) ending note.
Jakobsen has also been seeing crowds begin to connect with his own material -- in particular, "Wake Me Up," a salute to the military and first responders inspired by the singer's father (a police officer for 30-some years) and some of his friends who have chosen to serve their country. The recorded version of the song features a prominent harmonica line and a drum beat that only gets bigger and more intense when Jakobsen performs it live.
"It's one of those songs where, if I could, it would be fun to just have 100,000 people on the stage, beating on different instruments, and just make it as huge as possible," he says. "It's so simplistic, but it's the lyrics that really tell the story. The instruments, it's really full, and they bring out the emotion, but the lyrics are what tell the story."
On both his EP and his album, Jakobsen played all of the instruments -- as a kid, he slowly built up his repertoire -- but onstage, he's ruled out the one-man band idea, opting instead to focus on guitar, harmonica, singing and working the crowd and leave the rest to his backing band. (That said, Jakobsen does admit that the idea of himself as a one-man band is "hilarious.") It can be "tough at first" to throw other musicians into the mix, Jakobsen admits, "but they really bring something extra to it ... we can turn it into a live show, and we can create something more."
The downside to life on the road? "I haven't even written a song this year," Jakobsen confesses.
"It sucks; I've been so busy," he continues. "It's so fast-paced, and even when you get downtime, you're so exhausted."
Fortunately, just because he hasn't written lately doesn't mean he can't write; it's a lack of time, not writer's block, that's been keeping Jakobsen from putting pen to paper.
"I'm itching to write new songs," he says. "I feel like I have so many new ideas, but I just haven't been able to do them."
The most intense part of Jakobsen's summer tour schedule has passed, but the singer-songwriter still has a smattering of dates left on his calendar; a complete list of shows is available on Jakobsen's official website, and his music is available for download on iTunes.
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