Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Scarlet Rivera Shares From the Heart: Bob Dylan “brought out a higher part of myself that I didn’t know existed.”

In preparation for this year’s Dylan Fest, the Armory Arts & Music Center is presenting A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan. One of the highlights will be a return visit to the Northland by Scarlet Rivera, the violinist who brought Dylan’s Desire album to life and provided an especially mesmerizing zest to Dylan’s road show, The Rolling Thunder Revue.

Many people do not realize what a world-renowned performer Scarlet is. In addition to doing a pair of road tours with Bob Dylan, she has multiple CD's as a composer in numerous styles including instrumental, New Age, Celtic and world music. Besides performing in the US, Europe and Japan with her Celtic group she has also recorded or performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls, Kori Linae Carothers, and Keb Mo among others. She’s been a soloist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center and the Carnival of Venice, Italy and continues to be an active recording artist, performer and composer. She has just completed a California tour with Cindy Cashdollar and Sylvia Tyson.
Most inspiring of all is that she is just a good-hearted person. I for one look forward to her return to our region. If you can't make it to Saturday's May 17 event at Sacred Heart downtown Duluth, she will also be performing May 23 at The Green Door in Beaver Bay with Gene LaFond.

EN: What are your favorite Dylan albums and songs?
Scarlet Rivera: My favorite Dylan albums / short list of songs.
Bringing it all Back Home
Shot of Love
Oh Mercy
Desire - gotta be one, too!

Love Minus Zero
You're a Big Girl Now
Every Grain of Sand
Where Teardrops Fall
Series of Dreams
Gates of Eden

EN: You keep coming back. What attracts you so strongly to our Northland?
Scarlet: I sense the deep history from the early immigrants and visionaries who built industries from the fur traders of the 1820's, to commercial fishing, lumber, breweries grain and flour mills to steel companies and ship building. Music and culture also flourished in Duluth in the many elegant old theater and opera houses. I read about the Spalding Hotel with stunning architecture and interior design, a dear friend of mine is from the Spalding family...and how the Flame Restaurant with strolling musicians after being a fixture for 50 years was demolished and the same location is now the Great Lakes Aquarium which I visited. I also love the people and the rugged natural beauty of the Northland, and finally will have a chance to greater see and experience this year... I plan to go to International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center, as I am a big animal advocate and environmentalist.

EN: Did you meet Geno on the Rolling Thunder Revue? What was he like at that time? 
Scarlet: Larry Kegan and Geno drove in Larry's van with his helper to the Rolling Thunder Revue. After the afternoon rehearsal Bob found me and said, I have a friend I want you to meet. So he and I took a walk outside to a big van and hopped inside. Bob introduced me to Larry Kegan as an old friend, and his friend Geno. Larry was a paraplegic from a diving accident, but Bob did not prep me on his condition before we met, as I think he felt I would 'see' and understand Larry for the free spirit and great person he was, and not the condition. We all talked for a while but the most animated talker was Larry... and Bob let him take center stage. Geno was not as gregarious, a bit more shy, but so was I. From that day onward, Larry, Geno and I remained the best of friends, and I went to visit and perform with them whenever they invited me.

EN: How was your life changed by Bob Dylan?
Scarlet: To properly understand the answer I would need to give you the context surrounding my life at the time we met. Although what I seemed to project on stage was this powerful commanding persona, off stage I was beyond painfully shy... to the point of clinically withdrawn. A raven with a broken wing, remote like a lone wolf... a bit of a tortured soul... in many ways a broken little girl shattered into a million pieces (which would take years to put together.) I believe he saw right through me, troubles and all, which is probably why he embraced me more, knowing this kind of pain may bring something unique to my playing... and I guess the consensus from listeners says that it did.

There was a silent understanding between us. His deep understanding and acceptance was like an anchor that comforted me amidst a raging sea.

Travelling and performing Bob Dylan’s music live with him lifted me to a place that brought out a higher part of myself I didn’t know existed, but that would be a part of me that I would carry into everything I have done since. In fact, what I gained from Bob has grown greater and deeper with the passing years. I have been deeply grateful for how much he lifted me up and embraced not only my playing but me personally.... and I say it’s effect is growing with time because while it would still take many more years to put the shattered pieces together again, it was Bob’s kindness and appreciation that eventually helped me fix that broken wing and put the pieces together. When I listen back and see photos and videos of what we did together, it is undeniable how powerful and magical it was.

I’ve gone on to work with many different songwriters and artists over the years, and I feel I bring a piece of what I created on Desire and the Rolling Thunder Revue to each situation. It is the wellspring that I perpetually draw new inspiration from. While I work with musicians of all ages, it seems many young musicians have sought me out. An example is I was hired by a young rock group in Japan to be on their record and when I played live with them in Tokyo to thousands of their fans, we performed Hurricane together! I felt Bob would be pleased to see me perform Hurricane to a new young audience in Japan.

In short, although there will never be an end to this question, is that nearly every musical situation or relationship I’ve had leads back home to Bob Dylan as the source. It is an endless wellspring of inspiration, warmest feelings and a gratitude I repay in my way by continuing to be the truest musician and artist I can be.

* * *

EdNote: Thank you, Scarlet, for returning once again to share your talent and spirit with us here in the North Country. Your list of "favorite albums" very much overlaps with my own. Keep making your music and the world will be a better place.

Addendum: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. Sacred Heart Music Center, May 17, 2014. For tickets to this great event visit

If you wish to help, visit the Salute Facebook page and share with your friends by clicking the Invite button. 

A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan is a presentation of the Armory Arts and Music Center and Magic Marc Productions.


Anonymous said...

Great interview with Scarlet. Wish I could be at the show - JP Bean, Sheffield, England

Anonymous said...

Fantastic interview, thanks!

Mary C., Duluth, MN said...

I was fortunate to be able to see Bob Dylan perform at Bayfront last year and I attended the Salute to Bob Dylan at Sacred Heart. His music, and the way it was performed carried me away to every imaginable depth of emotion. Needless to say I was profoundly moved. No doubt many shared this sentiment. Thank you Scarlet, I appreciated the candidness and beautifully spoken (written) words in this interview.