Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Visit with Danny Fox: 2-Time Winner of the Hibbing Dylan Fest Singer/Songwriter Contest

Danny Fox at Sir Ben's.
"You gotta hear this kid," I was told. "He's got Dylan down," meaning he'd captured the inflections, the attitude, and the other trademarks of Dylan's style, blues harp hung around the neck, even the patter between songs. So I went to hear what the buzz was about and sure enough that winner of the 2008 Dylan Days Singer/Songwriter Contest did indeed reflect the persona of the Nobel Prize-winning troubadour when the Bard was in his youth.

Since that time, Danny Fox has made several trips to the Northland, most recently in early July, performing a few songs live on KUMD and putting on a show for local Dylan Fest fans and friends at Sir Ben's. A few years ago even the Chicago Tribune gave one of his visits some ink.

Now in his mid-twenties, Fox is a seasoned performer. Like many musicians his creative energies have also found other outlets. Dany Fox has taken up painting. Emulating Bob? Could be.

EN: How did you come to take an interest in Bob Dylan?

Danny Fox: My Bob Dylan story... When I was ten years old, My father and his brother, my Uncle Jim, would get together every Sunday at my uncle's house to watch the football game. My brother and I had NO interest in this whatsoever, so we would wander off and draw, play with toys, and partake in all the food that comes with football games. Uncle Jim had several towers of albums. I liked flipping through them to admire the album art. I randomly flipped to Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume One. I had never heard of Bob Dylan, never listened to any of his music, etc. I just liked the dark blue cover with a man's silhouette surrounded by a halo of light and hair. I asked if I could borrow it. On the way home, I put it in my CD player. I don't think I got passed the first track, "Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35." I played it over and over and over and over. I was hooked. Musical heroin.

EN: You've won the Dylan Days singer/songwriter contest twice. How many times did you try and what was your plan the first time?

On the stage in Armory... a Dylan Days rarity.
DF: I heard about the Zimmy's songwriter contest in Hibbing in 2007. I was a junior in high school at the time. Dad and I were going to go, but it was already full. Instead, we had to wait until the summer of 2008. So we went and I was amazed. That's a whole other story, though. So I sang "Mr. Tambourine Man" and my original, "(May Be) The Truth About Love." I had no plan. Just sung what I was comfortable with. Lo and behold, I won! Seventeen-year-old me was ecstatic! And for the next two years of winning, I just came back and gave it my all again. Go in with no expectations. Sing from your heart, with passion. Let Dylan bleed right out of you.

EN: How long have you been painting? What led you in this creative direction?

DF: I have been painting for just about a year. Although art, mainly pencil drawing, I have been doing for over twenty years. Not being able to go to college has sort of stagnated my creativity. I've always admired the old masters and their oil paintings ever since I could remember. So, about a year ago, I just decided, DO IT. On a whim, I picked up some oils and, in the paraphrased words of Dylan, never looked back. I highly suspect this will develop into exploring more artistic mediums and that greatly excites me.

As a follow-up to that, I hope my art propels me into infinite possibilities. I'm currently working on a third album. In that respect, I hope to keep making music, designing album covers, making illuminated Bibles, and maybe dabbling in some sculpture or found object art. I don't quite have a plan. I'm at the mercy of where the art wants to take me and that's a-okay.

EN: How many times have you seen Dylan perform? What was your favorite memory?

DF: I have seen Dylan approximately eight or nine times, my first being Halloween of 2004 when I was 14 years old and my latest in June of 2016.

My favourite concert memory was in the mid 2000s where I saw him at a baseball stadium in Alexian Field. Our "seats" were general admission. We arrived incredibly early and ended up standing about five feet from the stage, ten feet from the man himself. During one of the songs, Dylan and I made eye contact. For a good solid ten seconds. I was crying uncontrollably. He sort of gave me a crooked grin. It felt like I was being rebaptized, that the torch was being passed on. Intimate, magical, and profoundly beautiful.

EN: Do you have a favorite album? Favorite song?

DF: My favorite Dylan album, hands down, is Desire. As for a favorite song, you're better off asking me to count every grain of sand on all the world's beaches! But I've always had an affinity for "Changing of the Guards," "Series of Dreams," and all of his early, early folk circa 1961-1963.

EN: What was the moment when you realized that Dylan wasn't just another performer like other performers?

DF: My most memorable instance where Dylan solidified himself as a god for me was when I was around eleven or twelve years old. I was riding in the back of my family's car on our way to the Countyline Orchard in Indiana to pick apples. I had "Masters of War" playing on my CD player. It froze me to the bone. The marrow curdled into a thick soup of astounding fright. This man spoke of grit and grime, of reality and triumph. I knew he was otherworldly and modern simultaneously. What can you say about Dylan that hasn't been said before, yet describes him perfectly? You can't really say anything. He's rough and soft, old and young, mysterious and perfect. The Shakespeare of my lifetime and in countless eons to come.

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EdNote: For the record, Desire is one of my own fave Dylan records. Thanks, Danny, for sharing your music this summer and your paintings here.

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Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

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