Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current release: Dylan's new mixtape The Greatest Thing I’ll Never Learn is out via Island.
If you enjoyed this interview with Dylan and would like to stay up to date with her work, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
That is a damn great question, because it really is an impulse. I always write (when on my own) at the most inconvenient of times. These times tend to be the moments where I’m thinking too much, aka just before sleep, while in the bath, middle of the night, middle of a party I don't want to be at etc.
I think the one common theme with all of my songs is the inspiration comes from my personal life. It always starts with something going wrong there lol, and even as months go by I can be thinking about the same situation with a hundred points of view and write countless about the same moment.
But I love it. makes me understand life and my brain bit more. For example, “You’re Not Harry Styles” and “Blue” are about exactly the same thing - just two different perspectives.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I always plan for live. While writing I envision what it would be like in the show. “Lovestruck” was written purely for live, I wanted to have something people could scream whether they knew the lyric or not.
Otherwise I don't like to plan much, I don't think there's a certain way to write songs, it can never be the same way twice.
Getting a good song for me is all about what mood I’m in. sometimes I’m super inspired other times not. I do have a big book of ideas written down if I get stuck in the moment.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
Preparation for writing projects is purely messing with my personal life. Being ballsy, making mistakes, and living life less safe.
Can't write if you've no inspiration.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Can't say I have any of these - other than being left alone to do my thing. if I’m thinking about too much or being hounded for other things I find it hard to focus.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
It’s always different, but more often than not it's lyric and melody at once, but a small section of the song.
“Blisters” started out as just the first verse, which I wrote very quickly. I knew after that I wanted to build the rest of the song around that.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Lyrics are tricky, I personally don't like to use many metaphors or have any smoke and mirrors in mine. I like things being simple. So when I write them I normally write or say it how I would in the situation and then make that match the rhythm of the melody.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I think lyrics are good when you really mean it.
That's what I love most about artists, when you can tell it’s coming from the heart and from an experience that they are sharing with you. It just hits deeper.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Mountains out of molehills ;)
I think I always have an idea of where I want things to go but obviously once you find the right angle it’s a question of going for that and not overcomplicating things.
In terms of writing with other people it’s a balance of maintaining control and being open to letting go, cause if you don't let go you will never learn anything.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
Massively, I remember when we wrote “You’re Not Harry Styles” I had this whole idea, but it was 30bpm slower than the version we put out. It was also swung, but once it was sped up it made sense to rewrite the lyric to be faster.
I always find myself starting with one thing and ended with another. I love it, it means that even if I think the idea is shit at the beginning it still has hope to be something great.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I don't think it's emptiness, I think its utter exhaustion and relief. So much goes into creating these projects - it is all consuming, and trying to find an audience to listen to it before it comes out is intense.
You HAVE to be annoying. So I think when projects come out it’s a huge relief that the hardest part is done, and you can just enjoy promoting it now.