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Jakob Dylan “Red” All Over

Wallflowers frontman talks new album, tour

“It’s an intriguing phrase,” says Wallflowers singer-guitarist
Jakob Dylan, referring to the title of his band’s upcoming fourth
album, Red Letter Days, which drops September 24th via
Interscope Records. “I think ‘these days’ are worth mentioning and
they are memorable. Whether the connotations of these times are bad
or good, they deserve to be acknowledged.”

Even if these times mean coming to terms with making rock music
in a sea of new-metal merchants. “It’s a different time now, and we
do what we do,” Dylan acknowledges unapologetically. “I’m not about
to change the tuning on my guitar or grow a certain style of facial
hair or don a hockey jersey just to sell records. Still, anyone who
says they don’t care about how their album is doing is lying.”

The Wallflowers’ last album, 2000’s Breach, didn’t live
up to commercial expectations. It took a year to earn a gold sales
certification (500,000 copies shipped); the band’s previous album,
1996’s Bringing Down the Horse, went quadruple platinum (4
million). “I don’t let it consume me,” Dylan says of album sales.
“As long as you’re responsible to yourself and your fans to write
and make the best record you can, that’s what’s really
important.”

Due to the departure of longtime guitarist Michael Ward last
year, the Wallflowers are now a quartet: Dylan, keyboardist Rami
Jaffee, bassist Greg Richling and drummer Mario Calire. “There was
some tension in the group last year with Michael, who wasn’t really
on the same page with us musically anymore,” Dylan says. “It was
just a matter of time, and ultimately I think he’s happier, and I
know we’re happier.” New song titles like “Health and Happiness,”
“Here in Pleasantville” and “Feels Like Summer Again” seem to
reflect that sentiment.

Red Letter Day was recorded at Jackson Browne’s Los
Angeles studio and features guest guitarists Val McCallum (Sheryl
Crow) and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. “[McCready] was somebody that
I had gotten to know over the years and he’s obviously an
impressive player,” Dylan says. “He just came on in and did his
thing. I also play more guitar on this record than I ever have
before, but, truthfully, I’m not much for lead guitar. There’s very
little room for it on our records. We’re not really that kind of
band.”

Aside from this winter’s work on Red Letter Days, Dylan
found time to collaborate on a track for John Doe’s forthcoming
album, Dim Stars, Bright Sky, due in August. “It’s a kick
because I’ve always been a fan and now we’re friends,” Dylan says.
“Sometimes it’s weird going from doe-eyed kid to being a
collaborator. Like with Springsteen, there was one time in Asbury
Park when he came down to our show when we were on tour for
Bringing Down the Horse and we asked him what song he
wanted to join up on, and he said, ‘Track Nine,’ which was ‘God
Don’t Make Lonely Girls.’ That was an amazing and flattering moment
for us because that’s when we knew he was a fan — he knew our
record. He was more than just some guy who wanted to help sing ‘One
Headlight’ on MTV.”

Red Letter Days’ first single — which will be one of
the two opening tracks, “When You’re on Top” or “How Good It Can
Get” — will be released in August. The band is currently
rehearsing for a full-scale fall tour.

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