50 Years of Dylan with Patience Hodgson: “He’s such a punk rocker”
It was fifty years ago that a young Robert Allen Zimmerman released his debut album, a collection of mostly traditional songs with new arrangements, under his stage name of Bob Dylan. 33 albums and literally hundreds of songs later, the career of the iconic folk-rocker is set to be celebrated across a series of shows this July, culminating in an appearance at this year’s Splendour in the Grass festival.
Amongst the musicians involved are Jebediah frontman Kevin “Bob Evans” Mitchell, Josh Pyke, Seeker Lover Keeper’s Holly Throsby, Eskimo Joe’s Kav Temperley and the irrepressible frontlady of The Grates, Patience Hodgson. The Brisbane-based singer, podcaster and now small business owner is running a mile a minute after a round of coffees and a slew of interviews preceding our chat.
“We just opened a tea room in Brisbane!” she reports, the “we” being herself and her Grates partner John Patterson. “It’s gonna be a bar, too, when we get our liquor license. This is our second day of business!” Running the shop with Patterson, as well as her younger sister Raven, has been one of the many things that Patience has been occupying her time with. Along with fill-in radio work and preparing to record the fourth Grates album, Hodgson has found an entirely new audience due to her co-hosting of two podcasts alongside Brisbane comedian Mel Buttle, The Minutes (a comedy-oriented discussion podcast) and You’re Welcome (an advice-based podcast). It’s remarkable that FL has been able to pin down Patience for longer than 30 seconds.
“I’ve just had so much going on,” she says, almost breathlessly. “About five months ago, before we signed the lease, John and I wanted to make sure we had ten demos done for the next album. Then, the Dylan shows came along and I couldn’t say no. I’m glad I got some time to really focus on the songs as I’ve been so distracted with the podcasts and the shop. I got a LOT of lyrics to learn!” She adds that the opportunity to perform the selected works of Dylan adds to what was already a very interesting history and relationship with the man and his music. “I used to impersonate him for a brief period of my life, about six or seven years ago,” she recalls. “Not at shows or anything, but when I was living in a share-house I would always answer questions trying to do his voice. When I got the shows, my old housemate texted me and was all ‘I can’t believe you’re going to be singing Dylan!’”
She goes on to explain her origin story – discovering his music for the first time as a teenager at just the right time. “My dad’s best friend, who was a huge part of my family, gave me a Dylan best-of and some records to listen to when I was about fifteen or sixteen,” says Patience. “He died a few weeks after that. I know Bob Dylan because of him – I used to call him Uncle Merv – and when we would listen to Dylan after he died, we’d always think of him. I used to sit in my room and listen to Just Like a Woman, and I realise now that it was because I was in that in-between stage of being a girl and a woman. I could see those areas in which I was becoming more of a woman, becoming more independent – but I could also see that I could still be a girl that would break down and cry and need a parent.”
It was seen as so blasphemous that he released it… it’s fucking bad-arse
Of all the Dylan tracks that we speak about, Just Like a Woman is the one that appears to have resonated the most with Patience over the years. It takes her back to both a vulnerable and vital time of her development as a person. “I think there’s kind of a sexuality to that song, too – a lot of his songs, actually,” she says. “It’s especially apparent when you’re a teenage girl listening to these songs alone in your bedroom. I guess I was hypersensitive to it, that’s all – here I was, hadn’t even had sex yet, and there was this man singing to me about making love just like a woman.” Sadly, despite her passionate back-story, Patience will not be singing the song on the tour. “We put in a bunch of songs that we all wanted to sing,” she says of the process behind creating the setlist. “I was trying to be wise and see what songs would work for my voice. I’m so glad the pressure got taken off me, though. I just want the show to be awesome as a whole. I really wanted to sing Just Like a Woman, but they gave it to Josh – and I’m really glad, because I think he’ll do a far better version of it than I ever could. I would have loved to hear that song from a female perspective, but I think it’s smart to give it to Josh.”