As far as Charlie goes, he can read anybody’s mind. Charlie, though, creates songs and sings them as well, and he can play guitar to beat the band. There aren’t any of my songs that Charlie doesn’t feel part of and he’s always played great with me. “False Prophet” is only one of three 12-bar structural things on this record. Charlie is good on all the songs. He’s not a show-off guitar player, although he can do that if he wants. He’s very restrained in his playing but can be explosive when he wants to be. It’s a classic style of playing. Very old school. He inhabits a song rather than attacking it. He’s always done that with me.Bob Dylan on Charlie Sexton, The New York Times, June 12, 2020.
Charlie talking about Bob Dylan through the years
When I began with Bob Dylan in 1999, there was a list of songs in rotation that needed to be ready to be played – around 120 or 130 songs. “By the time I left the first time in ’03, roughly, that book I had going of all the songs was up to around 225, maybe 240 that had either been rehearsed, played or might get played. That number just kept going up and up with new records or outside material that he wanted to play. “There’s always been some form of list, and recently (2016), he’s been really methodical about how he puts the show together and we’ve been doing one kind of show with a few little things getting switched out here and there.”
“The amps that I’m using are by Budda. Before the Buddas came back, I had this amp from Analog Outfitters. It’s called The Sarge, a 15-watt thing. The stage levels for Bob had gone way down, and we found this thing out of Chicago from a guy who worked on organs! He’d made this amp that comes in this little science box; no taller than an Echoplex. It’s EL84s, but it doesn’t sound like it – those are not my favourite tubes. But the transformer, I’m convinced that’s what it makes so fat. I used that for about the first year and a half I was back with Bob.”
Sometimes he’ll… Well, I identify with requests made by Bob… I would never say I have the same aesthetic or thought process as him, but certain sounds and certain aesthetics, they achieve instantly what you want, whether that’s some nasty Sun Sessions Tele thing, or a Scotty Moore-type thing. Or a more warm, jazzy tone… Y’know, things make sense in the context of the song.”
Things were always changing. I wouldn’t watch his hands–I can use my ears. Dylan has lived through the history of the recording industry. When Dylan began, he spent no more than four days making a record. Things are different now. I first toured with Dylan when he was touring with Paul Simon, so I only had to learn the songs most people were aware of. But, on his own, Dylan would rearrange so many songs. What he did with “Cold Irons Bound” was simply amazing. People always criticize Bob, saying he doesn’t know the song, but such is kind of silly. Most of the critics could not write a song half as good as him and they’re complaining? He’s got a thousand great songs and a couple of thousand that are really, really good. To expect Dylan to act like everybody else is not realistic.
“I love and respect Bob and am very happy to be reunited with my friend onstage. I’m starting up with him for the fall tour and will carry on with him from there. I’ve never given an interview about Bob, ultimately he is my friend, and it’s not my place to talk about his business.”
I stayed for an extra week with Ronnie Wood in New York when I was working on the music for a film with Chris Penn called “The Wild Life.”. Then one night, we go to the studio, and Woody goes, “Hey Bob’s gonna come by later.” And I didn’t know. He didn’t say Bob who. He just said Bob. So I go, “Ok, cool, whatever.” Plus, even back then, I was all business. I was like, “Come on. Let’s get to the track. What are we going to do next? How do you want this song? What’s the beat?” I was real serious, I was never much a kid. I was pretty serious all along. So anyway, we’re working and all of a sudden, this guy….someone’s coming up and I go to see who it is, and it’s Bob! And Woody goes, “Hey Bob, this is the guy I was telling you about, Charlie.” And then Bob looks at me and he goes, “Hey….I’ve heard about you.” He’s kind of looking me over. I was very honored to meet Bob. We ended up playing that night and recorded a bunch of who knows what it was, or where it went. The way I remember it, and my intention at the time was, “Ok, it’s great to meet you. Let’s record.”