When Emma Swift was one year old, Bob Dylan released his album 'Infidels'.
Though notable for its single 'Jokerman', it's otherwise not exactly regarded as part of the veteran singer-songwriter's upper echelon.
Even so, Swift has a real affinity for it – if not for anything but for the fact it's the first album her muse released within her lifetime. "I think the thing with Dylan, to me, is that he's always the gift that keeps on giving," Swift says from her London home.
"There's always a time where I can go back and explore those other albums – 'New Morning', 'Saved', 'Infidels'.
"I'm obsessed with 'Infidels'! I don't remember it coming out, obviously, but I think that that I'm incredibly drawn to that album for some reason.
"It's funny to me the way that Dylan just continues to reveal himself over time with all these albums. I think he's always worth it. What he's doing is always worth exploring."
It was this affinity for Dylan's catalog that lead to Swift's most recent project – a covers album dedicated entirely to the man, entitled 'Blonde On The Tracks'. (For those of you playing at home: Yes, there are three puns/ plays on words in that title. Give yourself a pat on the back if you find them.)
Curiously, despite making a full-length album around the premise, Swift had never once performed a Bob Dylan cover live in one of her own shows. "Which is funny," she notes, "as now I'll probably never be able to play a show without doing one."
When it came to the selection process for the album, Swift explains it was a matter of striking a particular balance. "We were trying to work out which songs resonated with me and which songs I sang well – and those two things don't always intertwine," she says.
"You can love a song and not be very good at it. Really, the only big thing for me was that I wanted to do 'Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' because it's my favourite Bob Dylan song.
"It's also like the marathon of Dylan songs. If you're going to really challenge yourself as a singer, that's the one to do."
The other songs on 'Blonde On The Tracks' cover quite a bit of ground across Dylan's career, including his 2020 single 'I Contain Multitudes', which, it should be pointed out, had only been out for a month or so when Swift decided to tackle it for the album.
It's the studio equivalent of doing your homework on the school bus, but Swift revelled in that challenge. "I wouldn't have just done that as a gimmick," she says.
"I really felt a true connection to the song as a big poetry geek. I love that he references Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe in it and, but then also has references to fast cars, fast food, art, all that stuff. Good juxtaposition of interests happening in that song, I think."
Swift, who has lived away from Australia for several years, will make her COVID-safe return to the country this June for a headlining tour in support of the album.
Although obviously unable to bring over the band of Nashville session musicians that played on the record, Australian audiences will be treated to a veritable supergroup backing Swift in action – among them Powderfinger's Darren Middleton, Jet's Mark Wilson and Art Of Fighting's Marty Brown.
"Putting together the band has largely been the work of Darren," Swift explains. "He's amazing. The difficulty of trying to do this all by correspondence is that I haven't lived in Australia for a really long time, so I deferred to Darren.
"He's put together this extraordinary group of players. It's fabulous – it's really exciting to get to go and be in a room with people and play some rock & roll.
"To someone like me, who's been in a fairly intense lockdown in London for four months, it's quite extraordinary to be able to get into a room with people at all. To play music at all is just so exciting."
At this point of the video interview, a grey figure slinks past behind Swift and leaps to the floor. This is then revealed to be Tubs, one of Swift's cats with her partner Robyn Hitchcock.
"He's loved the lockdown, because neither of us have gone away on tour," Swift laughs. "To a cat, a human never leaving the house is brilliant." Unfortunately for Tubs, it's now time for mum to be like a rolling stone once again.
Emma Swift 2021 Tour Dates
Thu 17 Jun - Palais Theatre (Melbourne)
Sat 19 Jun - Anita's Theatre (Wollongong)
Sun 20 Jun - City Recital Hall (Sydney)
Tue 22 Jun - Astor Theatre (Perth)
Thu 24 Jun - The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane)