Though he founded the International Bob Dylan Tribute Festival, which is stopping in Olympia on Saturday, Dewey Paul Moffitt did not grow up loving the gravelly voiced folk icon/iconoclast.
“It’s kind of funny,” Moffitt said in a phone interview last week. “I didn’t really like him when I was younger. It took me actually working for him for a couple of weeks back in the early ’90s for me to become a fan.”
The tour, with a new band, started out sounding pretty bad, Moffitt said. “But then each night, I saw them all come together. … I saw the magic that transpired over that time, and I became a big fan.”
His appreciation deepened over the years to the point that the Keystone, Colorado-based singer-songwriter now fronts more than one Dylan-inspired tribute band in addition to organizing the festival, touring this year for the first time.
“All roads lead to Dylan,” he said. “Everybody is inspired by him. A lot of people tell me they don’t like Dylan’s voice or his music, but then they name their favorite artists, and all of their favorite artists cover Bob Dylan. He’s the most covered artist out there.
“As a performer, I found myself doing more and more of his songs to the point where it consumed my own catalog.”
The tribute festival is coming to Olympia in a simplified acoustic version with about a half-dozen musicians plus a few possible last-minute additions. It began in 2006 in Denver as a charity show to benefit music education and showcases Dylan-inspired art. Moffitt hopes to add that element to the seven or so touring shows happening this summer.
The festival musicians do creative covers of Dylan’s music rather than attempting to reproduce it.
“There’s a lot of tribute or cover acts out there that just try to look and sound like the artist,” Moffitt said. “You get that with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There are a couple of people who do that with Dylan, but I don’t think that’s what people really want when they want to go hear Bob Dylan songs.”
The songs played at the festival, which features a different lineup of musicians at each stop, are as likely to be inspired by other musicians’ takes on Dylan’s work as by the original recordings.
Last month in Paris, jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux played with the festival, and Moffitt cited her cover of “I Threw It All Away” as one example. “I thought of the song in a completely new way when we played it with her,” he said.
Dylan, who accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature dressed in a black hoodie, inspires that kind of treatment.
“He even covers his own songs differently,” Moffitt pointed out. “He’ll write different chords to songs he’s done previously. That’s very out of the norm.
“That gives everyone permission to not only do his songs any way they please, but to do their own songs in different ways.”
Dylan does it his way all right: Summing up Dylan after his Nobel Prize was announced, New York Times critic Jon Pareles wrote, “Mr. Dylan has been recognized by anyone who cares about words — not to mention music — since the 1960s, when he almost immediately earned an adjective as his own literary and musical school: Dylanesque.”
That rebel spirit, combined with a desire to avoid being changed by accolades, helps explain why Dylan has been such an inspiration, Moffitt said.
“He does what he wants instead of doing what people want him to do,” the singer-songwriter said. “There’s no other artist like that. That’s what cements his legacy.”
International Bob Dylan Tribute Festival
What: The Colorado-based festival, led by singer-songwriter Dewey Paul Moffitt, stops in Olympia on its first Northwest tour.
When: 7-9 p.m. Saturday, July 22
Where: West Central Park, 1919 Division St. NW, Olympia
Tickets: $10 donation suggested
More information: 360-352-7363, aparkforus.org
Also at West Central Park
• Art Splash, a festival of music and art, noon-7 p.m. July 29. Free. Featured musicians are Mike Burdorf (noon-12:40 p.m.), Lisa Ramsauer (12:40-1:20 p.m.), Evan Price (1:20-2 p.m.), The Hinges (2-3 p.m.), Lemmings (3-4 p.m.) and Magnificent Sanctuary Band (4 p.m. on).
• Monday Movie Madness, at dusk Mondays through August. Free. Films are “A Mighty Wind” (July 24), “Despicable Me” (July 31), “Hook” (Aug. 7), “Babe: Pig in the City” (Aug. 14), “Alice in Wonderland” (Aug. 21) and “Galaxy Quest” (Aug. 28).