It’s surprising enough that Grammy and Oscar-winning producer T Bone Burnett teamed up with Justin Bieber collaborator Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd and Jingle Punks founder Jared Gustadt for a project called Bear and a Banjo that only makes music for films and TV, as Variety revealed on Nov. 17.
Even odder? Bob Dylan — yeah, that Bob Dylan — has gotten in on the action, contributing lyrics to another song from the project, “Gone But Not Forgotten.” Bear and a Banjo previewed the tune in a live performance for brand, tech, media and ad agency execs at the 2017 WPP Stream Conference in Ojai, California on Nov. 15, one of two exclusive showcases the group performed this month to introduce the music for potential use in brand, TV and film projects.
The song’s origins are similar to those of Burnett’s 2014 project “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes,” which saw musicians like Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Jim James and Rhiannon Giddens performing songs based on previously unrecorded lyrics written by Dylan for a project with founding members of The Band.
Dylan didn’t take part in the recording sessions, but “You could kind of feel his spirit in the room,” Gustadt says. “You knew those were classic lyrics. It was a bizarre, unique collaboration, and just to see his name on the lyrics sheet, it’s pretty crazy.” He says the track was similar to a “Bernie Taupin-Elton John kind of deal” in the way Poo Bear layered musical phrasing on top of Dylan’s lyrics. Burnett was similarly in awe of Poo Bear’s ability to seemingly “conjure” the song during the studio sessions. “Poo Bear did the melody, and Jared and I wrote the chords.
“I have no idea why he did it, just Jared’s good luck I guess,” Burnett continues. “But that’s pure Dylan – it’s a great experience, filled with all this stuff that Bob does. I’m sure it’s going in a completely different form than Bob or I would ever have imagined. That’s what’s interesting about these sorts of collaborations – things go places you had no way of predicting.