"I've eaten, breathed, melted, swallowed, washed and sucked in Dylan's records," says Hamilton's Chris Baigent, who claims to be New Zealand's biggest Bob Dylan fan.
The lead singer and songwriter for the band River's Edge reckons he rightly earned that title after living in poverty for six months in Cambridge, England, in order, he says, to dedicate himself entirely to studying Dylan's discography - and he is challenging other Dylan fans to topple his self-proclaimed status.
River's Edge is about to embark on a tour dubbed the Always Beginning Tour, just as Dylan arrives here on his Never Ending Tour.
By coincidence, the 42-year-old - who prefers to go by the stage name of Chris Rivers - is now calling Cambridge, New Zealand, home.
During his pilgrimage to the other Cambridge, he wrote all the songs for his just-released second album, the aptly-named Cambridge Town.
"It's been 10 years since I was holed up writing this album," said Baigent.
"I don't know why I didn't release it sooner. I was waiting for the right time, and there'll never be a better time than Dylan coming to my home town . . . I guess you could call this album my thesis on early Dylan.
"I'd just stepped in from Cuba and had to endure a long and bitter British winter".
But Rivers was kept inspired by Dylan's humour during his own hard times. In Talkin' New York, on his first self-titled album, Dylan wrote: "A lot of people don't have much food on their table. But they got a lot of forks 'n' knives. And they gotta cut somethin'."
"I had a spoon. I just lived on soup and humour," Rivers said. "I didn't take the easy route and go through Dylan's garbage for inspiration like others have, calling themselves ‘Dylanologists'. I've got no business with his rubbish. I did it hard.
"One day, I turned up to the Cambridge folk festival. Some guy was upside down, swinging from a tree, playing Blowing in the Wind and I thought, I'm gonna start writing what I see. I rambled around old Cambridge town and it blew the poetry and songs wide open."
"Alt, pop, folk, rock" is how Rivers describes his sound and Cambridge Town, written while "fired up on folk", is a concept album penned about the modern world, in the style of a past generation.
"Dylan can really suck you in and if you're not strong enough, he won't let you go. I'm a fan and a critic of Dylan's but I'm a musician in my own right, and I've got my own journey to explore."
Rivers wants other Dylanologists to "challenge" him on his claim to be New Zealand's biggest Dylan fan. They can do so on his Facebook page: Number One Dylan Fan, and on Twitter: @No1DylanFanNZ1.
Rivers Edge will be performing on the Good Morning show on Tuesday, July 29, and will play at the Wonderhorse Bar in Hamilton on August 8, followed by a show at Cambridge's Gaslight Theatre on August 16.
- Waikato Times