Nils Lofgren Interview | Iconic Axes: The Instruments Used By The Gods of Six Strings
Bruce Springsteen 2013 MusiCares Tribute
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A new and pretty comprehensive interview conducted with Nils Lofgren, current guitarist in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and former member of Neil Young's band. In the interview he talks a lot about working with Neil on After the Gold Rush and Tonight's the Night, some funny anecdotes and lots of inside info.
From Nils Lofgren Interview | Iconic Axes: The Instruments Used By The Gods of Six Strings by Corbin Reiff:
Iconic Axes: To go back in time a bit, you got your start in a lot of way working with Neil Young on the albums After the Gold Rush and Tonight’s the Night. How did that opportunity come about, and what were those sessions like?More of Nils Lofgren Interview | Iconic Axes: The Instruments Used By The Gods of Six Strings.
Nils Lofgren: I met Neil when I was seventeen when my band Grin was headed out to L.A. I did the After the Gold Rush album when I was eighteen, mostly playing piano, a little acoustic guitar and some singing. That was all pretty much done live in the studio, those sessions, with Greg Reeves on bass and Ralphie Molina, the Crazy Horse drummer and I. We did it all up at Neil’s home with a remote truck. They were great sessions, very earthy. Neil was always singing live with us in the studio, a tiny room in his home. We would take breaks and have a sandwich on his deck overlooking Topanga Canyon.
It was a very beautiful project to be a part of. Tonight’s the Night was kind of an antithesis to production. There was no overdubbing, we all did everything live, it was always a live take on a song. Neil didn’t even want us to know the songs very well; he wanted to get a very powerful, emotional performance before the musicians had time to really craft parts, which happens inevitably if you work on a song long enough. It was kind of a theme record, kind of a wake for our friends that we had lost, Danny Whitten and Bruce Barry. They were just historic records that I was very honored to be a part of.
Iconic Axes: Neil in his new autobiography Waging Heavy Peace has said that when you arrived to L.A. from Washington you actually walked fifteen miles from the airport to his house in Topanga, is that true?
Nils Lofgren: Yeah, that was kind of crazy. I had met him three weeks earlier, he was very kind and supportive and said come up to L.A. and eventually turned me on to his producer David Briggs so I moved in with Dave and I got to know both of them pretty well. But, the day I landed in L.A. I dragged a giant suitcase, and of course I tried to hitchhike, but no one would pick me up so I ended up dragging this thing. It took me all day long, I got there early in the day and I didn’t get to Neil’s house until mid-afternoon; it was hours and hours of dragging this suitcase.
So then I got to Topanga Canyon and I dragged it into the middle of Topanga, and I didn’t have any idea of where he lived. It was weird it was like a Mission Impossible Force. I kept asking people and trying to assure them that I meant him no harm, of course I was just seventeen and a tiny teenager so it wasn’t like I was threatening.
Iconic Axes: Both Neil and Bruce are incredible songwriters, what are some of the similarities and differences you’ve noticed between them, and what have you personally learned from them?
Nils Lofgren: Not to get too analytical about it, they’re both at the top of the list of songwriters. I think really you’ve got Dylan, and Bruce, and Neil Young, The Beatles and the Stones; I think those are the top five bodies of work in popular music history. There’s a lot in common with Neil and Bruce in the sense that they kind of leave you alone to your own instincts. While they’re working on their stuff they give you some rope to find something that feels right for you to add, and it usually works. Just to be around them is inspiring, you don’t analyze it too much you just work with them and watch how they tweak their songs.
Vote For Change tour 2004
St. Paul, Minnesota
Photo by Joseph Quever
Also, see more on Nils Lofgren and Neil Young.