Pegi Young: Charitable Work and Songwriting Help the Healing Process | Guitar Girl Magazine
Pegi Young & The Survivors w/ Special Guest
Farm Aid 2012 Concert - Hershey, PA
Photo by thrashette
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An interview with Pegi Young on her new album "RAW" from Pegi Young: Charitable Work and Songwriting Help the Healing Process | Guitar Girl Magazine:
Ten years of solo recordings – how have you progressed as a singer, songwriter, musician, recording artist, and performer?Full interview with Pegi Young on Pegi Young: Charitable Work and Songwriting Help the Healing Process | Guitar Girl Magazine.
Pegi Young: I was surprised to reflect on that myself. I came into the game late in life, according to some rulebook. I’ve been able to continue recording, and I’m quite pleased that I’ve been able to carve out this time in my life to do this. When I went into the studio to make my first solo record [Pegi Young, 2007], I’d been doing backgrounds and some professional stuff with Neil. But I was very shy and not at all self-confident about my ability to carve out a career for myself. Even in the later years, when people asked why I didn’t do this earlier, I didn’t know how, first of all, but I did not have the confidence. I was terribly shy and I still am, but when I get onstage I let my other side come out.
I see all those things you mentioned as the sum total of the whole. When I listen back to my initial recordings, I hear a timid and shy singer/songwriter. I was breaking out stuff that I had written when I was 20 years old. I had been writing my whole life, and my songs reflect life experiences, so my progression in that realm is noticeable in my recordings and my live performances. You do it and do it and you get more confidence.
You recorded the album in your home studio [Redwood Digital]. Is it easier or more challenging to work from home?
I think it’s both, because for sure being this close to home is comforting. Especially as a single mom, being close to my son and making sure everything is cool with him is a comfort. At the same time, I can get pulled into other things that are distracting from the music. When I go away, it’s probably a little bit more free in my mind, and yet I think we did well here in the studio. My son’s health is good, things were going very well, so I didn’t have that distraction. It’s been over a year since we started making this record. So all in all, recording here at home has more plusses than minuses, but there are plusses to being away and being singularly focused on what you’re doing in terms of musicality.
We started here, went to Nashville for some overdubs, came here, went to L.A., and came back here, putting on different parts. The horns and background singers were done in L.A. I brought the band back in because I had written some more songs. There’s a lot of music we recorded that didn’t end up on this record, but it’s mixed, it’s mastered, and when the time is right, if ever, it will come out.
Do you always write with a theme in mind, or do you write and then create the chapters of the story from there?
In the case of this album, and I think probably my previous effort [Lonely in a Crowded Room, 2014], I write and write and try to narrow down the field. I’m very much into the old-fashioned school of thematic relevance, so I try to create a story that is told on a record. It’s a little bit like hearing an audio book. In this case, obviously, so much of this stuff came out of the past two and a half years of my life, what I’d gone through, and dramatic changes in it. A lot of it goes back to telling that story in my own way. When I think about how long it took to record this album, and the many times we went into the studio, I think you can see a progression in my emotional journey. Even though I look at this as clearly one of the most autobiographical records I’ve ever written in my modest catalog, I think there’s universality to it. I’m not the only person to go through a late in life divorce. I’m not the only person to have gone through heartbreak and grief. So I hope that others can hear this record and apply it to their own lives.
Do the songs sometimes change as they are being written?
That has happened so many times over the years. I think it happened to some extent on this record as well. The process for this record was, I brought in a stack of words, lyrics, and thoughts that I had written. After my band played the Stagecoach Festival, Spooner [Oldham – keyboardist] and I culled the herd. It was a collaborative process and it was super-cool. I had never done that before. I usually come in with at least a skeleton of a melody. I had nothing this time. I had nothing but words.
You have compared the album to the stages of grief, beginning with immediate loss and ending with closure. How did that influence how you sequenced the songs?
It was very interesting. The sequence you hear on the record is the very first sequence I came up with, just looking at all the songs we had. Usually you take a stab at it, you move a song, this and that. But it was perfect. It told the story, shows the progression of my emotional state of mind, and that’s what music’s all about. It’s about expressing your emotions and feelings about what’s going on in your life. Chad Hailey, my engineer, listened to the first sequence and said, “That’s it. You hit it.” I looked at the songs we left off, I couldn’t see anywhere that they would fit, so we went with my first sequence.
Did you play guitar on the album?
I do not play a single instrument on this record. I stopped playing for about two and a half years. I only started playing again recently. I was frozen for a while and couldn’t play guitar or piano, but I could write. What I discovered in the process is that it’s freeing to just sing. But there are songs where we need an acoustic guitar, so now that I’m much further along in the process, I’m practicing every day, and playing piano every day, and making sure I get my chops back up.
You have personnel changes in your band, as well as longtime working relationships. Tell us about this group of musicians.
I’ve got a stellar band. Spooner [Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, Neil Young] is a founding member of The Survivors. After Ben [Keith – pedal steel] died, and Anthony Crawford, my lead guitar player, left the band, we brought in Kelvin Holly [guitarist; Little Richard]. Phil Jones [drums; Tom Petty, Joe Walsh] came in pretty early on. Then we lost Rick [Rosas – bass], who had recommended him. Spooner and Kelvin recommended Shonna Tucker [Drive-By Truckers] and she kicks ass. She’s great.
The constitution of my band changed after we lost Ben. Our first couple of records had gone into the country or Americana categories, and it has shifted from being less in the realm of country and more into R&B, which is also a place where I’m comfortable.
What do you look for in your musicians?
Collaboration. The notion that we’re all in this together. Support. That they’re going to have my back. That we all get along. I travel with my band on one bus, with my crew. You’ve got to get along. Obviously musicianship, that’s the starting point. But you can have a person with all the chops in the world, and they’re not someone you want to spend a lot of time with. In our close quarters we all get along well.
Also, see more on Pegi Young and The Survivors new album "RAW".