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Nils Lofgren Talks Lou Reed, Dogs, and Family

Posted May 2019

 
NilsLofgrenPR1PHOTObyCarlSchultzCroppedPhoto by Carl SchultzTo the casual rock music listener, the name, Nils Lofgren, may not ring a bell. However, you can be assured that you’ve heard him if not as a solo artist, you most definitely have as guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, or time in Neil Young’s Crazy Horse (“then” (in the seventies) and now), in Ringo’s All Starr Band, or as the front man for one of his bands, Grin.

So, yeah, you’ve heard at least some of Nils’ work.

It is because of the release of his latest album, Blue With Lou (featuring several songs he co-wrote with the late Lou Reed) that I reached out for my third interview (our first interview with him, here) with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee by phone at his home in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona. I hadn’t spoken with him since I interviewed him about his “Face The Music” release almost five years ago (here).

After some small talk, Nils cut to the chase to tell me about Blue With Lou.

“I’m still in Scottsdale (Arizona). I’m getting ready for my tour in May. Amy and I are having an invasion of band and crew to put a show together, as we did with the album. So, we’re getting prepared for that and a whirlwind rehearsal with a great show we want to put together quickly and hit the road with the band that made the record. My brother, Tommy, is along, to play keyboards, guitar, and sing, so we’re excited about it. I’m excited to tour with the band that made the record – a new record that I feel great about; that I worked long and hard to do it live in the studio; at least, the bass, drums, and my parts. It’s a lot more fun to add touches around it.

“We tried to keep it as simple as we could; hang onto the kind of organic nature of it when the three of us tracked the record. We banned the click tracks so it was like the old days. We didn’t have baffle rooms and isolation booths with windows. We were in the same little room, looking at each other. We learned about twenty songs before we even rolled tape for about a week. It’s kinda neat ‘cause, that way, if were into something, we’d play it. If we were boggin’ down, we would go to another song that we had already torn up for a week or so. We had a lot of songs ready to go. We experimented with arrangements. We just tried to keep it as live as possible, which is when I am at my best. I struggle a bit with the patience for over-dubbing – especially my own parts.”

“I’ve worked with great producers and done stuff live. Crafted records. It’s all part of the creative options. But, for me, Nils Blue with Lou CVR rvespecially as I get older, I’m more and more in my element playing live with people. My favorite thing to do in my job is to perform. I don’t like leaving home. My dogs and my wife are just wonderful. Amy does all my merchandise, the artwork, and helps me out on a lot of creative issues.

“Having a home I love, and wife, and dogs, when I actually get out on the road, it makes me more engaged by the show, because it’s the only reason I left home. Walking out to sing and play – last September was fifty years on the road – so it’s something that I’ve got a greater gratitude and focus on, actually, at this point, because, now, I really don’t enjoy leaving home, anymore. Ha! Ha!

“I’m excited to have a band of a great group of friends that made a record. My dear brother, Tommy, who I don’t get to play with enough. It’s going to be exciting to get some new music out. Six songs co-written with Lou Reed is something I knew those songs had to be shared on this record, too. Just a lot of elements that I set out to try to accomplish. Very important were the Lou songs and being able to play and sing everything live and really know the songs well; not having to write a line or two and, then, a bridge. ‘I’ll figure out the melody there later. I like the chords.’ I’ve done all of that. Now, especially as I get older, I know I’m much better off creating something as live as possible. With good friends and great players, I was able to accomplish that, thankfully.”

When I asked Nils what the catalyst of the new CD was and what drove him to record it, he shared:

“It had been a long time since I made a studio record and I don’t have a record company, per se. We have Cattle Track Road Records – our own label here and a great part of old Arizona. There’s Cattle Track Road art galleries and dear artists and friends there. So, we took the name, Cattle Track Road Records.

“But I was coming up with some ideas. Certainly, years ago, Lou and I wrote thirteen songs together. Eight of them have been released. Three by him. I put out three, originally, and a couple of that. And I always thought – regarding the ones left behind – Lou might call and say, ‘Hey, let’s take a look at those.’ And, then, of course, tragically, we lost Lou Reed, who was an incredible rock and roller, lyricist, poet, artist. I knew at that point – in the back of my mind – that the next record that I made, it would really be appropriate to get the notebooks out and get those songs in shape to record. That was part of it, too.

“But I started writing. I keep riffs on tape. I write music pretty easily. Lyrics come a little slower, but I had a lot of ideas. So, I started beginning writing in earnest with a handful of riffs and ideas that were kinda just being logged through the years.

NilsLofgrenforExclusivePHOTObyCarlSchultzReducedPhoto by Carl Schultz

“Then, I got to the point where, ‘Okay, I have more than enough for a record of songs I like. I’ve got the five Lou songs that nobody ever heard, and I wanted to re-do ‘City Lights’. That was a song that – when I sent Lou this tape, cassette, of thirteen songs, that was one that he said, “Look, I love your chorus. I’m going to keep it and write a song about Charlie Chaplin. It’s a beautiful chorus.’ Lou’s version on The Bells, he chose to narrate the song, which is beautiful, and the music was reflective of my melody. But I always wanted to do my own version and sing the melody of the song that I liked.

“On the first song after Lou and I did the first six, he put out three on The Bells. I put out three on Nils. There was a song called, Lights. This beautiful, haunting lyric that we wrote to some music I had. It was my title and my lyrics, and my lyrics were pretty awful. So, he wrote this brilliant song and Branford Marsalis came and played some very haunting, cool saxophone throughout. Very soulful.

“When I did my version of City Lights, I asked Branford to just kinda come full circle. I said, ‘Look, I got this Lou Reed song I’d love for you to play on if you would.’ He played brilliantly. I asked him to kinda jump in at the top and riff anywhere and everywhere he could and color the whole thing. I didn’t feel like adding more.

“I also, for years, I loved the sound of the small, male choir you hear on the Elvis records; Ricky Nelson records.”

I knew that asking this might be a little touchy, but I wanted to get Lofgren’s thoughts on Lou Reed since it’s been going on six years his passing and if this project was emotional for him in any way.

“It was, of course, very emotional. I always thought Lou – especially after he got a new liver and survived that – that he would be with us a long time. But I was always a fan – especially of his lyrics. Still one of my favorite rock tracks is ‘Sweet Jane’. There’s so many great things he’s done. So, yeah, to write thirteen songs with him and have him use some and like the ones I did, it was very special for me. I knew after he passed, I had to get these songs on the next record. During the process, I read his biography by Anthony DeCurtis - very great biography - to keep him in the project, keep him alive through the book while I was writing, arranging, recording.

“I’m proud to be able to share the songs we wrote that no one ever heard. My version of ‘City Lights’. I’ve got the other half of the album are songs of mine that I feel great about. I think it’s some of my better writing; to have an earthy record recorded and ready to hit the road with the band in May is an exciting thing.

Since there are the “Lou” songs and Nils’ “solo” songs, I asked which song from each group would he point to as a calling cardNilsLofgrenPR2PHOTObyCarlSchultzReducedPhoto by Carl Schultz for the entire disc.

“Oh, man! That’s a pretty heavy question! Ha! Ha! Well, look, I’m very mostly proud and attached to all these songs. Just because of the nature of the lyric, there’s a song called ‘Give’ that I think is kind of representative of the record in the sense that it’s a classic lyric by Lou. Give everything you got. There’s a six- or seven-minute jam that we kept on the record live as it went down. It reminded me of the old days of Cream and the Hendrix Experience where there were power trios and long jams, which people don’t put on records any more. So, that’s sort of a calling card, if I had to pick one from the Lou batch of songs that represent the record well. There’s a lot of guitar – not just flashy lead, but just riffing and power trio kind of stuff. Not a lot of overdubs.

“As far as one of my songs, it’s a rough one. I feel really good about ‘em. There’s a song, ‘Rock Or Not’ that I feel great about. It’s kind of a protest song. My wife, Amy, is a big part of the resistance and speaking truth to power and madness regularly. Really sticking up for what’s right on Twitter and social media. That’s a real rocker. It’s also representative of the band effort that all of this is where Andy Newmark and Kevin McCormick had demos in advance. They came in with great ideas. Andy had this James Brown meets The Who drum part he was diggin’. It’s also kind of a protest about, hey, are we gonna rock or not? We’ve got a lot of problems. It’s time to step up and stop talking about it and fix things.

“So, those are the two I’d pick from the Lou batch and mine. But I feel great about every one of ‘em!”

One of the “Nils Songs” is called “Remember You”. The press release said it was about his and Amy’s dog, Groucho, who they lost a little over a year ago. I asked if that was the same dog that was in the photos used in my first interview with him (here).

“Yeah, vaguely, I remember the picture. I’m not positive, Randy. But Groucho we lost a couple of Christmases’ ago. Then, just this weekend, we lost Rain, who was in the picture. They were our first two dogs and we’re devastated now that Rain’s gone. It brings so much light and love into our home. We were up in Sedona. We had taken a trip up there. We were in this hotel in the middle of these Indian burial grounds. There were a lot of haunted spirits around. It wasn’t that relaxing, actually. There is a lot of energy and pain in there. There was a side room when I couldn’t sleep and I would go in there and quietly write the song, ‘Remember You’. It was inspired by Groucho and, of course, there’s a verse in there about our dear Rain, who we lost. She’s also taking a ride with me in my old ’51 pickup, playing a Tom Petty song at the start.

“Yeah, just the love – unconditional love – and light they bring into your life every day - I was still missing Groucho and, then, Rain passed this week. Again, we’re devastated. There’s a verse in there, too, about when Rain was younger, we were in the desert and she came limping to Amy with a bad thorn in her paw. We couldn’t get it out and she was really in pain. Finally, Amy laid her down and put her paw in her mouth and grabbed it (the thorn) and just pulled it out with her teeth. Rain, from that day on, just followed Amy around. They had a special bond. We all loved her and there’s a verse in there about that, too.

“But it’s inspired by Groucho and all our animals. But life, in general. My mom passed at 91 last October. When you’re lucky to have beautiful souls and people in your life, it’s even harder to say good-bye. You’ve got the memories and the dignity, hopefully, of how you treated each other, and the love and respect you showed. But, still, it’s a real hole in your life and your heart when they pass. So, that’s one of my favorites and I wanted those last to songs – the song about Tom Petty. I didn’t plan to write that song. It just came out. Then, the ‘Remember You’ that I wrote up in Sedona. I knew they had to get on the record. I was just so upset about Groucho’s passing. It just gave me a chance to express it in a positive way and honor his memory. And, now, Rain’s gone, too, and we’re just reeling. But, fifteen years is a good run with our dog. It’s never enough. Amy saved Rain and Rain saved us. Our two dogs left with us – of course, they’re hurting, too. Dogs are on a higher plain than us but, still, we’re staying close with each other and looking after each other. That’s where that song came from.”

Shifting gears, I asked Lofgren if he felt the music business was broken and, if he was elevated to the non-existed role of Music Czar, what would he do to fix it.

“Ha! Ha! Randy! You’re killing me, man! The whole what-if/imagining thing is not my forte. I haven’t had a record deal in NilsLofgrenPR3PHOTObyCarlShultzReducedPhoto by Carl Schultztwenty-five years. I have a website. I do what I’m proud of and put it out. So, honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the record business. I don’t really feel qualified to – I don’t really if the word is ‘fix it’. I mean, you always have this corporate entity that the bottomline is money. That’s one of the reasons why I left my last record deal in the nineties and went with the website just so I would have freedom. I’m not making the companies money. I don’t have hit records. They’re annoyed by that. I don’t want to work with people that are annoyed by me. There’s no good deals out there, anyway. There’s plenty of bad deals.

“I’m not an expert on the music business, one, so I can’t tell you how I would fix it. I don’t want to be the czar of business – any business. Music is like my sacred weapon. It saved my life. It continues to. It’s a sacred weapon for billions of people on the planet. Most people, actually, are tuned into music. But I will say that, thanks to technology - there’s a lot of downside to it - but you can make records without losing your home. You can be creative and find ways to share things on the internet without signing a bad record deal. And that’s kind of a brave, new world. It’s been around, now, and a lot of younger people are taking advantage of it and finding ways to share music, create music, and get it out there without having to go after the traditional music business record deal which, to me, has been fraught with way too much bureaucracy and the focus on we gotta make money. I don’t begrudge that but any time you get in a situation where the bottom-line has to be money and you’re trying to mix creativity with it, some people do get it done. There’s great artists that sell millions and millions of albums and it all works for them and the company. But, for me, that’s not conducive to being creative for me.

“First of all, I’d have to be an expert on it to tell you how to fix it and I’m no expert. So, I can’t really go there with you. I apologize.”

As for what’s on Nils’ radar for the next couple of years, he said:

“Right now, my focus is getting a great show together and touring through May; promoting my new album, which is out April 26th. You can pre-order it at NilsLofgren.com. I’m very excited to have new music to share. That’s really my foreseeable future. Trying to spend time with my wife, Amy, and our dogs, Dale and Peter; trying to get used to life without Rain and Groucho, now, and take care of ourselves and just move forward. Hope the planet turns around and starts letting common sense and truth and dignity rule the decision making – which is not the case, right now, and do our little part in it. Try to be good citizens of the planet and love our family and our animals. Live each day as best we can.

“Musically, that’s my big thing is making a great tour; putting it together and trying to make whoever shows up happy when they leave and try to leave them with some musical inspiration that might linger in their lives and souls, which music, at its best, does.”

Because of the loss of friends such as Clarence Clemmons, Lou Reed as well as his and Amy’s fur babies, I re-asked a question that I asked at the end of our first interview together: Once you’ve stepped off the tour bus of life up at that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?

" allowtransparency="no">“Ah, man! That’s another rough one. I’m not ready to answer that. I do know that I’m trying every day to become a better person; a better musician; a more kind and compassionate person. Amy has been an enormous help with that because, of course, show business and the music industry itself kind of begs the narcissism. The healthy aspect of it can turn bad quickly and I really try to monitor that. Fame can become a mental illness quickly. Fortunately, I don’t have the kind of fame where people are camping out, following me around. I don’t even know what that is. I would certainly never want it.

“Nevertheless, just as a person, I’m trying to create and write my legacy. I hope I have a good piece of time ahead to be even a better person. Learn how to be more kind and compassionate to anything and everything around me, and all life. That’s about the best that I can say. Randy, I’m not ready to write my epitaph. I can’t go there. Ha! Ha! I hope I got a good piece of time left. I’ll be a bit more excited about what I’ve accomplished in the next ten years than the past sixty-seven years or whatever. But, anyway, that’s the best I can give you right now.”

Jimmie Vaughan

Posted May 2019

 

JimmieVaughn croppedAs my friends and some Boomerocity readers know, I spent the better part of twenty-five years in the Dallas, Texas, area. Prior to launching Boomerocity in 2009, I was, obviously, a music nut, and it didn’t take long to hear about two brothers from the area who were each amazing guitarists in their own right: Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother, Jimmie Vaughan. SRV was taken from us in August of 1990 but left an indelible mark on rock music. Jimmie Vaughan (I and many of my friends would erroneously refer to him as “Jimmie Ray Vaughan” – sometimes, I still do) was the guitarist and signature sound behind the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

I want to state here that my daughter and I attended Stevie’s funeral. I mention it only because, a) Jimmie and I discuss his brother’s death towards the end of our chat; and, b) I briefly mentioned it to him at the beginning of our chat as we were making introductions and small talk.

Being a Vaughan brother’s fan – both individually and in their duo and respective bands, ever since the launch of Boomerocity, Jimmie Vaughan has been on my short list of artists that I’d give my eye teeth to interview. With the release of his new album, “Baby, Please Come Home,’ the opportunity to chat with him became available . . . and I still have my eye teeth.

After our introductions and small talk, I asked Jimmie if I had counted correctly that “Baby, Please Come Home” is his seventh solo record.

“You know, I don’t know. I’m not sure. I’d have to go figure it out. Let’s see, I’ve got Strange Pleasure – you’re talking solo. You’re not talking T-Birds? I did the Jimmy Reed Highway (with Omar Kent Dykes). I guess you’re right. Seven solo albums excluding the T-Birds.”

When I asked Vaughan how this LP is different for him than all of the other albums – solo or otherwise – in recording, approach, and related areas, he shared:

“Well, I didn’t change my approach. I mean, basically, what I do is record live in the studio. I’ll get together with my band and we rehearse and just play the songs. Then, we just go into the studio and record them. If we need to overdub something, we do. But, basically, it’s live.”

Not to get too deep into the recording weeds, I did want to know if he recorded the disc digitally or, did he go the analog route that some artists are going back to.

“Oh, no, they have everything now. Most studios have digital. We end up on tape. The tape sounds better. These songs are definitely on tape. When you’re recording it, you utilize everything you need and then you put it on tape, and it does the same thing. You get the tape compression. It happens after you record it and you’ve manipulated it. Whatever you’re gonna do, you mix it. Then you play it on tape. That gives you the same thing. I think everybody is concerned and notices any difference, uses tape. You can really hear the difference. When you put it on tape THEN on digital, you don’t lose that (the analog quality). It’s all about the compression and the way you do it. We know how to do it!”

Regarding the story behind this album, Vaughan shared:

“It was just a lot of songs that I love. I went and recorded them down in San Marcos (Texas). It’s my band. We went and recorded what we wanted to and there it is! It sounds more simple than it is, I guess. It’s the real deal for us.”

Artists will often point to a particular song on their discs as a calling card for the entire album. When I asked Jimmie which cut he would choose as this album’s calling card, he was actually stumped.

“Gosh! You know? Listen, I like everything on it. I’ve got Lefty Frizell, Jimmy Donley. Songs by Lloyd Price, Bill Doggett, Earl Garner. Did I say T. Bone Walker? It’s really all over the place. When I first started playing, the first record that I bought was by a band called the Nightcaps. You know them. They were into the same thing. They even did some of the same songs. That’s really what I’m into. If you come see me, you’re gonna get all that and I play stuff from my career over the years. But, basically, I’m playing what I love, okay?”

I commented that the album is a “feel good” album that makes you involuntarily lift up your head and shoulders while tapping your feet.

“I agree with you! That’s really why we did it ‘cause – it might be kinda hard to explain ‘cause it’s just what we do. It’s real and we’re not trying to put on any airs. This is us.”

Recording albums is often a long and laborious effort for artists and wondered how long this project took for Mr. Vaughan to record.

“Ah, I like to record and pretend that I’m making singles. I pretend that I’m making 45’s. I’ll do two or three, four at a time. So, I spread it out over a few months.”

I often ask “tenured” artists this question: If you were made music czar, how would you fix the business, or does it need fixing? I asked Vaughan this question.

“Go-olly! Ha! Ha! Maybe I’d just fire everyone and start all over. Ha! Ha! That would be the most fun, right? Well, you know, first of all, government shouldn’t have anything to do with music. It’s the absolute opposite. If the government told me what to do, I’d tell ‘em to go screw themselves. So, that’s the way I feel ‘bout it. Ha! Ha! Because it’s art and it has nothing to do with government. I don’t like all the government this and that; subsidize this. That’s bull. I think it’s for entertainment.”

Is the business broken?

“I don’t know because I only think about what I like to do, and I don’t listen to all the other stuff unless it’s somebody I know. There are some really good examples of new music that I like. And there’s a lot of new guys coming up in my hometown that I really like. Have you heard Dylan Bishop? Jay Milano. Gary Clark. He’s from Austin. Paul Walker is coming up.

“See, here’s the thing: I don’t pay any attention to what’s going on out there. I’m sorta in my own world, musically speaking. I don’t really care what they’re doing. As far as I’m concerned, I’m in the anti-music business. How ‘bout that? I’m anti all the stuff that’s goin’ on. I don’t want to be mean, but, at the same time, I’m really in my own world, musically speaking, okay? I have a manager and I have people that help me do the business part – and I really don’t know much about that. I’m only concerned with the music. I try not to let myself be taken advantage of. At the same time, I’m really focused on the music part of it.”

I know that Jimmie Vaughan/Fabulous T-Bird fans would want to hear an answer to this so I had to ask: Will there ever be any sort of reunion with the Thunderbirds and is Jimmie ever going to do any more recording with Dennis Quaid?

“Well, actually, I just did a song with Dennis Quaid and Tanya Tucker. They came to town – they came to Austin and called me and said, ‘Hey, come over here and we’re gonna record. Come over and play guitar on a song.’ I just did it! There’s the answer to that one.

“I would love for the Thunderbirds to get back together! ‘Course, a couple of the guys have died. We had a lot of drummers and bass players. So, maybe we could talk Mike Buck into it and get us another bass player. I’d love to play with Kim (Wilson). I’m playing anyway and very proud and happy about what we did, Kim and I, back in the day. That would be fun!”

And what’s on Jimmie’s radar for the next year/next couple of years?

“Well, we just started promoting the record. We’ve been out on tour with Buddy Guy. We’re going to play the Hollywood Bowl with Buddy Guy. We’re going to play in London. The record’s coming out. We’ve got a lotta shows coming up. I’ve got my whole band with the horns in it. Everything. We’re out here tearing it up! Oh! And we’ve got (Eric Clapton’s) Crossroads coming up, too!”

As we closed, I said I hoped to catch one of his gigs in the future since the last time I saw him was at his brother’s funeral in Dallas back in 1990.

“It’s been twenty-eight years since Stevie got killed. Stevie was a fabulous musician but what nobody thinks about is, it seems like, Stevie Ray Vaughan is my little brother. Anybody’s that’s got a little brother or little sister will know what I’m talking about. Just think about it if you lost your little sister tragically. What would you do? There’s no way that you can explain it. There’s no way you can feel okay about it. Now, it’s been twenty-eight years and I’m just pissed off that he got hurt and killed and I’m not gonna get over it. I have a wonderful family, children, a beautiful wife and I have a wonderful life. I get to play my guitar every day. I’m very grateful. But it’s very hard to deal with losing someone like that.”

Switching to a more “light” subject, I asked Jimmie if there was a “holy grail” of guitars and did he own it.

“I like Stratocasters and Telecasters. Now, I have a couple of Gibson’s I like to play. An ES-350. I like guitars but I love to play Stratocasters. Stratocasters are like hot rods. You can always put a different neck on it or change the pick-ups or do a paint job or whatever you want. They’re like ’40 Fords, you know what I mean? I’ve always got ‘em tore apart, doin’ somethin’ on ‘em.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Vaughan how he wanted to be remembered and what he hoped his legacy will be.BabyPleaseComeHomeCover

“Oh, gosh! I don’t know that I want to come up with that answer. I just want everybody to say what they want to say. I just have a lot of fun. I always have fun out her on the road with my buddies and me. We drive around and play guitars and play music, laugh and joke. This is the best job in the entire world! There couldn’t be a better job than this! You get to express yourself every night! Hang out with your friends. Sounds like a Willie Nelson song, doesn’t it? Ha! Ha! I can’t imagine that there would be a better job than this.”

We all envy him and what better person to have a job like that Jimmie Vaughan?

Keep up on the latest with Jimmie at JimmieVaughan.com and be sure to catch one of his shows if you’re lucky enough to have him and his band stop near you.

Graham Nash Talks About His Album, Over The Years

 

Posted March 2019

GrahamNash2cropped creditAmyGrantham cropPhoto by Amy GranthamI have often heard it said that the baby boomer generation had the greatest music. I happen to agree wholeheartedly. One of the reasons I feel that way is because of the iconic work by the legendary Graham Nash. Whether it was his work during his time with The Hollies or the prolific period with Crosby, Still, Nash (and, sometimes, Young) or in his various solo pursuits.

Because Nash was, once again, going to be performing in East Tennessee (this time at Chattanooga’s Walker Theater), I was granted the opportunity to chat with the musical icon about his latest album, Over the Years, and the supporting tour.

After some small talk about his recent vacation that he just returned from, I mentioned that he was going to be playing in Chattanooga (easy driving distance from me) and that I met with him during his show in Knoxville (even closer to me). He interjected with this neat bit of news:

“You know, in Knoxville, I was approached by the City Council just very quickly. The idea was that the Everly Brothers spent the first eight years of their life in Knoxville. They were on their parents’ radio show in Knoxville. So, the Knoxville City Council approached me and said that they’re going to make a small park in honor of the Everly Brothers. Part of their design is, on the walk through the park, there are marble stones on the floor that are carved with quotes from quite famous people about the Everly Brothers. They wanted to know if I could help find people that would give a small quote and get permission to put their signature carved into the marble. So far, I have me, of course. I have Keith Richards. I have McCartney. I have Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Brian Wilson. Incredible stuff, you know? I just thought I’d tell you that because you familiar with Knoxville. How could I not be involved when it’s the Everly Brothers? They’re part of the reason we are talking right now! Ha! Ha!”

Shifting our chat to his new CD, I asked Graham to tell me about it.GrahamThinkingBW2

“I realized a year ago that there’d never been a ‘Greatest Hits’ of my music. Yes, greatest hits of CSN. Greatest hits of CSNY. Greatest hits of the Hollies, etc. But not of me, personally. So, I went on the internet and found out what my friends’ fifteen most favorite songs of mine are and I put them on. And, then, I thought, ‘You know, people have probably bought all this music – maybe even several times. How could I make it more interesting and more desirable?’

“So, I decided that I would go into my archives and find the demos of those songs and put them on. That’s what it became. The artwork was done by my wife, Amy Grantham.”

When I asked if the album cover was shot in Switzerland (which I thought it looked like it had), he said, “It’s actually a National Geographic image from many years ago and Amy put the boy in there.”

Over the Years is a two-disc collection that includes original demos of some of Nash’s biggest hits. I asked him which song he would point to as a calling card for the collection.

GrahamNashColorBackstage“It would be ‘Marrakesh Express’ because that was the demo that I sent The Hollies and they made a very half-hearted attempt to record it. To me, in my mind and being the writer of that song, I needed the energy of a moving train through it, which Stephen (Stills) brilliantly did on the CSN version of Marrakesh. I think if people hear the original demo, they’ll realize a couple of things. One: that the arrangement of the song didn’t change that much from my demos. I notice that the arrangement of each was already complete in my mind when I made the demo.

“And ‘Teach Your Children, of course, is another one. I started that song in the north of England, and I finished it in Los Angeles in early ’69. But you can hear that the arrangement – apart from the fact that there’s a solo in there that was done, of course, by Jerry Garcia – the arrangement is pretty much the same as my demo.”

Clearly, those songs and the songs of Nash’s peers in the same periods of time, they still stand on their own. In fact, a recent study showed that millennials more readily recognize that era of music more quickly and readily than their own era of music. I mentioned that to Graham, and he interjected.

“You know why? First of all, the melody. It’s the melody of all those songs. Today’s music – there’s a great deal of great music, of course. Particularly, ‘This Is America’. There are some great Hip-Hop songs; great songs out there. But I love an identifiable melody and identifiable lyrics. I think that might be one of the reasons why that they’re preferring our genre to theirs.”

A few days prior to our chat, the Super Bowl had just been played and there was tremendous buzz about the pros and cons of the half-time show by Maroon 5 and that classic rockers should be chosen for those shows because they’re historically much more well received. To that point, I asked Graham if he, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young were offered the gig to play halftime, would they do so?

“I cannot speak for David and Stephen and Neil, but I can speak for myself and I would not do the half-time show at the Graham pondSuper Bowl because of Colin Kaepernick, you know? This man has been trying to bring awareness of the fact that black kids are being killed almost daily by the police. His protest against that by taking a knee was incredibly symbolic. Regardless of what Maroon 5 did, musically, on the half-time show, they could’ve put people on their side instead of all the incredible negative posts I’ve seen about their performance. If they would’ve taken a knee. How hard would that have been?”

I asked Graham what form that the “knee-taking” have taken, his opinion.

“Adam Levine could’ve – at the beginning of one song – on his knee. Even if it was for only ten seconds of a song, it would’ve been incredibly symbolic for him to have done that and they chose not to. I think it was to their detriment.”

I then asked Nash if they (CSN) would not have done the same thing (take a knee during part of a song).

“I have a feeling that if we – the four of us - did do it, it would be an incredible ten minutes of protest. Ha! Ha! I just can’t imagine singing Ohio with the boys – well, I tell you, I could imagine it, but that’s the kind of stuff that we would do. We would turn that – because of Kaepernick – we would turn our performance into a protest, I believe.”

And what causes are on Graham’s front-burner about these days?

“We get asked to do a lot of benefits and you have to prioritize your time. You have to figure out the two or three things most important to you because you can get scattered by supporting many, many causes. It kind of dilutes everything because you can’t put a great deal of time into every single cause.

Nash3“And, so, certainly climate change. Certainly, the future of our children in terms of education, and the nuclear problem, still. I read yesterday that Russia supposedly has the ability to explode a nuclear bomb underwater, creating a tsunami that would wipe out Miami and parts of New York, all of Bangladesh. It’s insane. The world is run by these major corporations and several of them are military manufacturers. They’re just playing a game. They don’t give a f*** about people’s lives. They only are interested in making more profit for their company. And, unfortunately, war is an incredible way for these military people to make money. That’s a crime, as far as I’m concerned.”

When I opined that the difference between Russia and the United States is that we know how to pronounce the names of our mobsters, Graham chimed in and said, “Yes! Trump, Trump, Trump, and Trump!”

What’s on your radar for the rest of the year and next year?

“More creation. More music. More art. More trying to make the world a better place for myself and for my immediate loved ones. Just more creation. I can only do what I do best. When I find something that is worth writing songs about and talking about, then I will do that.”

And when will we see another Graham Nash album?

“When we did my album, This Path Tonight, we recorded twenty songs and we only used ten of them – thirteen if you bought the deluxe thing from iTunes. So, I have songs left over from those sessions. I have new songs that I’ve been writing and, together, I’ll start preparing the next album while I’m on the road.”

Graham Nash is touring this year so I asked him what can fans expect from him during his shows.NashSteps1

“They can expect me to want to be there. I want them to know that I want to be there making music for them and I also want to see them smile on their way out so that I know that I’ve done my job.”

You can order tickets to put that kind of smile on your face – courtesy of Graham Nash – by visiting GrahamNash.com to order your tickets as well as keep up on the latest with Graham and order his music.

Bernard Fowler Inside Out

Posted April 2019

Fowler Bernard 2019 001croppedBoomerocity and its readers are Rolling Stones fans. Not just fans of Mick, Keith, Charlie, and Ronnie but also of Lisa Fischer, Daryl Jones and, of course, Bernard Fowler. Mr. Fowler first graced our pages six years ago (here) and, more recently, almost four years ago (here).

With a Stones tour already announced and Bernard’s release of his own new CD, Inside Out, it was a great time to catch up with him again. I called him while he was at Denver’s airport on his way to a performance of A Bowie Celebration with some of David Bowie’s former bandmates.

“It’s called The Bowie Celebration and it’s, basically, a tribute to David Bowie. It’s kind of an alumni tour that Mike Dawson, Carmine Rojas, and Earl Slick – all three spent years with David. We’re just celebrating his music,” says Fowler of the tour.

When I asked if he had met Bowie before he died, Bernard said, “Yup. I loved Bowie. I listened to that stuff early on (while) growing up. I brought Diamond Dogs to Show and Tell at school. Ha! Ha!”

As for crowd acceptance of those shows, Fowler said, “The audience is loving it. The audience is loving what we’re doing. They’re up on their feet. They’re laughing. They’re crying. It’s a wave of emotions for the fans. So, the response is really good.”

According to Bernard’s press release for Inside Out, Mick Jagger made a comment about how he was handling a Stones song during a sound check and that’s what kicked off this album. Fowler said, “It was that comment from him that made me get the recording process started. I had plans to do it already but getting that comment from him just put a stamp. I went to work (on it) – right after the tour I went to work on it.”

With such a vast Rolling Stones catalog to pick from, I was curious what Fowler’s criteria was in selecting songs.

“The criteria was strong lyric content. Then I opened the Rolling Stone songbook. I read some lyrics and I saw the lyric content and I went to it. Sympathy For The Devil is a previous obvious thing. That’s the last thing that I recorded because I had a deadline and that lyric content, it was strong. So, it just made sense to add that to the whole thing.”

As always, Bernard has some heavy hitters helping him out on this album. In addition to some names that I know have helped him on his last album, I saw that he also brought in Carmine Rojas in on bass.

“Yes, he has! Carmine is one of my oldest friends. Carmine played bass on my Nickelbag project. He played bass on that and other things. He’s also on this new one; he’s on the song, Under Cover of the Night. That’s him at the beginning where the girl is running the jungle and she gets spotted by a soldier. That’s Carmine that’s the soldier. He’s travelling with us now.”

Naturally, we all want to know what, if any, response there’s been on this disc from the Stones.

“I’m sure that they’ve probably heard it by now but I have not spoke to them so I don’t know. I’ve not performed it, yet. It’s not even released, yet, officially. It’s the 19th of April. But the people that have heard it, the response has been incredible.”

Is there a Stones or fan favorite?

" width="240" height="120" allowtransparency="no">“I can’t say that there is a specific favorite. When I was recording it, I played Keith a little taste of it. I wrote that in the liner notes. He looked and me, smiled, and said, ‘Damn, Fowler! You went deep!’ I was really in the early stage of recording. He hasn’t heard it in its completion, as far as I know. I’m not sure if he’s heard it.”

When I asked Bernard which tune he would point to as a calling card for the entire CD, his answer surprised me.

“Ha! Ha! Probably ‘Sister Morphine.’ I like how it turns out. It’s exactly what I wanted when I envisioned for it which was a jazz piece and it worked out perfect. I couldn’t have asked for any more. It’s exactly what I wanted.”

Fowler went into the studio determined not to sing the lyrics which may disappoint some of his – as well as Rolling Stones – fans. We all love hearing Bernard’s silky, Smoky Robinson-like voice. But don’t let it keep you from getting the disc. It’s a keeper. That said, I did ask him what made him decide to take the non-singing approach to the Stones catalog.

“It’s something I wanted to do. Although people pretty much know me as a vocalist. I’m a producer. I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to do a record like The Bura again this particular time. I wanted to do something different – something really different coming from me. It would be a spoken-word record.”

Since Fowler mentioned The Bura, I had to tell him that “See You Again” was one of my favorites of his body of work.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece. It’s probably my favorite song from that album, as well. I think that sang and ‘Shake It’ are my favorite songs (from The Bura).”

I can’t talk to Fowler without asking about plans with the Stones. At the time of our chat, the band had announced a new tour. This, of course, was before it’s postponement due to Mick Jagger’s recently announced heart surgery. That said, I asked Bernard what fans can expect from the tour. His answer was short and sweet.

Fowler Bernard April2019002“You know what? You know what I know. I won’t know what that is until I get to rehearsal. I’ll start rehearsal the end of March/first of April.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Fowler what was on his radar for the next year or two.

“Well, on the radar right now is finishing this David Bowie Celebration and going right into the Stones. When this (the Bowie tour) ends, I’ve got maybe five days before I start rehearsing with the Stones for the next tour. When the Stones tour is over, the plan is to go out and turn people on to Inside Out. I’m going to try to put a tour together with just a night of Bernard Fowler. The spoken word record will kind of let me be my own opening act. I can open the night with spoken word and finish the night with The Bura and more songs.”

Be sure to order Bernard’s new disc, Inside Out, but clicking on the widget on this page and keep up with him at his website, BernardFowler.com.

Walter Trout Talks About His Life, Wife, and Survivor Blues

Posted March 2019

 

001cropped ARG2117 Walter TroutcreditAustinHargave crop
Photo by Austin Hargave
Blues, and in rock, has been losing some of the foundational artists of the genre. Greats like B.B. King and Johnny Winter left us far too soon. However, we still have many blues greats touring and putting out great blues.

One such artist is someone we’ve had the privilege of chatting with a couple of times before (here and here): Walter Trout.

Trout has a new CD out entitled, Survivor Blues, and will be hitting the road in support of that album. It was about the disc that I called up Walter at his home. It had been four years since we last spoke, so I asked what has been happening since our last chat.

“I’m doing great, man! I’m feelin’ great! I’m very, very – almost shocked to be still alive and kickin’ ass. I had the transplant four years ago and this is the fourth record I’ll be putting out (since the transplant). I just feel lucky and blessed and grateful and it’s an all new thing to be alive after what I went through.”

After we last spoke, his wife, Marie, came out with a great book, The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good. I asked how the book was received.

“Well, the reception has been great. She had a lot of awesome reviews. All the profits from that book go to the Hart Fund at the Blues Foundation which is a charity that helps blues musicians get health care when they can’t afford insurance. It’s done some really wonderful work and she’s been able to contribute from sales of her book. I think she’s up to around six or seven thousand bucks that she’s been able to send to them. So, it’s been awesome. It goes to really good cause.”

Walter was in my neck of the woods last year, but I had to miss his gig. It was an intimate showSurvivorBluesCover in Maryville, TN, that was put on by a local blues organization, of sorts. I asked him why he doesn’t hit the region more often.

“I don’t know. I’m really busy playing all over the world. But I am getting back to Tennessee. I don’t know if it’s near you but I’m playing in Pelham at The Caverns – in the cave there . . . I think maybe in April. I’m going to double-bill with Eric Gales.

“Let me tell you a story. My high school girlfriend - who I was deeply in love with after she graduated from high school in South Jersey – and went to Maryville College and studied piano there. In 1970, I used to hitchhike down there from South Jersey, and I used to stay with her in the girl’s dorm and they used to sneak me in and I literally – literally – would climb the ivy and sneak in the window. So, I got a lot of history in Maryville. I know it well. I spent a lot of time there with my girlfriend.”

Turning to his new CD, I asked him for his “elevator speech” about it.

“The short version is: All my life I have thought there’s all these amazing blues songs that have fallen by the wayside. And when people decide they’re going to do albums of blues covers or they’re going to play covers when they’re playing love, they come out and do ‘I Got My Mojo 002 ARG1773 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin HargaveWorking” or they do ‘Stormy Monday’ or they do ‘Caledonia’ or ‘Hey Hey The Blues Is Alright’ and ‘Missing With the Kid’ – all these songs that have been covered 853,000 times, you know? And I’m, like, ‘Wait a minute, here. There’s this vast catalog of these incredible songs that are just kind of forgotten.

“So, that was my goal with this record was to find songs that spoke to me and that I thought had something to say and that were classic blues tunes but have been kind of overlooked and to bring attention to these tunes. My hope is that people will go listen to the originals, you know?”

As a major player of the blues, I asked him what he thought the state of the genre is today.

“I think it’s doing great! I mean, there’s a lot of places to play. There’s a lot of festivals. The festivals are always well attended. There’s a huge group of young musicians who are into this music and who are carrying it on and who are just coming up through the ranks.

“One of the things that I think, though, is that the audiences – the majority of the audiences – and this is what my wife addressed in her book – the majority of the audiences are sort of the baby boomer generation – my generation; people who grew up in the sixties and seventies. I think it speaks to them, in a way, because it’s also they’re the people who grew up in era of sort of like classic rock and the blues boom of the sixties where you had bands like the Stones and the Animals and people like that.

“So, I’m hoping that a younger crowd is going to latch on to it. But I do see it happening slowly. I do see that there are younger people who kind of are looking for something else than a rapper or some music that’s corporately produced, you know what I mean? When they see 003 ARG1863 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargavesomebody, ‘Wow! There’s a human being and he’s playing an instrument and he’s singing something from his heart, and this is incredible!’ I don’t think that’s ever really go away even though the mainstream media has done their very best to destroy it by just pushing corporately mass-produced shit onto people.

“Radio in the late sixties and early seventies, you could turn it on and there were these incredibly creative musicians. The Beatles and Hendrix and Bob Dylan and The Stones and Procol Harum and Pink Floyd and all these incredible, creative titans. Now, they just want to push this crap on people.

“You can say, ‘Well, you’re not open-minded.’ But a lot of it doesn’t speak to me and, yeah, I reserve the right to be moved by what I’m moved by and I’m moved by art that has an intent to having some feeling and some emotion and some creativity and not something that is produced almost by a computer to appeal to a certain demographic.”

Trout completed his answer by adding, “Boy, you really got me going on that! Ha! Ha! I think the blues is in a good state and I know that there is a huge group of young musicians that want to carry it on. And as they come up through the ranks, they’re going to have fans that are their age.

“Joe Bonamassa did a lot to bring this music to younger people, too.

Walter recorded at the studio owned and operated by the Doors’ Robbie Krieger. He shared how and why that came about.

004 ARG1942 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargave“This is the first time I’ve worked with him. The way that this happened is my producer, Eric Corne – this is our 12th or 13th album together. We’re kind of a team. When we were going to do this, he knows the kind of studio that I want to be in. I want to have a big room. First of all, I want to have a big tracking room where we can set up in a circle and play the majority of the stuff live. I want to have that feeling.

“He came and he said, ‘You know, Robbie Krieger’s got this studio. It’s kind of a private studio across town but it’s awesome. Let’s go over and see it.’ We went over and the place is beautiful.

“So, we started recording there and Robbie – who loves blues; that’s his main love in life is the blues – he was coming in and hanging out. He’d be listening to playbacks. He’d be having meals with us. We’d be playing back – listening to a playback. He’d be sitting on a couch, with an acoustic guitar, playing along. One day I said, ‘Hey, man! Let’s do something together!’ He’s like, ‘Yeah! That’d be great!’

“We talked about his love for old country blues and his two favorite guys were Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He told me that. He said, ‘Those are the guys that really spoke to me when I was young and that’s still the stuff that I love to listen to.’ That is what he told me.

“We picked the Fred McDowell tune and we kind of arranged it together and we decided to take kind of a Muddy Waters style slide riff and base it on the slide riff that Robbie played. The track you hear on there we did live. We didn’t even really rehearse it. We kind of talked about it. We sat with acoustic guitars and then we went out in the studio with our electrics and counted to four and off we went. So, what you hear on there is one take live.”

I asked Walter if the recording was done digitally or via analog.

“Well, we can do both, but we did this on ProTools. They have tape if you want to use it, you know?”

When I asked Walter if there is a track that he would point to as a calling card for the whole 005 ARG2207 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargavealbum, he shared:

“The cut that I think is the ultimate statement on that album is the opener, ‘Me, My Guitar, and the Blues’ by Jimmy Dawkins. When I heard that, I was completely devastated. I thought to myself, ‘This song that this guy wrote – which has basically been forgotten and unheard – this is as good a blues song as anyone has ever written. This is classic. He, basically, took the entire genre of the blues and summed up the whole thing in two lines: ‘And now that you don’t love me, all I have left is me, my guitar, and the blues.’

“You know how the Gettysburg Address summed up the entire Civil War in two minutes? Well, this guy summed up the entire scene and history and feel and essence of what the blues is. He summed it up in two lines of lyric and I was devasted, man! I was weeping. Even talking about it – I mean, it’s deep shit. So that one, to me, sums up – they wanted to put it at the beginning of the record and I’m, like, really? Because how do you follow that song? But they convinced me and said, ‘No, let’s put it on at the beginning because that will kind of pull people in, you know?’ But, to me, I don’t know how you follow that tune. That tune – and singing it! I sing it every night and at the end, sometimes, I have to leave the stage for five minutes and go gather myself because of the intensity of those lyrics.

“Another one that got me lyrically was ‘Red Sun’ by Floyd Lee. Floyd Lee is a very unknown, unheralded, internationally, at least, blues man. I know he’s played around New York quite a bit. He was still playing around New York in, like, 2012. I’ve tried to reach him. It was one of his band members that wrote ‘Red Sun’ and I’ve tried to reach that guy and can’t reach him. I don’t know what’s happened to them.

006 ARG2228 Walter TroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargave“But, the lyrics on there reminded me of things I went through. He goes, ‘Sittin’ on top of the mountain, looking out at the sea, sittin’ on top of the mountain, and an angel talkin’ to me. I got an angel feather in my pocket, it’s gonna take me far away. I got an angel feather in my pocket, it’s gonna carry me to my grave.’

“I heard that and I’m, like, ‘Is this by Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan?’ I mean, that’s incredible and it’s an unheralded piece of work and I’m like, there’s so many of these great songs! You go all the way back to Charlie Patton; you can go back to Blind Willie Johnson and you can go back to Blind Lemon Jefferson or Big Bill Broonzy or any of these people and find these astounding songs that have just been forgotten. It’s kind of a shame, you know?”

As to whether there is going to be a follow-up to this with the same kind of deep-track tunes, Trout said:

“I don’t know. I can tell you that right now I’m in Robbie’s studio. I was just there yesterday and I’m doing an album of all original songs that will be out at the end of the year. That’s the latest project. We’ve got six songs recorded and we’re gonna do, probably, ten to twelve. I’ve got to go on tour for all of February. So, in March, we’ll be back in Robbie’s studio and we’ll finish this new album.

“After doing an album of all covers, I wanted to do some of my own tunes. Literally, the day that we sent this record off – we mastered it; we sent it off to the label; the same day, we went back in the studio and started the next record.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Walter a question I asked him during our previous two chats:007 ARG2697 WalterTroutcreditAustinHargavePhoto by Austin Hargave When he steps off the tour bus of life up at that great gig in the sky, how does he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy will be?

“I would probably say he was somebody who tried to be the best and most honest artist he could be and tried to create something of beauty; to bring some joy into peoples lives. He was kind of a deeply flawed individual, but he did his best and really gave it everything he had to create to the best of his ability.”

Walter Trout is certainly doing exactly that.

Keep up with the latest with Walter at WalterTrout.com.