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  • Face The Music

    Face The Music
    Nils Lofgren
    Label: Concord Fantasy
    Release Date: August 05, 2014
    Review Date: August 10, 2014

    It’s hard to believe that legendary guitarist, Nils Lofgren, has a music career that spans five decades but he does, and what a career!  To show case this remarkable career, Lofgren and Concord Fantasy has tirelessly worked on amassing an incredible 169 songs over nine discs and one DVD all in a very nice box set.

    As Nils shared with me during my interview with him on Boomerocity.com, the effort was a gargantuan eighteen month effort. Old demo tapes and masters had to be hunted down, repaired and “baked” and then digital wizardry applied to make them usable.
    Lofgren fans will absolutely love the incredible assembly of amazing music that covers his 45+ year career.  Starting with Lofgren’s ban, Grin, that he started at the tender age of 17 and going through his solo albums from both the major labels as well as his indie releases.  Additionally, there are forty tracks of stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day until now and the DVD is full of performance video that also spans Lofgren’s years in the music business. How cool is that?

    What fans will love almost as well is the 136 page book that is chock full of pictures covering Nils’ career, pictures of rare memorabilia and his own thoughts about each song in the ensemble and all preceded by a forward by the legendary rock writer, Dave Marsh. The book also includes comments about the songs from some of Lofgren’s famous friends like Bono, Paul Rodgers, Elvis Costello, Roger Daltrey and many others.

    Lofgren fans as well as music history buffs will definitely want this impressively comprehensive collection of some of the best but under-appreciated music to span over forty years. You will not be disappointed.

  • Nils Lofgren

    Posted November, 2011

    NilsLofgrenFOTEX RAINER DRECHSLERPhoto by Ranier DrechslerIn 1970, I was an eleven year old punk in Phoenix who was migrating from listening to the two or three Elvis 45’s we had in the house to listening to local rock radio stations. Some of my earliest memories of non-Elvis radio are of the haunting Neil Young song, Southern Man, that called out the horrors of racism in the south.

    I didn’t grasp the meaning of the song at the time nor was I fully aware of who was singing it and who all was on the record. In time, I came to fully appreciate the song, the artist and those who helped put the iconic album together. One of those who helped Neil out on the album with piano and guitar was a young whipper snapper by the name of Nils Lofgren., who was also fronting his own band, Grin.

    Lofgren went on to help Young on his next solo album, Tonight’s the Night, as well as serving a brief stint in Young’s Crazy Horse. In the years since then, Nils has crafted 43 solo albums (about which he says, “Ah, gee, I’ve lost count. I’m just thrilled to be making records and have a batch of new songs that I’m able to record and get out to share.”), contributed tunes to such shows as The Simpsons. He’s helped friends like Patti Scialfa and Lou Reed on their solo projects as well as serving two tours of duty with Ring Starr’s All-Starr Band. Most notably, however, is Lofgren’s role as guitarist and vocalist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

    Lofgren has just completed his 44th solo album entitled Old School, which lands on December 6th.

    He called me from his Phoenix area home (and my old home town) to discuss the album. After comparing notes about Phoenix I asked Nils how this album was different from the others as far as how it came together.

    “The main difference is that I wanted to do a homegrown thing here at home. Over the years I recognized that I just don’t have patience in a recording studio. I thrive in a live setting where you’re playing in front of a live audience. I tried to come up with some rules and tricks to keep myself engaged.

    “One would be that, after I wrote the songs, I would practice performing them until I could sing and play them very comfortably and fluidly as a performance and not even bother recording until I could sing and play the song live very easily. Thus, I went after live vocals in most cases and I think I got ‘em in 10 out of 12 songs. Even with large patches of guitar playing I went with a live approach and took half from this take and half from that take as opposed to crafting line after line kind of thing. So the main thing was to keep as live and emotional as possible even though it was a homegrown singular effort on my part.”

    Lofgren shared some details about his home recording arrangement and how he used it to record Old School.

    “I have big 8 car, adobe garage. A quarter of it has been turned into a studio where I got all of my equipment out of Marylandnilsanddogs where I grew up years ago. It’s right across the yard and I go out there and leave the doors open. My dogs come in and out and visit me. Because I’m not technically savvy my engineer friends upgraded me to a 24 track hard drive. But I don’t use a computer so, rather than have a million tracks, I had 24. I had a Mackie console and I just learned enough to print everything hot and good, clean sounds to tape and not mess it up with EQ.

    “Finally, near the end of the project, even though 90 percent of it was done in that setting, I went over to a Pro Tools studio called Studio Cat Productions and a local, great engineer by the name of Jamison Weddle. We used that format to actually do the mixing which gave me a lot of freedom for instant recall. You know, you drive around and listen to a mix for a couple of days. It sounds fine then you get an idea and, of course, with Pro Tools you can recall the exact mix and just change that one idea. That was a useful tool at the end for mixing.

    “But, in general, it was all in my garage to my 24 track. There’s a remote control as opposed to a computer so everything has numbers going up and back giving me the illusion of fast-forward and reverse – that kind of thing – just to kind of trick my old-school mind into working with this technology and still being comfortable enough to make a record mostly on my own.”

    At one point in our conversation, Nils described his home of 15 years in the greater Phoenix area.

    “We’ve got two and a half acres of desert land with dogs. It’s kind of a little compound my wife found – a 1935 adobe home so it’s really an old slice of early Arizona history and culture. It’s a beautiful, ancient desert compound. There’s nothing like this around. We are grateful to have it and find it.”

    As our conversation comes back around to discussing Old School, I commented to Nils that I got the sense that the album is heavy with nostalgia.

    “Gosh, I’m not sure. I guess, in a sense yes. Part of that is that was coming up on 60 years of age – which now I am – it was more of a reflection of acknowledging that, at 60, I’m a lot more schizophrenic and emotional than I thought I would be. When you’re a kid, you look at someone that old like your ancient grandparent. Now I realize – I look at the TV and realize my world is screwed up. I have great anxiety about my planet.

    “A long like Miss You Ray talking about losing family and friends but having to look around and acknowledge that there’s some left – how you temper loss with what you still have and temper the pain with gratitude for what is left. Seeing the glass half empty is sort of a knee-jerk reaction as you get older and you have to start paying attention to see it half full – pay more attention to what’s around you and the goodness as you deal with all of the anxieties that come with the planet we’re in, the time we’re in and, also, getting older. And, so, it’s a bit of that – a bit of nostalgia but with a sense of hope for the future tempered by a reality and wisdom I hope sometimes rears its head in my old age.”

    One song that I’m particularly intrigued with on the album is song Dream Big. Next to the lyrics printed with the album is a picture of a couple. I asked Nils if that picture was of his parents did the lyrics reflect advice that either of them had given him when he was younger.

    “Yes on both counts. My mom and dad, their hobby was dancing. They used to play big band swing music and go dancing every weekend. They were very aware of the therapeutic, healing properties of music and when I wanted to take accordion lessons, for my sixth birthday they paid for them and encouraged me my whole life with my musical endeavors.

    “So, yeah, without spelling it out that literally as I do in this song that was their message: Be proud of yourself. Follow your dreams and try to do it with dignity and humility. It’s a very dark, ominous kind of song because now I feel like you gotta do at least that to keep your head above water. You’ve really got to start paying attention. It’s easy to go under with anxiety, doubt and fear and depression.

    NilsLofgrenJANMLUNDAHL“But, again, a lot of times I turn on the TV not to get down in it so much but to make sure that there hasn’t been som calamity in LA where I’ve got to drive east or vice versa. Then I’m like, ‘Okay, the world’s still here. Turn off the TV and go back to your work or your day or your dogs or your wife or whatever.’ It was more of an ominous thing like, ‘Yeah, man, I’ve gotta keep dreamin’ big and try to stay humble, work hard and dance a lot meaning even if you’re in a wheelchair, just find ways to be young at heart and try to find hobbies that aren’t dangerous to your health but are freeing to your spirit whether it’s music, dance, bingo with friends, whatever. Just get out of your head and try to do it in an admirable, positive way and just keep trying to fight the good fight and be thankful for what you have while you’re seeking more.

    “At this point I’ve been blessed. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Admittedly, I’ve had a fabulous 43 year career in music. My wife does good charity work in town. I do benefits to help her out. We’re looking to – in just a small way – give back and participate in charities whenever we can just to feel like we’re put of the solution even in a small way instead of the problem.”

    Another song that I found interesting is 60 Is The new 18. Lofgren shares his thoughts about that song.

    “Well, the lyrics are very self-explanatory. Basically, when you’re a kid – anyone who makes it to sixty you have this vision of the old grandpa in the chair, people are running to put his slippers on or get him a drink. He’s revered and respected. The truth is – I have a sense of humor about it – kids just think you’re some old fart. Nobody respects you. It’s like you’re Rodney Dangerfield of your community. A lot of times that can be a funny thing ‘cause people like me have a sense of humor about it. But, for most people, it’s a much more ominous thing. Right now there’s a lot of people around that age are unemployed, serious health issues, and they don’t know where they’re going. There’s a lot of shame and guilt that goes with the economy not allowing for dignity; the racket of healthcare where they’re not looked for and cared for – it’s very demoralizing and shameful adventure for a lot of people.

    “Although I experienced some of that angst, I have a great life right now. I don’t know if I’ll have it in ten years with what’s going on today but I get it. I have my own fears. I look at the TV and I’m helpless to fix my world and I’m mad about it. I’ve very, very upset with the governments of the whole planet and with what’s going on and the corruption and the graft.

    “This character in this song is taking it to new heights. He’s lost touch with his family. He’s abusing pills, alcohol, drugs. He’s cheatin’ on his wife. He’s miserable. He’s never felt more alone. He’s scared and he’s also full of rage because you just don’t imagine that set of emotions for someone who makes it to sixty. It’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek, dark song about 60 is the new 18 and it’s not just the new 18 to have a beautiful life ahead of you with hopes and dreams. It’s also the 18 of where you don’t know what you’re doing or how you’re going to do it; the insecurity of being young and not knowing who you are or what you want to be. The whole planet is saying, ‘Pick a career. Pick a college, map out your whole life and get it straight, kid!’ What an awful thing! We’re still doing it to our kids!

    “I remember having it done to me and it wasn’t even my parents. My parents just encouraged me to try to be happy. But still that’s what the planet did. I’m like, ‘What do you mean pick a career? I don’t even know who the hell I am! I’m a teenager. My hormones – every six months I wake up a stranger and you’re telling me to pick a career?’ There’s people who might not know what they want to do when they’re 30 but at least they’ve found the humility to work, take care of themselves, meet their overhead and have some sort of dignity while they’re looking and all that goes in between.

    “The character in this song, he’s past that. He’s 60 now and all hell’s breakin’ loose and he doesn’t know what he’s gonna do. He’s breakin’ out in pimples from anxiety. He’s abusing everything in front of him and he knows it.” Lofgren then quotes a line from the song, “ . . . atone what I can, earn some self-respect, in a world in love with escape and neglect”. He’s learned that – escape and neglect – and it’s rubbed off on him and he’s in deep trouble in that moment in the song. Nevertheless, part of being 18 is having some hope and dreams and I would like to think that at almost any age you can find those but it’s a lot harder when you get older.”

    One of my favorites off of the disc is Let Her Get Away that Nils wrote with the late Root Boy Slim. I asked Lofgren for the NilsLofgrenJOSEPHQUEVER2back story to that tune and its creation.

    “Oh, man! Are you familiar with Root Boy Slim? He was this genius out of Yale who fried his brain with drugs who was a basket case but functional genius who started writing these songs like Zappa and the Fugs. They’re crazy lyrics – hilarious, witty, and he had great bands. Great musicians played with Root Boy. He was a local, avant garde/Hunter Thompson type hero in our community. We were friends and I’d always go to see him play. His lyrics would either make you cringe or laugh. He was always very thoughtful and surprisingly intelligent.

    “One day we were in my backyard in this place I rented in Bethesda, Maryland, when I was living there. We were just talking. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I said, ‘You know? We really out to try to write a song together sometime.’ He said, ‘What kind of song are we writin’?’ I started playing a little melody riff which is the song and we started kind of hummin’ and singin’. The next thing I know, over the course of a few hours, we started crafting a song and it was really feeling good. We stuck with it and finished it in literally one afternoon. It was this beautiful, haunted, kind of a Kris Kristofferson type let her get away/can’t let you get away, too. Again, to me, very metaphorical about the rough times were in. You lose something, you try to get it back and you can’t. You just keep trying to hang on to what you can and trying to find some insight into that journey.

    “It’s kind of a mystical song to me. It could even be about the same woman that’s still in your life but the core person you knew 20 years ago – that’s been destroyed by tragedy or whatever. But the person’s still there and you love them and you’re just trying to hang on. There’s a lot of layers to it but it’s a very haunted piece that Root Boy and I wrote years and years ago. I made a demo that was beautiful but it was all so scratchy on a little four track cassette recorder. It was so noisy and I kept debating to share it, noise and all. Then, finally, this record being old school, being a song I love and never been able to share it, I go, ‘Man, stop whining about it! You’re a professional musician. Just re-record it! Get over it! Yeah, it was a great take but, geez! That was over 20 years ago! You can write and sing and play. Just bite the bullet, start from scratch, and make that record again and make it right!” That’s the history of that one.”

    Lofgren dedicated the album to his E Street Band mate, Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, who recently passed away. I asked Nils what he feels the world doesn’t know about Clemons but should.

    “Geez, they know a lot about him but, you know, even though I stood next to him for 27 years on stage and had a beautiful friendship on stage – very deep musically and personally, I had a greater friendship and gift from Clarence as a friend off stage. We talked every week. From the moment I joined the band he was always there for me and always had a smile and a kind word. He was always someone I felt comfortable with no matter how good or bad my lot was on that day or that point. I always felt that he was a great confidant and sounding board for any and all trials and tribulations, good and bad. I do miss him and am heartbroken that he’s gone. I have a lot of great memories that I’m trying to hold on to. I believe he’s up there, glad that I’m carrying on singing and making music and trying to value every day I can. We miss him terribly.”

    It’s easy to guess that Nils must own a store full of guitars and other instruments. I was curious if there was a guitar that he considered a “holy grail” and if he owned it.

    “Well, you know, I’m an accidental collector. I’ve probably got a hundred and some guitars that I didn’t really set out to collect. But I’ve been on the road for 43 years. Of course a lot of that is a function of being the swing man now in the E Street Band for eleven years where I’m playing dobro’s and bottlenecks and lap-steels and six-string banjos and that’s a whole other dozens of instruments that aren’t technically guitars but are in that family.

    “But I have to say, as far as seeking anything, I couldn’t think of one. By far, the most treasured guitar I have – which every guitar you hear on Let Her Get Away is this old, funky D18 that Neil Young used to write on. When we did After The Gold Rush – if you open the album, he’s laying on a couch at the Troubadour – there’s a shot of Neil Young on a couch and right next to his head is a guitar leaning against a wall. It’s this old D18. When we were doing the sessions, he needed me to play guitar and he said, ‘Get your acoustic’ and I said that I didn’t own one. So he said, ‘Here, borrow this one’ and he gave me this guitar. I used it on Tell Me Why. I played it on Till The Morning Comes and, after the end of the sessions, he said, ‘You know what? You can keep that guitar as a gift. Thanks for helping with this record.’ I was so freaked out. I remember we were up in the hills in Topanga Canyon. I grabbed that D18 without the case and I ran about a hundred yards in the deep woods. I just got lost in the forest, sat there under a big tree and just played it for hours. Then I walked back and, from that day on that was mine and it’s certainly my holy grail of guitars. It’s old and funky. It’s all beat up. It’s not like this rich, beautiful, classy sound. It’s kind of a funky sound. I used it on my Nils Sings Neil album where I play Neil Young songs live in the home. Obviously, that’s the only guitar that I could use for that record. But that would be my favorite – my most special, historic guitar.”

    When I asked Lofgren what he still would like to accomplish in his career, he chuckled and said, “Oh, geez, I guess the obvious thing would be that I would like to think that this new record is as good a record as I’ve ever made. I’d like to keep getting better at making records and performing even though I don’t have a record company and I’m not on the charts and all of that. More and more, people keep discovering me because I’ve gotten better at sharing musical ideas that are emotional and inspiring to people to where I find a larger audience through getting better at what I do. I’m a performer at heart.

    “I don’t dream of stadiums. I just dream of a larger audience to where you’re playing theaters and you bring your own stage and sound and lights and you can control the thing more. Because of the larger audience, you can bring a five piece band and crew and have lights and sound – have the freedom to really delve into creating a show. That’s where I’m at my best and most engaged is in the live setting. So, that’s all: Just keep getting better at what I do. I think that this is a great record. I think it has that potential. Whether it happens or not, my job is to keep getting better at what I do.”

    As for tour plans to support Old School, Nils said, “I’ve got a couple of shows in February in Virginia. They’re kind of an annual performance there at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, with my brothers and Greg Varlotta who’s working with me on our duet show. We do an acoustic duo. That’s it. I’m laying low for awhile, promoting the record, work on a video or two and hope to promote the record most of next year and get to a lot of places.”

    As our chat was wrapping up, I asked Nils Lofgren how he would like to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy would be. As he was with the first question I asked him, his answer to this question revealed a man who takes such things as life’s meaning very seriously. That comes from experience – especially the experience of losing friends and loved ones.

    “Oh, man! You’re killing me here! I mean, honestly, to give you a respectful answer, I might take an hour of thought. You know what it is? I feel – and you can see it as kind of a theme throughout this record – I feel like I’m learning and growing. I feel that way not just musically but as a person. So, I’m hoping – whether its two months or two years or twenty years or forty years, I’m going to be able to give you a better tombstone than what I come up with today. I’d rather it be a work in progress towards something a little more useful and practical legacy. Something a little more substantial to offer than I have today – not that I don’t feel like I’m a decent person. But I’d like to think that that’s a work in process and, hopefully, I’ll have a little more time to create a better answer to that.”

    Whether you’re old school or new school, if you still want to go to school to learn how to play the guitar and unleash your inner rock star, then Nils can help you. Simply click go to NilsLofgren.com and follow the links to the school. Once there, you can pick and choose from the wide range of lessons offered there. You’ll learn great blues riffs and scales, various chord progressions and picking techniques. Not only are the lessons offered in English but also in Spanish and Italian for those who are more comfortable communicating in one of those languages. Be sure and check it out.

    And, while you’re at NilsLofgren.com, you may as well sign up for his mailing list so that you can stay in the loop as to what all is going on in his world. You can be sure that he’s always up to something interesting and creative.

  • Nils Lofgren Discusses “Face the Music”


    Posted August 10, 2014

    nilslofgren1.BI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m always honored and flattered when artists take the time to allow to be interviewed by me. That feeling ratchets up exponentially when they sit for a second or even third interview with me.

    Such was the case when I recently had the privilege of chatting with Nils Lofgren for the second time in three years. He was kind enough to take time out of his incredibly busy schedule to talk with me about his latest project: The nine CD/1 DVD box set, “Face the Music”, that thoroughly covers his forty-five plus years in the music business.

    I called Nils at his Scottsdale, Arizona, home while he was preparing to leave for Los Angeles with his lovely wife, Amy. They were going there for a few days of press appearances in support of the release as well as an acoustic performance at the Grammy Museum.  As we made small talk before the formal interview started, I asked him a question that a Boomerocity reader wanted me to ask. They wanted to know why he picked Scottsdale to live.

    “In the very early eighties, I was playing The Stone Pony – which I still play – the famous nightclub at Asbury Park. I met this great girl by the name of Amy Aiello. I loved her and we hung out for the night. I went to Boston at six a.m. and I couldn’t convince her to come on the tour bus to Boston because she had a job and her mother would kill her. I said that I would call her and square it with her but that didn’t work out. So I thought I would see her soon because I play in Jersey a lot.

    “I didn’t see her for fifteen years. Nineteen years ago this February coming up; I was at a great rock club here in town – in Scottsdale – called The Rockin’ Horse. At the end of the night she walked up and said, ‘Hi, remember me?’ We were both at the end of divorces. She had a young five year old. We started dating and we’ve been together ever since.”

    Then with a little tongue-in-cheek humor, he added, “I wish she’d come to Boston but she was worth the wait”.

    I was curious what prompted the idea of putting out such and extensive box set.
    “It was really Concord Records’ idea. Eighteen months ago, their president, Gene Rumsey, and their A&R guy, Tom Cartwright - who’s an old friend that I’ve worked with at other companies - approached me. We had a lunch in New York about a possible comprehensive box set on Fantasy Concord.

    “This was a beautiful idea to me because through the decades I called the companies and tried to buy my extinct music back for five dollars a CD just so that they could get a little money back and put them out. They always said no. So, to have someone who wanted to champion the idea was great.

    “Most box sets, everyone has the music except for the bonus tracks and so much of my old music is out of print. A lot of people complained about not finding the old music. So, this is a great opportunity. As we got deeper into the discussions, we agreed to not do it if it couldn’t be a thorough box set which meant going back and getting the rights to hundreds of songs – some are out of print. Four or five had very messy, bureaucratic ways but, to their credit, they did it.

    “We spent eighteen months crafting a great book and story. Dave Marsh helped me edit my story. He insisted that I write it. He wrote a great forward. Amy was our art director with our assistant, Omar, who’s got great artistic tastes. Both of them worked with the art directors at Concord and Fantasy and we finally got it done. It’s impressive. Ten discs and forty-five years. Dave had me write the story about the music and speak to every track. It’s a hundred and thirty-six page book with a lot of great posters and old paraphernalia that a good collector friend of mine, Steve Smolen, was nice enough to lend us. So, it’s very thorough.

    “We found a lot of great bonus tracks – two discs of them; old Grin stuff that no one ever heard and we remixed them. There are a lot of jams that now see the light of day so I’m very grateful about it.”

    I read in other interviews that, in the past, Lofgren couldn’t get his old record labels to cooperate with him in re-releasing his old albums. I was curious how he and Concord Fantasy were able to break up the log jam and make this project a reality.

    “The music business is very strange. I mean, I would call these companies who, on their books, I owed them a lot of money, and I would offer them money. I would say, ‘Look, it’s a buck and a quarter to make a CD and I’ll pay you five dollars for my own music and you’ll make a little money.’ They would say, ‘That’s too small potatoes for us. We don’t want to bother’. That’s the bureaucracy and madness of life. ‘We don’t want to bother having you pay back money you owe us.’

    “It really upset me but it’s not unique. Anyone who hasn’t had big hit records and has some power to keep their music in nilslofgren2print - which is most recording artists, professionally – if enough time goes by, the stock goes out of print and they don’t make any more, which is not a unique story. That was a frustration for decades that I accepted and certainly wasn’t happy about. So, to have a company go back and do all that work – it’s just business deals. They would be happy to tell me that they weren’t good deals for getting the music. They got charged a lot for it but, to their credit, they went and got every song I wanted and we were able to put a fabulous running order together of about twelve or thirteen hours of music.

    “So, with that in mind, there’s about a hundred and sixty-nine different tracks and a twenty track DVD – some rarities and performances and interviews that are cool. I couldn’t be happier about it.”

    “First, of course, I got everything written down with the keys they’re in. Then I just started listening which was not easy because I didn’t have a lot of the music. You give away your CDs and you never think that it’s ever going to be out of print. As a kid you always think, ‘Well, gosh, I ran out. I can’t get any from the company. I’ll walk into the music store and buy some more.’ I learned long ago that that wasn’t possible.

    “So, to establish a running order with feels and keys that flowed right. Billy Wolf put a rough master together of that and I listened to it and made some changes. It was months and months and months of work looking at the past. I had forgotten how much I had done but I sure wasn’t thinking about it. Psychologically knowing that a lot of it’s out of print is kind of a little stain on your soul. Inevitably, you blame yourself. I’m not a finger pointer. I’m, like, ‘Well, I must not have had a hit record. I thought they were good enough.’ Standard stuff that musicians do but this time, knowing that the company wanted to go get every track that I wanted, it was exciting to put this together and they went and found them all and made the deals to get them.

    In answer to my question as to whether or not they ran into any issues with the condition of the master tapes being less than desirable, Nils said, “Yeah, we did find some funky tapes that would have to be baked. Billy Wolf had to use every trick in the book to resurrect something off of a cassette or an old two track that had been damaged a little bit. But he did it! There were some bonus tracks or basement demos I only had in an old DAT type in my home studio which is some harsh sounding digital stuff. But he’s got all these great, high end tricks to make everything sound all warm and analog – and we did find some old analog tapes – not a lot but we did find some and got some from the old companies. In some cases, the old companies had lost them. That’s frustrating but, hey! It’s still the music.

    “The heart, the time and the energy and intent that went into everything – especially the early Grin stuff, there’s an innocence and commitment there that’s beautiful to hear. Back in the days where there were no click tracks. There was no real choreography in rock and roll and there was no video and the only game in town was to play in front of people. That’s all Grin did: play anywhere and everywhere for little or no money or decent money. It didn’t matter. We just played. When David Briggs – Neil Young’s producer – thanks to Neil for turning us onto David – both of them took us under their wing – especially David; we had an expert in the studio that took a rookie band and helped us make good records, which he did.”

    Were there any surprises while putting this aggressive project together?

    “Yeah, of course. Even just trying to remember old basement tapes. This was forty-three or forty-four years ago. For weeks, I was looking through my basement in Maryland and out here in Arizona, for an old cassette of a rough mix of ‘Keith Don’t Go’ with Grin and Neil Young playing piano and singing and I just couldn’t find it. Billy was trying to bake the cassette and make the most of it but I could never find it. I went through thousands of old cassettes. I’m not a great librarian. Everything isn’t perfectly notated in a computer and that’s my fault.

    “I met Bob Dawson who engineered a lot of the Grin stuff with David Briggs in the early Grin days and he still has Bias Studios where we recorded in Virginia. He came down and we rummaged through some master reels that I had in a closet and, sure enough, we found a sixteen track master of ‘Keith Don’t Go’. We remixed it to emulate what we were doing at that point. Fortunately, it was the same engineer who worked with us there at the same studio and Neil gave us permission to use it. He played brilliant piano and sang. You don’t hear a lot of Neil Young session work on piano and that classic voice of his. So that’s the version we used of ‘Keith Don’t Go’ because I did write the song on the ‘Tonight’s the Night’ tour with him in Europe, specifically. All of the English fans were talking about Keith and that he wasn’t doing well. I was naïve and young and just thought he’s just made ‘Exile on Main Street’. Sounds like he’s doing okay.

    “But, nevertheless, I had this dark piece of music and I wrote this giant thank you note on behalf of all of our fans to Keith to stick around. We found it and we found other Grin tapes that I’d forgotten about. A song called, ‘Sweet Four Wings’ and a song called, ‘Try’ – a song we used to play in bars as a power trio for years before we recorded it. There was a lot of beautiful stuff. There was a bonus track, ‘Sing For Happiness”, that did appear on a Legacy Grin thing from Sony Legacy but it was in pretty bad shape and Billy dialed it up and made it sound right. The great Ben Keith – the pedal steel player – he was on it with that beautiful pedal steel and his great harmony singing.

    “So, it’s just a lot of cool bonus stuff that, once you started digging, you find and we resurrected it all.”

    I asked Lofgren if he had any instances where, in comparing then to now, he had thoughts of “If only ‘this’ or, “I wish I had done ‘that’ back then”?

    “Not a lot. I mean, I’ve long ago accepted that I’m a better singer now in the last ten or fifteen years than I was when I started. Most people are. There’s very few people who come out of the gate successfully. There’s successes like Paul Rodgers and Rod Stewart. They mature but they came out of the gate as amazing singers. I was okay and I got a lot better. But there’s a charm to that. The charm and the intent from young kids trying their heart out with a piece of original music together. That’s why I’ve never been a fan of all the record companies and some people who re-record some of their own music and put it out again. But I never seriously considered re-recording any of the old stuff.

    “Grin was a true democratic band. We lived together with our crew. We played everywhere. We dug ourselves out of snow drifts at this old country farm we rented. It was really a powerful experience for a young band. So there’s a charm and an innocence and intensity there because that was our whole lives 24/7. I just don’t have a thought in my head to re-record them, really. I do that live. There’s some good live recordings and maybe 20 – 25 years later I might think I’m playing better.  As a guitar player I think I’ve matured but it takes something away from the intent and the innocence to some really hard work when you’re younger with a group of friends that you love.”

    nilslofgren3Since Nils worked with iconic artists who have passed away – people like Lou Reed and Levon Helm, to name just a couple – I assumed that there was a rekindling of emotions and memories of them. When I asked him about it, his answer portrayed both the warmth of amazing memories and the bitter sweetness one feels when remembering lost friends.

    “Of course. All of those situations – especially people that you lost like Levon and Lou Reed who I got to write thirteen songs with and it’s a great story in the book; and Kathi McDonald, I saw her singing with Claudia Lennear and Leon Russell in the beginning. Me and David Briggs saw them at the Santa Monica Civic Center and were blown away. When Grin was recording at Wally Heider’s in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District – we worked so much up there – her name was on the billboard as a singer for hire. We couldn’t believe it. Sure enough, Kathi came down. She sang her brains out for us on a number of tracks. David even went on to make a solo album with her. Grin played with her along with a lot of great players like Nicky Hopkins, So, to hear Kathi’s voice and know that she’s gone; Levon, Lou Reed, Buddy Miles, Claudia Lennear – who’s still around – so, yeah, a huge stroll down memory lane on many levels going through these old tracks in particular.”

    On the lighter side of memory lane, Lofgren reflected on the comments he received from the likes of  Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne and Roger Daltrey, to name just a few.

    “There are twenty-two or so dear friends like that who were kind enough even before the heard it all – a lot of them were familiar with a lot of my old music. Reading the testimonials in the book, I was shocked. In the case of someone like Elvis Costello, who I used to go see with the Attractions at the Santa Monica Civic Center in the early seventies. I’d go back and say ‘hi. I’m a big fan’ and for him to remember that and speak so emotionally about some of my early songs as Jackson Browne would. I was really surprised that people knew that many of my songs. Or, Roger Daltrey talking about some of my later releases and specific songs and what they meant to him. It kind of blew my mind.

    “You kind of shield yourself with armor once all this stuff has disappeared in the companies say that they’re not going to get it out again, you kinda just move forward and you really can’t look back too much. It’s too painful because part of you feels like you failed in some way. So, to get this all out and have all these friends chime in and give me a vote of confidence with some detail surprised me with their reminisces of some of the older songs or tracks that I had no idea that they were aware of but meant something to them was a powerful part of this journey.”

    “Then, October 3rd, I’m here in Scottsdale at the Talking Stick Casino and then October 4th at the Fox Theater in Tucson. So, these are the first four shows. I’m gonna get back to work and see how it feels. It’s been three years since I did my shows so it will be exciting to get back to that. A couple of years ago on the E Street tour, I fell a couple of times and tore my rotator cuff so I’m having those get strong enough to do my own show which is challenging and it will be fun. It will be good for me to get back to singing, playing more, leading a show in front of people. Right now, we’re working on a January run in the UK which looks like it may happen.

    I asked Lofgren what he hoped fans would get out of “Facing the Music”.

    “Hopefully, in one place, this will give them a great idea outside of who I’ve been outside of playing with other great bands. That’s a good place to start. Hopefully, friends will spread the word. My attitude is if you’ve gotta go online and spend twenty minutes tracking down some obscure track, that’s out of print to me. To me, music should just be available. For the company to help me put this together over the last eighteen months and have all these hundreds of songs available and running smoothly from one to the other – including the eras – it’s something that I really thought would never happen. So, I’m very grateful and thankful to the company and I’m gonna promote the heck out of it the best I can. It’s very grass roots word of mouth and I appreciate your help, too, in spreading the word. Hopefully, there’s a lot of old fans of mine that, by hearing the old stuff, will realize it’s here, now, will take a listen to it and spread the word for me, too.”

    “Not big ones. I have a guitar school on my website for beginners and intermediate players. I’ll take up some more guitar nilslofgren4lessons. They’re hour long lessons that you can download from my website, NilsLofgren.com. There’s a lot of free video clips there and music. We’ll keep offering free stuff for you to listen to. As I get out and play here in the states, our great engineer, Frank Marchan, usually records it to his computer. So, maybe if we get some good recordings, we might consider putting out a live thing of some of the upcoming shows just as an interim thing audio wise on the website.

    Obviously, Nils Lofgren is a gifted artist who never sits still for long. I’m sure that, in addition to the plans he mentioned in the interview, he will find himself creating great music as a solo artist as well as participating with other great artists to make many more musical memories to fill up another great box set somewhere down the road.  To be sure, whatever Nils does, he will do with passion and excellence that has marked his remarkable five decades long career and I, for one, am looking forward to hearing what he has to release.

  • Nils Lofgren On 'Weathered' and the Pandemic

    Posted September 2020

    Lofgren Head ShotWe’re always flattered here at Boomerocity when we get to speak to an artist. Imagine the pride we feel when we get to chat with them more than once. With that in mind, you’ll understand why we’re thrilled to be speaking with Nils Lofgren for our fourth time!

    This time our interview with Nils is primarily about his new live album, “Weathered”, as well as about the pandemic and how it has affected him and his family and friends.

    Before you click on the audio file on the right, I want to share with you a little bit about “Weathered”.

    For those of you who don’t like to read a lot, I’ll just say that the album is freakin’ awesome and well worth your investment in it.

    Yeah, it’s that good.

    For those of you who like more detail ahead of listening to our interview with Nils, there this:

    In between E Street Band and Crazy Horse work, master rock singer songwriter-guitarist Nils Lofgren fit in his first tour  with a full band in over 15 years. Inspired by the writing with the great Lou Reed on his last studio album, Nils knew it was time. Audience and band alike sharing their souls, gifts, spirit and energy on the tour made for a fresh, new live sound for Nils. The result is in an earthy, rockin’ album that breathes life into a world temporarily void of the excitement, energy, tenderness, and spontaneity of live music during COVID-19.

    The 16-track collection, entitled Weathered, and issued on Lofgren’s own Cattle Track Road Records in double-CD configuration, was produced by the musician and his wife Amy, and is due out on August 21, 2020.

    It was recorded on the road during select intimate tour dates in the U.S. supporting his recent Blue With Loustudio album. “My dear friends who made that album all agreed to come. Andy Newmark, Kevin McCormick, Cindy Mizelle, and my brother Tom Lofgren joining us to form an amazing band,” notes Nils. “In preparation for the tour my wonderful wife Amy hosted us all in our home and garage studio to put the show together. Amy designed our merchandise, cooked beautiful food for us and created a safe, welcoming musical environment for all. We created the show’s foundation to work from and headed out to share this fresh, new band.”

    Improvisation has always been a key element in live performances for Nils, a veteran member of some of the greatest rock bands in history, as well as an accomplished and successful solo artist. “All the band members are old friends used to being encouraged to stretch out and improvise with me,” he explains. That freedom shows throughout Weathered. “Our crew did a fabulous job getting everything right for us to do our best every night.” He continues, “Regularly hearing inspired, improvisational surprises from your fellow bandmates elevated our interaction and made for one of a kind, unique shows every night. We all thrive in a live setting and at every show, the audience kicked the music up to a special level we only reach with their contagious, inspired energy.” That comes across brilliantly on this celebratory live album.

    The album contains live renditions of two of the Lou Reed/Nils Lofgren penned songs, “Don’t Let Your Guard Down” and “Give,” along with Nils’ rocking protest song “Rock or Not” and the tenderly wistful “Too Blue to Play,” all from the Blue With Loualbum. Cindy Mizelle’s heartfelt vocals complement throughout the double album, but on “Big Tears Fall” they take the lead and on the duet “Tender Love” they are especially powerful.

    In addition to her soulful harmonies, you’ll also hear Cindy’s improvisational “scatting” throughout, becoming another instrument inside this stellar band. The dark, minor blues “Too Many Miles” is a wonderful example of this.

    Nils pushes his electric soloing to new heights throughout. In “Give,” a co-write and timely lyric with the great Lou Reed, you’ll hear him at his improvisational best, launching into a “backwards” guitar segment, mid solo.

    There’s a fabulous 14-minute-plus version of the haunting “Girl in Motion,” set up by a wonderful studio story of Ringo NilsLofgrenCOLOR3 LOStarr watching the original recording go down and offering amazing advice.

    It’s very rare for Nils to get the entire band that made a studio record out on the road with him. It pays off dramatically here. Andy Newmark on drums (John Lennon, Sly Stone, David Bowie, Eric Clapton…) Kevin McCormick on bass, vocals (Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jackson Browne, Melissa Ethridge, Keb’ Mo’…) Cindy Mizelle on vocals (Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen…) and Tom Lofgren on guitars, keyboards, vocals, who’s been playing with Nils since his early band Grin, combine to create a fresh, inspired take on these classic Nils songs.

    weatheredcoverOrder 'Weathered' By Clicking HereWeatheredincludes “Like Rain”from Grin and seven other standards from his solo work.Nils’ brothers Mike and Mark Lofgren join the band on the Hank Williams classic “Mind Your Own Business.”The art of improvisation resurfaces during the “Jam / Papa Was a Rolling Stone,”which builds to a crescendo before his classic “I Came To Dance.”

    “We kept the shows reckless and fun with a lot of jamming and interaction. Tour bussing from town to town all over America, we all brought our collective experience and love for performing to every show,” Nils reflects. “Turning up to ‘eleven’ and wailing inside this amazing band was a joy and revelation to me, having been away from playing with my own electric band for so long. Proud to share this rough and ready collection that breathes new life and inspiration into the best of my songs.

    “After 51 years on the road, I’m so grateful to have been inspired by this band and our audiences as never before!”


  • Old School

    oldschoolcoverbOld School
    Nils Lofgren
    Label: Vision Music, Inc.
    Reviewed: November, 2011

    Old School, the 44th solo project by guitar legend, Nils Lofgren, is a thinking person’s album – especially a thinking baby boomer. If you love introspective, nostalgic and thought provoking songs, you’re going to absolutely love this disc.

    Right out of the chute, the title song takes a look at how the contradictions and degradation of our society and world. This song is especially prescient with its commentary about child rape with the Penn State scandal erupting near this album’ release. Based on the last line of the song, the school’s alleged predator former coach should thank God that Nils isn’t in charge: “you rape my child the old school play would be to put you down like a rabid stray”. Lofgren is helped on the vocals by former Foreigner front man, Lou Gramm.

    Lofgren is helped on by some friends on a couple of others songs. Paul Rodgers belts it out on Amy Joan Blues and the great Sam Moore shows up on Ain’t Too Many Of Us Left.

    In 60 Is The New 18, Lofgren writes about how, as we face the age of 60 and beyond, it’s not unlike being 18 and not having a clue what you’re going to do with your life. Weighed by the angst of our current trying times, Nils has his finger on the pulse of our generation with this song.

    The Boomerocity favorites on this album are Just Because You Love Me as well as Let Her Get Away. The former is This soft, mellow acoustic number is of a man who recognizes much too late the mistakes he’s made in love and life.

    The album was produced by Brian Christian who is known for his production prowess on projects by Alice Cooper, KISS and the Baby’s. Fittingly, the album is dedicated to Lofgren’s long time band mate and close, dear friend, Clarence “Big Man” Clemmons, who passed away last June.

    Old School lands on December 6th and can be pre-ordered now by clicking on the icon at the top of the page. You’ll want to purchase extras because your friends will borrow your copy and never return it because they’ll love it as much as you do. Trust me.

  • Ringo's All Starr Band 2010

    Posted June, 2010

    This month will witness the latest tour and incarnation (the 11th, to be exact) of Ringo and His All Starr Band. This will be one of those special and rare opportunities to see the “lovable Beatle” performing many of the hits from his impressive solo work as well as from the Beatles’ extensive catalog. Ringo also will be sharing the spotlight with each of All Starr band mates as they sing some of their hits, as well.

    Ringo kicked off his first All Starr band back in the summer of 1989. The band consisted ofClarence Clemons (Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, the Jerry Garcia Band and the Grateful Dead), the late Rick Danko (The Band),Levon Helm (also of The Band),Dr. John, legendary session drummer,Jim Keltner (who worked on many of the greatest classic rock albums ever recorded),Nils Lofgren (Neil Young, E Street Band), the late Billy Preston and the incomparableJoe Walsh.

    Over the next twenty years, other big names such asBurton Cummings, Dave Edmunds,Randy Bachman, the lateJohn Entwistle,Peter Frampton,Todd Rundgren,Billy Squier,Greg Lake andEric Carmen, to name just a few, joined Ringo band of merry men, delighting audiences everywhere. Who wouldn’t want to see Ringo perform not only the great Beatles tunes but his many great songs from his long solo career? I mean, really! Who wouldn’t?

    The eleventh All Starr Band is made up of another impressive group of some of the best artists in rock and roll history. The multi-talentedEdgar Winter returns for his third tour of duty with Ringo as well asGary Wright for his second stint. On their maiden voyage with Ringo areRick Derringer (Hang On Sloopy, Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo),Richard Page (Mr. Mister),Wally Palmar (the Romantics) andGregg Bissonette (Maynard Ferguson, David Lee Roth, Carlos Santana, Toto).

    This tour is, in part, in support of Starr’s 15th solo album entitled Y Not that features ten great new tunes crafted, sung in the signature Ringo Starr style. You can read more on Y Not byclicking here to read the Boomerocity review of the album.

    To find out more about the latest All Starr Band tour, I tracked down Rick Derringer and Gary Wright. I chatted by with Derringer first, as he was in route to a sound check before a show with Pat Travers. Derringer shares that, “ . . .basically, Ringo’s agent has been a big fan and he tried to do it a couple of years ago but, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. This year, they had the slot to fill and I was the perfect guy to do it.”

    {mprestriction ids="*"}After breaking my heart by telling me that Dallas isn’t on the tour’s list of stops, I asked Rick what he thought can people expect from a show from the tour?

    “Well, they get to hear all the songs that Ringo sang with the Beatles and all of his solo hits. And then, everybody in the band is required to have had at least two hits that they’ve sung. So, you get to hear two songs from Gary Wright and two from Edgar Winter; two from Wally and the Romantics and two from the guy who sang lead from Mr. Mister and two from me! It’s a big show.”

    Having watched Derringer perform several times, I can personally tell you that you’re in for a real treat that you’ll not want to miss.

    Duringmy recent interview with Gary Wright, I asked him what it meant to him, from a career fulfillment standpoint, to be part of Ringo’s All-Starr Band not just once but twice.

    “Let me preface it by saying that I was a huge Beatles fan. I saw them when they first appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1962 – whenever that was. I was a huge Beatle fan. I played on all of George Harrison’s solo albums and to have been a close friend of his and I met Ringo through George because he played on George’s first solo album, All Things Must Pass. So, I’ve known Ringo over the years. All of a sudden, out of the blue, to get a call two years ago to join him – well, first of all, I was overjoyed. 

    “He’s a great drummer – a fantastic drummer. He’s got an incredible feel. And, he’s a wonderful, wonderful human being! He’s giving; he’s very kind; he’s funny; he’s just a great person to be around. He treats the musicians really wonderfully. And, it’s a joy! It’s like touring at its best. It can’t hardly get any better than that!”

    In discussing Ringo’s line-up for this tour, each band member is mentioned with accolades by Gary: Edgar Winter as a great keyboardist; Rick Derringer and his phenomenal guitar work, Gary goes on by adding, “ . . . Richard Page from Mr. Mister – he’s got great songs like Kyrie, Eléison and Broken Wing. And Wally Palmer from (The Romantics’) Talking In My Sleep and That’s What I Like About You – they’re all great songs.

    “The thing about the Ringo show is that it’s hit after hit after hit and the audience loves it, which is good. It’s like those old doo-wop shows from the 50’s when there’d be ten artists on the bill and each group would come up and sing one, two or three of their big songs and everyone would people would go crazy. It’s that identity factor that people love to hear their favorite artist.”

    Ringo’s All Starr Tour kicks off June 24th in Niagra Falls, Ontario, and concludes at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on August 7th. Click here to see if the boys are coming to a city near year. If they are within a couple of hours driving distance or a good, quick flight from where you live, I would highly encourage you to take this opportunity to catch Ringo and the boys in concert.

    While you’re at it, why not pick up or download Y Not? If you’re waffling about buying it, again, you can read the Boomerocity review of ithere.{/mprestriction}