“Over two nights, I watched four shows and spent the afternoons at the hotel talking with Neil and playing songs. My little group, Grin, was headed to Los Angeles, and, true to his word, when I looked him up in L.A. a few weeks later, Neil turned me on to his producer, David Briggs. They both kind of became my greatest mentors.”
It was a fortuitous set of circumstances that would change the trajectory of Lofgren’s career, setting him on a course that, along with his highly acclaimed work as a solo artist, would lead him to numerous collaborations, including joining Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1984, touring in Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band in 1989 and working with many other artists, including Neil Young himself.
“A year after meeting Neil, I was 18 and living with David in Topanga Canyon,” continues the multi-instrumentalist, “and we wound up doing the After the Gold Rush album [on which Lofgren played guitar and piano and sang].
"That led to Crazy Horse’s first album without Neil, which was [keyboardist] Jack Nitzsche and myself, Danny Whitten on guitar and Ry Cooder guesting.
“Then everyone started dying [Whitten, along with Young’s friend and guitar tech, Bruce Berry, died of drug overdoses], and the result of that was the wake album, Tonight’s the Night [which Young released in 1975].
“Then we did the Trans album and tour in the ’80s, and in 1993 I played the MTV Unplugged special with Neil. Throughout it all, I’d also appear with him at the Bridge School Benefit concerts.”
In this candid interview clip, Neil Young details why he and Nils Lofgren have enjoyed such a long and fruitful musical relationship. “He’s part of the band and always has been part of the band,” he explains. “He’s skillful, beautiful, got a great touch, but he’s open. Most importantly, he’s listening to everything.”
Order the 2021 Neil Young and Crazy Horse album Barn featuring Nils Lofgren here.
Get The Pick Newsletter
All the latest guitar news, interviews, lessons, reviews, deals and more, direct to your inbox!
Art Thompson is Senior Editor of Guitar Player magazine. He has authored stories with numerous guitar greats including B.B. King, Prince and Scotty Moore and interviewed gear innovators such as Paul Reed Smith, Randall Smith and Gary Kramer. He also wrote the first book on vintage effects pedals, Stompbox. Art's busy performance schedule with three stylistically diverse groups provides ample opportunity to test-drive new guitars, amps and effects, many of which are featured in the pages of GP.
“Your Best Song Is Always yet to Come”: Telecaster Master James Burton Names Five Career-Defining Tracks
“If You Think You’re Going to Get Better by Watching 30-Second Instagram Clips of Guitarists Playing as Fast as They Can, Think Again”: Eddie 9V Shares the Advice That Made Him Blues-Rock’s New Guitar Star