“He Holds Everything Together”: Neil Young Reveals Why Nils Lofgren Is the Ideal Bandmate

Neil Young (right) and Nils Lofgren onstage in Paris, September 16, 1982, shortly before making the album Trans.
(Image credit: THIERRY ORBAN/Sygma via Getty Images)

“I walked in on Neil and Crazy Horse at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., on their first tour,” Nils Lofgren told Guitar Player, casting his mind back to May 1969.

“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.

Most importantly, he’s listening to everything

Neil Young

“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.

Art Thompson
Senior Editor

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.

With contributions from