TD: Nils weíve got a couple of questions that people put up on SPL that I feel some obligation to ask you. So Iíll sort of mention some of the things that people asked us. One member said that years ago, back in 1970, when you were with Grin, that you opened for Jimi Hendrix for a couple of concerts, some of the last ones that he did. Do you remember that, and if you do what was it like?
Nils Lofgren: Oh it was one of the great memories of my life. In fact it was, I think it was just a month after Steel Mill, Bruceís band and my band Grin did an audition at the Fillmore West with 20 acts, looking for an opening act for Bill Graham. And months after that with Grin, we started opening for everyone, and of course spent a lot of time opening for J Giles, White Trash, Fog Hat, Black Oak Arkansas, I mean anybody and everybody, Van Morrison. But I still remember when we got the call from our manager at the time, Art, and he said at the time, look man weíve got you three gigs opening for Jimi Hendrix. And first of all we couldnít believe it but it was true. It was Sacramento, Ventura and San Bernardino. And the Ventura gig fell on June 21st which at the time was my 19th birthday. So we were just out of our minds, happy to sit on the side of the stage and watch the great, mystical, beautiful Jimi Hendrix and be inspired. And you know I got to go back and knock on his Winnebago door and say hi and thank him for the music and get out of there before I bothered him. And it was a momentous 3 gigs, especially the one on my birthday of course, Iíll never forget it.
CJ: Thatís great. So after those gigs, what was the greatest highlight, what do you look back on as far as a show that Jimmy put on that most sticks out in your mind?
Nils Lofgren: Well I used to follow Jimmy up the East Coast; you know I saw him in California, any time I could get to see Jimi Hendrix I would because he was my favorite. He had an extra dose of inspiration any time you could get to see him. Hendrix was my favorite guitarist of all time, I went to see him whenever I could. And every time, you know especially on my birthday, it was Grin, Ball and Jack and The Jimi Hendrix experience. So the first step is that youíre nervous as hell because youíre opening for Jimi Hendrix and you want to do a good job. So that tunnel vision focus which I still try to have at shows, about how to best prepare to go out and kind of free form, use your musical instinct and do a good show which I felt we did with Grin. And then thereís that giant relief, itís like okay I did my job, now I get to just hang out for an hour, watch Ball and Chain, knowing that the great Jimi Hendrix is going to come out and place for me, for us, and anyone in the vicinity, and Iím going to be able to sit on the side of the stage because Iím the opening act, and watch him from that perspective as opposed to out front, which Iím used to. And it was just a magical day, we were just kind of overwhelmed and ecstatic and itís lingered for more than 40 years.
TD: Wow. Are there any other musicians that you remember watching or playing with that really stand out?
Nils Lofgren: Well back then, youíve got to remember that this was the 60s so it all stood out. I mean going to see the Jeff Beck Group, I used to follow them around the East Coast, I used to hassle Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart and they let me come up to their hotel rooms and hang out while they just shot the breeze and kind of forgot that I was there. And they were long time just mentors and encouraging musicians that even in the beginning, you know Peter Grant, evil tyrant manager would want to throw me out and Rod and Ronnie were like no, no, let them stay with us. And watch Jeff Beck every night and those guys. And a couple of years later Grin started opening for the Faces, Rod and Ronnie and the Faces, and now I go from fan in the audience sneaking backstage to opening act.
Nils Lofgren: And probably one of the greatest musical nights of my life, me and all my buddies as teenagers went to Constitution Hall to see the original Who. And then we all rushed over for Jimi Hendrixís late show, and Pete Townsend was in the audience, and Jimif Hendrix came out and dedicated the opening song to Pete Townsend and then broke into Sergeant Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band. So to go see the original Who and then 2 hours later with Townsend in the audience to see Jimi Hendrix. And then years later in 79 my solo band did a 5 week festival tour of Europe opening for the Who, with ACDC, the Stranglers, and you know me and the Who.
Iíve been really blessed, you know to see Ray Charles in the 60s, all those guys, Richie Haven, I saw BB King 10 times at the cellar hall where I met Neil Young, I saw Crazy Horse four times, and I never got to see Howling Wolf but I got to see Muddy Waters twice. So youíve got to understand that back then, the bands that were good, they were really good and left some powerful musical imprints on me at that age. And look, I still go see great bands, I just, me and Amy went down a couple of weeks ago to see Sting, and he was extraordinary. Guys like him, Peter Gabriel that are still, like Bruce, you know people that havenít lost a thing, but have gained some wisdom and insight and some musical muscle with age as opposed to losing anything, itís an extraordinary thing to hang on to and to offer to people. But to see those bands in their heyday, when they were kind of in the early days of discovering themselves, and for all of us to watch them from a musical point of view it was just amazing. And thereís still many great bands playing live, thatís one of the beauties of live performing where I feel most at home.
You know making records is hard work, it requires patience I donít have and you know, I find it and I love my new record, I think itís one of the best Iíve ever made. But going out in front of an audience and playing live is really where I feel most at home, itís my lifeblood. And the only downside is I get homesick, but itís a nice problem to have Ė my wife calls it champagne problems, you know, where you are lucky to have a home you miss. And I just, Iíve come to terms now for the last 5 years, I find this new level of gratitude and excitement walking out in front of an audience that really wants to be there. Because getting to a show these days is a hassle, and itís not that easy for everyone. And that simultaneously is occurring with a new level of homesickness which is a good problem because I have a home that I love. So you know I pull out a suitcase and the dogs give me dirty looks, and I hate leaving them, I mean it sounds silly but itís true. But Iím just so lucky that Iíve been blessed with an ability to perform and have people want to show up, and I keep going out and doing it, and I have a new level of gratitude for that and appreciation and what it takes to get to a show. Hey, I donít go to that many shows because I want to go and know that Iím going to be inspired, and a point in case is a few weeks ago with an artist like Sting, thereís not many of them.
CJ: Any more modern artists that maybe inspire you that you listen to these days?
Nils Lofgren: Yeah, I always draw a blank with that, but I know that, I mean look, Iím not that familiar with her work but from what Iíve heard from Adele I love. Macy Gray is not that new, but sheís fairly new. Sheís not from my generation. And Macy Gray was doing some great albums. Johnny Langís been around awhile. And heís great, a younger cat. Gary Clark, new blues guitarist Ė fabulous. Martin Sextonís been around awhile. Heís kind of off the grid, a great, great singer, writer, player out of the Northeast. I know thereís some young new bands that Iíve heard that Iím kind of impressed by. I saw somebody on ĎSaturday Night Liveí recently that I thought was great. I donít even remember who the heck they were. I keep my eyes open but, you know, Iím so wrapped up in my own thing that a lot of times one of my buddies or somebody Iím talking to you like you yourselves will turn me on to something and Iíll go check it out. Thereís a lot of great new artists coming up that are starting out.
For every person who doesnít know who Neil Young is, thereís like, you know, thousands of kids that study him as the Godfather of Grunge or whatever you want to call him. Heís a master. And heís another one of those guys that are right up there with the greatest artists of all time that Iíve been blessed to work with a lot and be mentored by at a young age. Ö Thanks to the internet, thereís a lot of terrible music and a lot of great music. Itís not all on MTV or the Top 20. Youíve got to go find it. People turn you onto it. But thatís the beauty ofÖ. Thereís good and bad in everything, including the internet, but one of the good things is somebody can tell you about a band and you can go on YouTube and see Ďem. And, you know, those are some of the names that come to mind. Iím sure if I had a list of all the new young artists Iíd find you some more names. Thereís some people that Iíve heard recently. Joss Stone. Sheís great. A great young singer. Beautiful R&B voice. Itís just nice to see people that grew up with Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke style ofÖ. Sam Moore, Sandra Day.
Samís still around. He lives in my town. He was kind enough to sing on one of my favorite songs on the record, Ainít Too Many of Us Left. Sam lives in Phoenix. Iím in Scottsdale. Heís there, too. So I got to go into the studio and look him in the eye and sing face to face with Sam Moore. That was a little intimidating. It was actually a cool song. Came about, I was in the hospital a few days after my surgery so I was really doped up and just wrestling with, you know, I felt like a truck had hit me. The phone rang. You know, people were calling and wishing me well and checking on me. My wife Amy grabbed the phone and put it up to my ear and it was Neil Young. He gave me a pep talk and checked in on my progress. Through the haze, I remember very significantly he was telling me Ďlook man, you got to get well and heal up, there ainít too many of us left.í And I thought to myself through the drug-induced haze at the time, which was necessary for the pain, I thought thatís gonna be a good song someday. I knew this album I had to get that written and out. To have the great Sam Moore sing that with me was very prophetic for me because of course Sam is one of the greats that is still around and healthy and singing great.
Stone Pony London
The SPL's Nils Lofgren Old School Intervew: Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4