Singer-songwriter Nils Lofgren enjoys keeping up with his old pals. A few years ago, driving through his new hometown in Arizona, his cellular rang. It was his former employer Neil Young, wondering if he’d like to participate in a MusiCares tribute to another Boss, Bruce Springsteen (for whom he plays guitar in the E Street Band) and replicate keyboards on a Crazy Horse version of “Born in the U.S.A.” Never expecting a call like that, he was there the next day. Likewise, when Young phoned again with an invite to play his Bridge School benefit, Lofgren immediately agreed, even though he was flying out for a 32-date U.K. tour immediately afterward.
How did you first meet Neil?
My band Grin hit the road when I was 17, and I didn’t know anything about the music business. So I’d sneak backstage and ask for advice from my musical heroes, or any pro musicians. And not all of them had time for me, understandably. But at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., Neil was on his first Crazy Horse tour, so I snuck back and said, “I’m a musician, but I don’t know what I’m doing. Any advice?” He said, “Well, do you write songs?” And he handed me his Martin and said, “Sing me one.” And I wound up singing a few songs from the first Grin record, and he liked them.
And you eventually joined Crazy Horse, too.
Yeah. But that day, he got me a table and a cheeseburger and a Coke, because I was underage. And I watched four Crazy Horse shows over two nights, and then hung out in the afternoons with him. I told him my band was going to L.A. in a few weeks, looking for a record deal, and he said, “Look me up when you get there.” So of course, I had no idea how to find him. So I landed with my giant suitcase and I hitchhiked and mostly walked from LAX to Topanga Canyon, and then at the shopping center I’m trying to grill strangers about how to find Neil Young’ house, way up in the hills. It was pretty hilarious.
A year later, while we were finding our way in L.A. with this producer David Briggs, they asked me to do the “After the Gold Rush” album at 18 years of age, which was enormous. And that led to working with Crazy Horse. So I’m excited to play the first night of the Bridge school. It’s like old home week for me, because that was such a powerful musical family for me in my early days, and still remains so. So now I get to share that with my wife Amy, who’s already heard all the stories.
IF YOU GO
Bridge School Benefit
with Neil Young + Promise Of The Real, Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow, Ryan Adams, St. Vincent, Gary Clark Jr., Spoon, Nils Lofgren (Saturday only)
Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: 5 p.m. Oct. 24, 2 p.m. Oct. 25