• Posted April, 2012

    During my first interview with guitar great, Andy Timmons, back in the fall of 2010, he mentioned a husband/wife team that had a band. Her name was Maylee Thomas and, to hear him tell it, she had an awesome sound that he thought I’d really like.  He mentioned that her husband, George Fuller, was the guitarist in the band and had just opened up a great, high-end guitar boutique called The Guitar Sanctuary.  This venture is on top of George’s very successful  construction company and other ventures.

    How does he do it?!

    In the proceeding months, I managed to check out the store and also hear the band a few times.  Andy was right (not that I would ever doubt him).  When I first heard Maylee and the band perform, I was blown away by her incredible voice, range and stage presence.  Think Janis Joplin, Bonnie Bramlett, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler (and I’m sure that, if I had the time, I could name a few others) all wrapped up into one tiny but explosive individual.  The band was tight and intuitive – not just very well rehearsed but intuitive.

    As I researched Maylee and George since that fall day a year and a half ago, I learned that, not only were they good friends with Andy and had worked with him countless times, they were also tight with the great, iconic sax player for Bruce Springsteen, the late Clarence “Big Man” Clemons.

    I have six of Maylee’s CD’s and each and every one of them brings on musical, audio phonic bliss.  Being the methodical geek that I am, when I first got them, I listened to them in chronological order – which is a problem.  Why? Well, as you’ll read later in this piece, the very first album, Rhythm of the Blues, has not only the guitar prowess of Andy Timmons but the signature sax sound of Clemons on the sax throughout the CD and even the Edwin Hawkins Choir on a couple of tracks.

    That’s not to say that the rest of the musicians are slouches.  Space doesn’t permit me to drill down into all of the musicians just on the first album but check out just a small handful of ‘em:  Jamie Oldaker (Bob Seger, Eric Clapton, Ace Frehley) and Dan Wojciechowski (Peter Frampton) on drums, Chuck Rainey (Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones) on bass, and Dave Grissom (John Mellencamp, Allman Brothers, Dixie Chicks) on guitar.

    How am I supposed to get through a single CD – let alone my stack of six Maylee Thomas CDs – if I’m continually slappin’ the repeat button?  Hmmmm?

    A line up like these greats show the high level of excellence that Maylee and George strive for in their CDs.  Their stage band is also very, very good local musicians in their own right.  Every time I’ve seen them perform, they seem to raise the bar of excellence higher and higher.  To catch the Maylee Thomas Band live at any venue, any size will insure that you are in for a very real treat.

    After too long of time, I finally approached Maylee and George about interviewing them.  We met up at one of their businesses and I was immediately taken by their warmth and graciousness. Both exude a love of life and a humble confidence (no, that’s not a contradiction in terms) in all that they do.

    After some introductory small talk, I started off by asking the two of them how they met and got together.  Their response to my question led to stories that show their true heart for people.  George led off.

     “Maylee and I met in the fall of 1990. I was playing in a band in the West End – I was playing at Bahama Bob’s and she was playing at another club down the street. My band mates came to me on a break and said, ‘Man, you’ve got to check out this girl down the road. She’s a tremendous singer and performer!’ I went down there and saw her and I set a goal that night that I was going to get in that band because I was disgusted with my present band.

    “As fate would have it, literally that next Monday, she called the studio that I co-owned at the time with Jimmy Wallace – Sound Southwest – asking Jimmy – who she knew – if he could refer any guitar players because they were looking for a new guitar player. So that’s how we met.”

    Maylee injected, “Isn’t that bizarre? I mean, that’s kind of a “God thing”. It would have to be.”

    George continued by explaining, “I’m trying to give you the Reader’s Digest version because the reality was I was so fed up with the band.  I’m a business guy – left and right brained and a lot of the musicians that I was dealing with at the time didn’t have that. If the gig was at 9 o’clock, they would show up at 9:15 – maybe sober, maybe not.”

    George eventually wound up in Maylee’s band and, to hear him tell it, “For the last 20 years we’ve been playing music together, writing music together. We ended up developing a relationship during the early years of the band and at some point got married.

    “It’s been a great journey ever since. Our journey has been in a secular band. It’s been in the recording studio. It’s been in worship bands and leading worship. It’s just been all over the place.  In ’92 we decided to begin the Love Life Foundation. I forget what the occasion was but there was a fundraiser that needed to happen and people were racing around trying to figure out how we organize that fundraiser. We decided, ‘Let’s use our music and talent and put together a benefit concert. We did that and that worked out well. Over a period of time we decided that we would formalize that endeavor and formed Love Life Foundation and started that whole journey as well.

    “Here we are today with four kids, a guitar store, a construction business, Love Life Foundation, and two bands.  We have a ‘secular’ band and a ‘worship’ band. We have a trio kind of thing and periodically we do a duet. But one thing that comes out in everything that we do – and it’s evidenced in every CD we’ve ever put out and is evidenced in every show that we play whether it’s the secular band or, obviously, the worship band – the common thread that we have in everything – in all of our music – is our beliefs and our faith.

    “If you watch Maylee and the band on a Friday night in a bar filled with many inebriated people, Maylee will start ‘preaching’. I think she sometimes gets confused and thinks we’re in church” and then, more seriously, adds, “She never hides her faith and it’s always a real strong component in everything we do – or, what she does specifically”.

    If you listen to Maylee’s music, you will immediately sense her deep faith in God.  Talking with her in person is not different.

    “I was blessed very early on to sit under the ministry of Kenneth Hagin, Sr. so I saw the real thing and I saw a lot of ‘carbon copies’.  When we first got together, George had never been to a ‘spirit-filled’ church. He had grown up quasi-Catholic. I had been around that, as well, but my dad was Jewish so you can imagine the dynamic in my family. They thought I had totally gone off the deep end. The ‘Jesus’ thing was bad enough but, then, the ‘spirit-filled’ stuff was like, ‘She’s gotten into some bad drugs!’

    “When George and I first started dating (and going to church together), he’s like, ‘they’re putting their hands up and this is for real, huh?’”

    George interjects some humor at this point.

    “I thought everyone was raising their hands because they had a question and I didn’t have a question so I kept my hands down. Then I realized that no one ever got asked a question so I figured out that it was something else. I finally got ticked off because Maylee would always raise her hand and I’d be like, ‘’Scuse me! She’s got a question! Would you let her ask it?!’ Then that embarrassed her and I learned that that was not what she was doing.”

    Still in the vein of sharing her religious background, Maylee shared a very personal story about the pain of going through a divorce while being a relatively high profile person within certain religious environments.  Keep in mind as you read her story that, in those church circles, divorce was verboten – especially divorce among those in the ministry. The story revealed her unique perspective on faith, life, love and living as well as her ability to relate on a personal level with the pain that people go through in their relationships and daily lives.

    “I went to Southwestern Assemblies of God University (Waxahachie, Texas), and traveled with a group called Maranatha all over the country and abroad. I met a guy and fell in love. He was an evangelist from Rhema (Bible Training Center in Oklahoma) and, unfortunately, the downfall for him was that he was married before. His wife was killed in a car accident that they were in and she was pregnant at the time. It was a real hard thing for him.

    “We were together for seven years and travelled all over. We were evangelists for years and also pastored a church in Florida and were associate pastors at a big church out in California. I kind of knew that this couldn’t be the ultimate in a marriage because it was almost like we were living two separate lives. He was up at 5 a.m. every single morning, down in his office studying. I felt so lonely and disconnected but I had made this vow – where I grew up, if you get married it’s for good! I knew that going in. I made this vow to God and I just didn’t have it in me to ask for a divorce. I just couldn’t. I was just going to keep this thing going.

    “In God’s wonderful way, I didn’t have to because he asked me for it. Basically, what he said was, ‘I don’t love you in the way I should. I’ve never gotten over my first wife and I need to let you go and let you have a life where you can be loved in the way you deserve to be loved.’

    “That’s the nicest thing you can say to someone in that situation. Of course, I was still devastated and I still thought that he would miss me and come around and all of that but he never did. He never remarried. He’s still teaching, travelling and doing all of that but he never got remarried so it wasn’t ‘another woman’ kind of thing . . . although it was. I believe that the love of his life was his first wife.”

    Without being asked, Maylee went on to share her opinion as to why her first husband married her to begin with.

    “He felt pressured because he would go to churches and all the single women would be hitting on him and he felt that he couldn’t accomplish what he wanted to do being in that arena single. He struggled with it. He told me that. Of course, I didn’t think anything of it because I believed what he was saying when said, ‘I want you go be my wife’.

    “Ultimately, the greatest thing that happened was that he let me go. Had that not happened, obviously, I wouldn’t have found my soul mate.”

    Injecting what I by then learned as George’s tremendous sense of humor, he asks Maylee, “You are referring to me, right?” and then turns to me while remarkably dead-pan and said, “We had a dog that she loved. I just wanted to be clear.”

    Maylee concluded the subject of her first husband by saying, “The other thing was we knew each other three months and got married. Part of it, for me, was that I was ready to get on with my life – ready to get out of school.  Of course, when everybody found out that I was dating this guy, to them it was like the ultimate for a woman – a girl – at a Bible college to hook up with a minister, go on the road and be an evangelist. I had everybody’s blessing.”

    Maylee segues from sharing about the pain of a failed marriage to her gospel music background: “The Assemblies of God in California – there were a lot of black churches so I spent a lot of time in a lot of black churches where I was literally the only white girl there. So that’s where I really cut my teeth in that kind of music. You can definitely hear it in the music we’ve incorporated.

    “I came here in the 80’s and decided that I was just going to be real. I felt like, at that point – when I got out of that relationship – I had to be real to myself. I felt that I was doing a disservice to God. For a while, I kind of ran from the church, thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t be in church because they’re going to try to make me something that I’m not.’ The reality is, God created us the way we are and to be 100% who we are for Him and that’s what we’ve done.

    “I still get people who say, ‘Why are you wasting your talent in a bar? Why aren’t you doing it in the church?’ I’ll say, ‘People are people whether they’re in the bar or in the church. I’m not wasting it if I’m singing to people who are hungry.’

    Obviously, Maylee and George come in contact with lots of hungry people at their gigs.

    “George will tell you that people have come up countless times afterwards – a lot of times they’re pretty emotional – and they’ll say, ‘I just want you to know that I was really moved tonight when you started singing. I really appreciated it’. And then some people come up and say, ‘I don’t know what it was but you made me cry.’  That’s the spirit of God. So, it’s really been a great ministry and I feel very blessed that we’re able to do it the way that we are.  Of course, there are some clubs that we play in and once we give the message, they don’t ask us to come back. But, for the most part, they do.”

    This crowd reaction dovetails with the band’s “mission statement”, if you will, that George shared.

    “Every song we write and virtually every song that Maylee sings – and there’s many songs that she won’t sing – if there’s a mission statement it would be that all music we play has a good message – a pure message.  At the same time, we don’t say that we’re going to go out and play bars and spread the Word of God in our playing otherwise we’re not doing it.  We don’t have that restriction either. That just happens to be something that comes natural and is part of our thread that we’re woven with. It’s not a contrived or forced thing. It happens as it happens.”

    Before Maylee’s total immersion into the soulful sounds of black gospel music, she was exposed to other great music. She shared those influences in response to my question of past and current influences.

    “My very first record I ever bought was Tapestry by Carole King. Of course, at that time there was James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and those kinds of people and then Janis Joplin, Tina Turner and that genre.   Even, in the 80’s, Pat Benatar and some of these big, gigantic voices of the secular field.  On the Christian side, I was more into the black gospel kind of stuff – Shirley Caesar, the Winans.  The Edwin Hawkins Choir is on our first record. They sang background on two of the songs that we wrote.

    “Right now?  The cool thing about right now is, for me, is that there’s definitely two completely different styles of music that are hitting the radio waves hard. To me, one of them is all created in the studio and is all technology and I’m just not a big fan of that. I guess that’s because I grew up when you where, if you were a musician, you really play. I’m okay with some tone mistakes and some hissing.  I like that!  I’m a very passionate, emotional kind of singer and I love that. I don’t like it when they clean everything up to the point that it’s just sterile. I think that our group of people is coming back to that from some of the musicians out there.”

    George’s response to the same question was also interesting.

    “My musical influences have always been guitar players – a lot of guitar heroes – Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Gary Moore.  On the other side, I’ve always been a huge songwriter fan. People that influenced me were Billy Falcon, who a lot of people don’t know by name but had some hits in the mid-nineties – written a lot for Bon Jovi and many, many other people.  I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan just from the whole songwriting aspect and as live performers.  And, then when I came to Texas, I was actually influenced mostly by local talent.  Jimmy Wallace, Andy Timmons – Andy continues to be my greatest influence – I don’t know about ‘influence’ but he inspires me the most.

    “Then, on a current level, I would still have to say Andy. Anything that has melody and strong in songwriting – I’m not a guitar gymnastic guy. I’m not a fan of the Yngwie Malmsteen’s or anything like that. I’m more of about melody, soul and passion.”

    Maylee added, “You were talking about Bruce – that was the other thing that we were so blessed with having a relationship with Clarence Clemons for so many years. That opened me up. See, the only ‘Bruce’ I was familiar with was all the hits they used to play on the radio and they weren’t even my favorite songs of his. George would go, ‘Aren’t you a Bruce Springsteen fan?” and I’m like, ‘Ah, well, he’s okay’.  But once I heard him in concert, I was blown away.”

    I asked Maylee and George how their relationship with Clarence Clemons started. George shared the surprisingly funny story.

    “We were playing at a club – we were at Take 5 in Dallas and in walks an entourage of people.  It Clarence Clemons, Kelsey Grammer, Alan Thicke, Dave Anderson (“McGyver”), Leonardo DiCaprio – they all walked in. They were travelling at the time with the 1980 gold medal hockey team doing this charity thing. There was a celebrity team playing on ice against the gold medal hockey team and it was all for charity. So they came walking in. Of course, I’m a fan of a lot of them. I love Kelsey Grammer and Frasier – big fan.  But my attention was immediately to the large black man. That’s the Big Man – Clarence Clemons.

    “So, we took a break and I immediately went over to Clarence and said, ‘You don’t happen to have your sax with you, do you?’  He said, ‘Ah, man, I wish I did!  You guys rock!’  I said, ‘Where is it?’ and he said, ‘It’s at the hotel.’  I said, ‘I got a car right out back. We could go get it.’  He said, ‘Let’s go!’

    “He got in my car and we drove one-way streets the wrong way and down sidewalks to get him to the hotel.  We go up, get his sax.  I don’t know this guy from Adam. I’m just a fan. We’re coming down the elevator in the hotel that happened to be hosting the national cheerleading competition. Clarence loved life and loved as many in life as he could. I almost didn’t get him out of the hotel. Girls started paying attention to him and he was like, ‘Maybe I should stay?’ and I’m like, ‘NO!’

    “I got him back in the car. We go back. We made it there and back within the 30 minute break. Kelsey Grammer got up and played piano, Alan played guitar and sang, and Clarence blew sax. That was a fantastic night playing the last set together.

    “Maylee knows me and knows that I’m not going to let that opportunity go.  At the time I had the studio with Jimmy Wallace and we were working on our first record.  It’s two in the morning and I don’t want to push my luck but I said to Clarence, ‘ Man, it’s a long shot but is there any way I can talk you into coming into the studio with us? We’re doing this record and it would be so awesome if you could play on it” He asked, ‘Where’s the studio?’ and I said, ‘Oh, it’s ten minutes from here’ – it was really 40.  He’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’

    “So, we get in the car and I’m freakin’ out, thinkin’ ‘How do I make 40 minutes seem like 10 minutes?’ It’s 2:30 in the morning by the time we leave.  We get him into the studio and we played until dawn. He played the solos on I’ve Got You and Beyond My Wildest Dreams – they were all just first takes. Incredible. Just incredible.

    “So, then, I take him back to the hotel and he’s going to be on a plane in hours. He’s been up the whole night. I’m thinking, ‘I don’t want to let this go!’ and so I’m talking to him and he’s telling me about his birthday. He was turning 50 in two weeks. He made the comment – I’m sure that he was just being polite – ‘Too bad you don’t live out there. If you can make it, you ought to come to my birthday.’

    “Well, I latched on to that and two weeks later I fly out there. I go to his house. I didn’t have his phone number or anything. I can’t confirm that I’m really invited but I do my research and find where he lives and I show up!  He had said, ‘When you come you can stay with me!’  I had my bag and I show up at his door, ringing the doorbell. Someone answers and they said, ‘Who are you?’ Clarence jumped up and hugged me. He was very gracious.  He told everybody about the recording session. He remembered every detail. He welcomed me in and insisted that I stay there. We laughed about that story for many years afterwards.”

    Maylee added, “From that point on, George, Clarence and I became very, very close friends. We saw him through a lot – a lot.  He (Clemons) told me later, ‘I never had anybody make me laugh as much as Geo has! I would cry I would be laughing so hard.’

    I asked George and Maylee how they met Andy Timmons.

    “Maylee met Andy playing in some clubs when she was with Robert Lee Kobb. The real strong friendship between the three of us came later when I met him and befriended him. At the time he was living in Denton and had an unreliable car – Druzilla was its name – and Druzilla ran part of the time and didn’t run most of the time. I would drive up to Denton, picking up Andy and bringing him into town and we’d go cruising around. We had a lot of time to become friends.

    “Andy played in the band for 2 – 2 ½ years maybe. Here’s been involved with virtually every record we’ve ever recorded from all the way back from Rhythm of the Blues to now. He’s obviously a tremendous talent. He’s a tremendous individual and a tremendous person. Very genuine. He is exactly what he projects himself to be. That’s just him. He’s wonderful, passionate, caring and giving. To me, he’s truly the most talented guitar player I’ve ever seen, heard or listen to. He has all of that technical proficiency but he also has that unequalled sense of melody and passion that comes through in his playing.”

    Then, with the humor that I quickly grew to love and appreciate during our visit, George adds, “I think he’s stolen some of his licks from me over the years. He and I talk about it often. I’ll single out one note from one of his records and say, ‘That note sounds pret-ty familiar!’ and he’s like, ‘Man! You caught that? The thirteenth bar on the seventh song?’

    As we finished our mutual, verbal love fest for Andy, Maylee shared how George and Andy connect on a comedic level. However, in telling me this, she let it slip that Andy and George are both actually super-hero crime-fighters with well ventilated, official super-hero costumes and real super-hero motorcycle and side-car.  I saw photographic evidence so I know this to be true.

    I’m sure I’m going to hear about this later.

    Blown away by the current Maylee Thomas Band catalog, I asked what the plans were as far as a new CD in the near future.  George indicated that “We’ve written new songs and we’re getting ready to record. We’re going to start recording them as soon as possible.”

    As for what’s on the radar for the next year and the next five years, George shared that it was to  “Finish this record and get it recorded will be the immediate goal. Over the next five years? Wherever God takes us. I mean, really. I don’t mean to sound hokey but that’s it. We’re going to continue to write, play, lead worship and see where that takes us. We recently did a song for the Rick Santorum campaign. You can hear it on YouTube. It’s called A Better Day. We were contacted by someone at the Republican National Committee about using the song for him. So, maybe we’ll go down that road. Just wherever God takes us.”

    Then, again, with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye that warns me that I’m about to laugh yet again, he shares what their lofty goal as a band is.

    “We’re going to hire Bruce Springsteen to play with us in our band. The G Street Band with special guest, Bruce Springsteen! That’s our lofty goal!”

  • Posted November, 2011

    Photo by Fotex Rainer Drechsler

    In 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 Maryland where I grew up years ago. It’s right across the

    Photo By Guy Aceto

    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.

    “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 back 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,

    Photo Courtesy of Nils Lofgren

    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.

  • Posted August 10, 2014

    I’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 print - 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.

    “Basically, we had some healthy debates about what to leave on or off. At the end of the day, there were no bad ideas. They just deferred to me. My goal was to never stand up and move the needle on the turntable. I didn’t skip any tracks. I wanted it – for me – to flow. I could listen to every song and feel some emotion or connection.

    “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.”

    Artists always tell me that picking “favorite” songs is almost like picking a favorite child. Out of the wealth of selections from your vast body of work, how were you able to choose even 169 songs? What was your process?

    “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, with the help of Steve Smolen – who is this collector – and some friends, we assembled everything. Billy Wolf, who mastered the whole record, put a rough order together. First of all, I started listening to everything, physically, and making decisions as to what to leave on and off. When I had my guidelines, I had some healthy debates with Tom Cartwright, in particular, who is very helpful, about which songs to leave on and off. Then I started assembling the running order together. Some albums we might take three songs. Some albums we might take six.

    “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.

    “I left the record company business in the mid-nineties and I have a website, NilsLofgren.com, where you can order the box set and get a special pin of the cover shot that my wife put together. Nevertheless, the last twenty years, of course, I would put music out of my own and I will continue to do that, of course. So, that was a little easier. I would just license it to the other companies. We didn’t have to haggle with myself because I own the music. It’s been a helluva journey by a lot of people. My manager, Tom Gofogel, my music attorney, Scott Johnson; everyone at Concord Fantasy – halfway through a new regime took over the company and I started working with a hole other team of great people. The president, Sig Sigworth, decided to champion the project and move forward. And, now, here we are. I’ve got it in my hands and it’s coming out. It plays great to me. Billy Wolf, the mastering engineer, put it together beautifully. It’s just shocking to hear all of this stuff in one place, put together well and mastered by a great engineer and sounding so good after all these decades.”

    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.”
     
    Since 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.”

    As for tour or performance plans, Nils shared, “September 26th and 28th – a Friday and Sunday, I’m at the Hard Rock in Vegas – a duo show, me and my buddy, Greg Varlotta, who’s played with me the last five or six years. We do a great duo show – a lot of singin’, playin’, keyboards, guitars, jamming, great tap dances. I even do a little tapping, if you can believe that. So, we’ve got a great show that we’re putting back together. Of course, there’ll be some different songs from the box set.

    “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.

    “Then, probably, just because I’ve been gone twenty six months, I want to help my wife out, my dogs, I have a beautiful home and I miss it. So, other than these shows in the near future, I want to get healthier and stronger and see how I react to the shows physically and do enough physical therapy and rehab to get strong and then, my hope is, this Fall and Winter, start writing again, think about a record, promote the box set. I’ll do some TV shows, hopefully, if they’ll have me, and a lot more promotion through the year. Then, next year, probably as soon as the weather breaks in the northeast, start playing more – start doing a bunch of runs. As long as E Street has no plans, my intent is to get back and play everywhere. I’m going to try to get out more and play all over the country again.”

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

    “First of all, most of it’s out of print so, for people who have followed me, here’s, in my view, the best of forty-five plus years of hard work and have it all in one place and my vision of it running through and with a lot of time and care put into the assembly and mastering of it, I hope that it will mean a lot to existing fans. For people who don’t know about me and just want check me out because I’ve played with other great artists, this is perfect thing to delve into any period of the last five decades and check out what I was doing and where I was at.

    “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.”

    As we wrapped up our call, I asked Nils if there was anything else he had going on or planned that he minded telling Boomerocity about.

    “Not big ones. I have a guitar school on my website for beginners and intermediate players. I’ll take up some more guitar lessons. 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.

    “There’s a thing on my website, ‘Blind Date Jam’. There’s only one recorded. The theme is people get together and jam with no pre-production or no idea what they’re gonna do. It kinda brings out the best in musicians that like that and you get some unusual musical moments. I might fire up that concept again – even locally in a club and try to see if I can get the Blind Date Jam going as a theme. There is one on my website with Mike Smith that came out wonderfully. It’s just a neat concept that I’ve had. That might be another side project that I’m looking at.”

    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.