How did your new CD come together
and why did you list the late David
Briggs as co-producer?
It was my manager, Anson Smith’s idea. I
sat at home and played and sang about
thirty of Neil’s songs for two weeks. About
a dozen or so of them started to feel special,
so they wound up on the CD. It was
my manager’s idea to use David’s name.
David was a brother and a mentor, and
Neil’s producer for years. David’s way of
recording Neil’s vocals was to capture the
real emotion in a live take. It didn’t matter
if it wasn’t perfect, as long as it had the
right feel. I felt like David’s spirit was sitting
on my shoulder when I recorded this disc.
There was no overdubbing, no tricks.
You also played on the first Crazy Horse
album. Tell us about that gig.
That was also a great experience and an honor
for me. Danny Whitten (Crazy Horse’s guitarist
and songwriter) was going to join Grin, but he
was too sick and not up to the job. (Writer’s
Note: Whitten died of a heroin overdose in
November 1972. His song, “I Don’t Want To
Talk About It” was a hit for Rod Stewart).
Over the years, you’ve established yourself
as an acoustic guitarist. Is that something
you consciously developed?
My brother Tom and I decided to go out and
do acoustic gigs in the early eighties, and it
was very uncomfortable for us both at first,
but we got better at it and it’s grown from
there. It’s much more intimate, and I really
enjoy playing solo acoustic.
What do you think about the state of the
music industry at this moment?
I left the music industry fifteen years ago,
Bob. I recorded what I think was one of my
best albums, Wonderland in 1983, but I was
dropped from the label before it was released.
I couldn’t get a record deal because the major
labels thought I was a dinosaur. I went with
Rykodisc, but started butting heads with them.
For years, I tried to get control of my older
recordings, but the labels either refused to rerelease
them or sell them back to me, so most
of my older stuff is out of print. I could have
bootlegged them all and released them myself,
but that would have been breaking the law. For
the last fifteen years or so, I have been releasing
my own CDs. I have complete freedom to
do what I want. I’m content. I don’t pay much
attention to the music industry anymore.
You’ve started offering online guitar lessons.
What was your motivation for that?
For many years, fans and people in general
would tell me they tried to learn guitar and
gave it up in frustration. I love to teach, so
I decided to put together a beginner’s guitar
course that would offer things a novice
could do that were fun and easy. It’s developed
from there. Guitarists can actually
play along with me online.
What’s coming up for you in 2009?
A few months ago in New York City, I had
a bi-lateral hip replacement, the result of
years of doing back flips off trampolines
and jumping off drum risers. My hips were
destroyed! I have a lot of physical therapy
to go yet, and then I’ll get back to some
acoustic gigs in the spring. The E Street
Band is playing the Super Bowl halftime
show, and we have a new CD coming out
January 27 called Working On A Dream.
Hopefully, we’ll tour after that.
Any parting advice for our readers?
If you find yourself challenged, frustrated and
pushing yourself to learn to play, don’t forget
to enjoy the gift of music. It has to be fun, too.
I find myself consciously separating myself
from all the hard work simply to enjoy playing
music, and I do it on a regular basis.
Two ’61 Fenders Strats, various
reissue Strats in wood finish
’56 Fender Jazzmaster, various
Two Gretsch Black Falcons
Six and twelve string Takamine acoustics
Carter Pedal steel guitars
Owens/Zeta Resonator Guitars & five vintage
Lap Steel Guitars
Herco or Golden Gate thumb picks
Two Fender Twin Reverbs
(with Bruce Springsteen)
Fender Hot Rod DeVille (solo gigs)
Electro-Harmonix Poly Octave Generator (POG)
Two Barber Burn Unit Overdrives
Line 6 DL-4 Digital Delay
Boss DD-3 Delay Pedal
Two Boss OC-3 Octave Pedals
D’Addario: 11–52 on Stratocasters; 13–56 on
Jazzzmasters; Medium gauge on acoustics