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Nils Lofgren new live CD; prepares River Tour' with Bruce

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Nils Lofgren at home in Scottsdale, AZ.  Photo by Matt York/Associated Press Nils Lofgren at home in Scottsdale, AZ. Photo by Matt York/Associated Press

It's a great time to be Nils Lofgren. One year after issuing a 10-disc career-spanning retrospective ('Face The Music' copies of which are personally autographed), the multi-instrumentalist and member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band since 1984 has just released 'UK2015 Face The Music Tour,' featuring 15 carefully chosen live solo tracks recorded at various UK venues last winter.

To support the new disc, Lofgren scheduled a series of dates across the US for first part of 2016 that are now being rescheduled as a result of Springsteen's sudden decision to hit the road in support of 'The Ties That Bind: The River Collection,' a 4-CD/3 DVD (or 2 Blu-ray) set rounding up the music recorded by Bruce and the E Street Band for 1980's 'The River.' including a wealth of previously unreleased audio and video.

'The River Tour,' a nine-week US trek, is set to begin in Pittsburgh on Jan. 16 and wrap in LA on March 15. Bruce and the band are scheduled to play Boston's TD Garden on Feb. 4.

Whether it's working with Neil Young (Lofgren joined Young's band at age 18 and played on the classic albums 'After The Gold Rush' and 'Tonight's The Night'), Ringo Starr or Bruce, Nils Lofgren is no stranger to being on the receiving end of a call to action.

I spoke with Lofgren via phone from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, last Monday. Excerpts from that conversation follow and the entire interview can be found on our

Dow: You've visited a few times over the years. What comes to mind when you think of those past trips to our state?

Lofgren: I've always had great audiences there. One Maine trip was kind of crazy and I'm talking back in the '70s or '80s. We were headed up there to do a band gig in the dead of winter. I think the show was scheduled for Bangor. Of course, we had four feet of snow and nobody could get anywhere. We were on the outskirts of town and the club owner said 'I'm sorry man. No one can make it we're gonna have to cancel the show.' So of course, you have your head set for a long day of rehearsal and sound-checking and now we had the day off. We found this amazing seafood place and stuffed our faces with lobster and had a couple of Mai-Tais. We loved it and had a ball. I've made it up there and played once in a while and it's something I hope to do more of in the coming years.

Dow: The upcoming 'River Tour' seems to have taken everyone by surprise. Did you need to make some adjustments to your schedule when the call came?

Lofgren: Yeah, that was very unexpected and I'm grateful to always play with The E Street Band. Up through mid-March of next year, there's a dozen (solo) shows that I'm going to postpone and reschedule. I think I have about 18 shows all over the U.S. starting at the end of March through May that are already on the books and those dates are on my website. As the year progresses, I'll schedule more U.S. shows and hopefully get back to the U.K. next winter.

Dow: For the upcoming tour with The E Street Band, how intensive are the rehearsals and when do they begin?

Lofgren: Well, it all depends. Right now it's the holidays, so all of the schedules are evolving. The first show will be in mid-January, so I think I'll head off on Jan. 3 for rehearsals. There's a lot of new songs on 'The River' box set that just came out that we'll add to the obvious that's a great album. We've got a great band-leader. Other than getting in shape to work, he'll show up, it will evolve and we'll play and he'll kind of decide as we go. I'm sure we'll feature 'The River' songs, but that's up to Bruce. That's kind of nice about being in somebody else's great band. All of my issues are musical and I'll be organizing my 52 guitars that I carry on the road and all kinds of craziness getting the equipment packed to ship back. It's very exciting we have a lot of great help. Thanks to Steve ('Miami' Steve Van Zandt) coming back in '99, I kind of became the 'swing' man with pedal steel, dobro, lap steel, bottleneck and 6-string banjo, so it'll just be fun to be in a great band like that and do my part.

Dow: Of all of your guitars, which one is closest to your heart?

Lofgren: Two come to mind. I've got this 1961 Strat I call it 'the wood Strat.' My brother Mike cut a wood pick-guard out of it for me way back in the early '70s, and that's still my main guitar that I take out with Bruce. But I keep it in the vault when I play the bars because we've had people jump on stage, grab it and try to run out of the building. When I did the 'After The Gold Rush' album (1970) with Neil Young, I was 18 years old, and I played acoustic guitar on 'Til the Morning Comes' and 'Tell Me Why.' I didn't own one, so Neil lent me his (Martin) D-18 that he'd been writing on and, after the sessions, he gifted it to me. That's probably my most treasured guitar. It stays locked behind a handful of doors.

Dow: As I understand it, your new live solo disc ('UK2015 Face The Music Tour') came about at the suggestion of your wife, Amy. The album has a wonderful track selection, and the recording quality is amazing.

Lofgren:We were in the UK for all of January of this year, and I had just started getting back to doing my own shows with my buddy Greg Varlotta a duo show. After 26 months of playing in The E Street Band, it's a different headspace to be a band leader again, so I was so focused on doing that job right - I wasn't really paying attention to an overview. It was Amy who had seen me a lot over the decades who pointed out that they were some of the best shows she'd seen and that we should record them. Long story short, our soundman, Martin Wharton did an amazing job recording it as he mixed it and we've got a great live CD. You can get it, at Amazon or in some of the shops. It wasn't my idea. Hats off to Amy it came out great and I'm really proud to have a new live record with a lot of different song selections on it.

Dow: In addition to your own career and what you bring to the work of other artists, you're also a fan like the rest of us. There are some live DVDs in my collection where I've spotted you in the audience. Of all of the shows that you've seen, what stands out in your mind as being among the best?

Lofgren: There's probably a top dozen. I've seen so many great acts, and I can't really pick one. Standing on stage with Bruce I've seen many a top show, but some names that come to mind are Peter Gabriel, Sting, Ray Charles. Me and Amy saw Macy Gray a couple of months ago and it was one of the greatest shows we've seen in years. It was at the Crescent Ballroom here (in Phoenix), and it was just stunning. Of course there's The Rolling Stones. I saw The Beatles in '64 or '65. It was only a half-hour show but it was stunning. I've been blessed to see a lot of great acts over the years and also do some fabulous shows with Ringo Starr's first 'All Starr Band' (1989) with Billy Preston, Dr. John, Joe Walsh, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Jim Keltner and Clarence Clemons. Even though I was in the band, those were some of the best shows I ever saw.

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor/Ellsworth)

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 December 2015 16:26


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