Neil Young rebuilt Colorado barn, used it as a studio with Crazy Horse

A horse needs a barn.

Neil Young didn’t rebuild an 1850s log barn that was falling to the ground in the Colorado Rockies just so he could make an album there with Crazy Horse, his frequent collaborators for over 50 years, but that was a big part. inspiration.

“We asked people to restore it to its original grandeur, with ponderosa pines, it’s just beautiful, just a beautiful building,” Young told The Associated Press via Zoom from the property he shares with his wife Daryl Hannah. “I felt like this was going to be a great place to make music.”

Space was so important to the process that “Barn” became the name of the album and an accompanying documentary, directed by Hannah, released on Friday.

It was also a great place for Young to cautiously reunite with drummer Ralph Molina, bassist Billy Talbot, and multi-instrumentalist Nils Lofgren.

“It’s remote,” Young said. “With the pandemic and all that we felt like we could get everyone out there safe and get everyone vaccinated and clean.”

Neil Young and Crazy Horse in a photo published as part of their album “Barn” which was recorded in Colorado. (Photo courtesy of press material: Warner Records)

Crazy Horse has always taken Young, now 76, to musically distant places too. He says they still deliver the same “cosmic vibe” they did on “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” in 1969, “Zuma” in 1975, “Rust Never Sleeps” in 1979 and “Ragged Glory” in 1990.

“It’s just a place we come to that I don’t meet with anyone else, with Crazy Horse’s ability to jam and the ability to go on and on regardless of the world,” Young said. “They’re as happy playing a song for 20 minutes as they are for three minutes.”

A “barn” is normally the shorthand used by musicians to refer to a cold, cavernous room. But this only brought hearing heat.

“It looks like God because there’s no square, it doesn’t have standing waves, because it’s the inside of these big logs on top of each other,” Young said. “It’s a bunch of round surfaces. From an acoustic point of view, it’s flawless.

They built a stage inside and performed in their live-and-loose style in a recording truck known as Le Mobile, where engineer Guy Charbonneau and producer Niko Bolas were parked at the outside.

“It had just been converted to digital. We took out all the digital elements and put the analog back in, ”he said with a smile.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse in a photo published as part of their album "barn" which was recorded in Colorado.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse in a photo published as part of their album “Barn” which was recorded in Colorado. (Photo courtesy of press material: Warner Records)

Beyond barn farming, Young has kept busy during the coronavirus pandemic, writing all nine songs for the album and putting together the next wave of recordings to be released on his archive website.

“There were no distractions,” he said. “And we didn’t have any superfluous work to do, none of the pitfalls of keeping it all running and running, it’s all gone. It was good with me. I have so much to do.

Volume Three of the Career-Spanning Archives, spanning a period in the mid-1970s, was collected with the help of fans writing with their recollections of his music, sometimes telling him things he didn’t remember from the existence.

“It’s really a great job, all the songs that made me feel good to hear and things that I have never heard in my life that we discovered,” Young said. “There’s a Crazy Horse record, a live Crazy Horse performance that opens volume three, which I think is the best thing ever recorded with Crazy Horse. “

Hannah’s film patiently lets the album process unfold, with slow stares at the barn at sunset, a pair of dogs lazing outside, and long shots of the band’s jams unfolding.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse in a photo published as part of their album "barn" which was recorded in Colorado.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse in a photo published as part of their album “Barn” which was recorded in Colorado. (Photo courtesy of press material: Warner Records)

“I am very lucky,” Young said of Hannah. “She’s the other side of everything. We create it and we turn around and we see what she saw when we created.

The album contains songs celebrating love, memory and old friends, but it is clouded by the state of a world that stirs up Young’s sadness and anger.

The pandemic feels present on the long signature song, “Welcome Back”.

“Because the world has us locked in, but we have to allow changes to be made,” Young sings. “Welcome back, welcome back, it’s not the same. The shadow is just you blinking.

His anger at the lethargic global action on climate change is felt on “Human Race”, in which he sings “the children of the fires and floods that people today have left behind”.

“We are losing track of what we are supposed to do,” he said. “I guess, you know, the Earth is being challenged if we want to have a place for our children, for our grandchildren, we better get our things together. “

He sighed and said “the best thing I can do is create art or music or something that gives people a place to go”.


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