It should come as no surprise that Neil Young’s music has been a heavy influence on my songwriting and – perhaps even more so – the way I play guitar. I am also very much inspired by the way Neil always seems to go his own way regardless of what critics and fans think.
I remember when I first got interested in Neil Young. It was back in 1994, I was 18 years old and part of a band called “Cosy” with Henrik Johansson and Niclas Lindvall. Niclas was the singer and wrote most of the songs, Henrik played bass and I played electric guitar. I had started writing songs back then but I thought Niclas was a much better songwriter, and I wasn’t particularly interested in singing. Instead, I spent my time and energy trying to become a great guitar player. We were mostly listening to Britpop bands like Blur, Oasis, Suede and Supergrass at the time. I preferred the Britpop bands over the American Grunge scene. I was way into Suede and their guitarist Bernard Butler was my hero.
I wanted to play like him and I spent hours and hours learning Suede licks and making up my own. Niclas had written a really good song called “Sparkling Champagne”. We recorded it and I poured my guitar-wrenching sould into that song. It was the best song we had done so far. It probably had something because it got picked for a demo review on Swedish national radio.
That spring there was a big music festival in Lund in southern Sweden and our demo was going to be reviewed live by a panel of well-known critics and artists during intermission in the live music program. We were there, of course, waiting eagerly for the review. I don’t remember much of what was said, but the jury seemed to like it. We felt great!
Host of the radio show was a guy called Andreas Mats and I went up to him afterwards and thanked him. I introduced myself as the guitarist in “Cosy” and he got really excited and told me how much he liked my guitar parts. He then asked me if I listened a lot to Neil Young. “Eh, no,” I said, honestly. “I get most of my stuff from Bernard Butler”. He started laughing and said: “Yeah, but where does HE get his stuff from?”. I was baffled, thinking to myself I better go buy some Neil Young records. And so I did.
I’m not sure he was completely right about Bernards Butler’s influences, but that doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that he gave me a push to start going back to the roots of music instead of just copying what I heard on the radio.
And now, 18 years later, on November 3rd I will do a Neil Young Tribute in my home town Kalmar. It’s just going to be me, my guitar and a piano. I’m going to talk about Neil Young, his life and career but most of all I’m going to play Neil’s songs. November 3rd at Stensökrogen. It’s going to be great.
I managed to dig up the original version of “Sparkling Champagne”. I still think it rocks. It was recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder so the sound is not very good. But pretty impressive for a bunch of teenagers just starting out, don’t you think?
And here is me rehearsing Neil Young songs in my home.