Neil Young is nearly finished with his 37th album as a solo artist, working in a Malibu studio with his newest collaborators, Promise of the Real. “I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Young told Rolling Stone this week. “I don’t know what its place is in the world, but I like it.”
The album is his second studio project with the band fronted by Micah and Lukas Nelson, sons of Willie. Last year’s The Monsanto Years was an electrified protest album that reached Number 21 on the Billboard Top 200. Young called the making of the new album “a very rewarding process.” It will be released in June.
“I feel really good and amped and energized. And I feel like I’m doing something that I’ve never done before,” Young said. “It’s not just music. It’s a soundscape. It’s kind of like flying around listening to things with your eyes closed.”
“Effortless” is how Young described his ongoing work with Promise of the Real, during an onstage interview with Cameron Crowe Monday in Los Angeles following a screening of his 1982 film Human Highway. At a reception with friends and colleagues immediately following the screening, Young told Rolling Stone the new recordings were both a continuation of what began with The Monsanto Years and a new creative path.
“In critical other ways, it’s like nothing that I’ve done,” Young said. “It’s more like a giant radio show. It has no stops. The songs are too long for iTunes, thank God, so they won’t be on iTunes. I’m making it available in the formats that can handle it.
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“It’s like a live show, but it’s not like a live show. Imagine it’s a live show where the audience is full of every living thing on earth — all of the animals and insects and amphibians and birds and everybody — we’re all represented. And also they overtake the music once in a while and play the instruments. It’s not conventional … but it is based on live performance.”
While young didn’t describe the lyrical content, current events have again been on his mind. In the past, he’s been inspired to write biting topical music from “Ohio” to Living With War (including the Bush-era anthem “Let’s Impeach the President”) and Monsanto.
During the onstage interview, Young got a laugh by describing his new Donald Trump impression. He took off his black hat with a sour look and put his chin in the air. “We were at a party the other night and I took my hat off — I have a big bald spot now … My lovely girlfriend was making my hair look like Donald Trump’s,” Young told the audience. “It was very entertaining and nobody filmed it, thank God.”
Later, Young said, “What’s going on these days is very much like Human Highway. Everybody’s not paying attention to what’s going on and they’re just living their own lives — maybe talking about [the election] as something to talk about. I support Bernie Sanders but I’m Canadian.”
He added, “I vote with my mouth. That’s my way.”