Pegi Young Talks New Album, Bridge School Benefit

Don’t ask Pegi Young, Neil Young’s wife and a formidable songwriter and musician in her own right, to name her favorite track on the Bridge School Benefit Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition CD and DVD. “It’s like picking your favorite child. It’s just impossible. There are just so many incredible performances.”

Pegi was the impetus behind the star-studded acoustic charity concert that takes place every year in Mountain View, California, which Neil always helms. Artists featured on the CD/DVD are a who’s who of rock royalty — including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Pearl Jam, and R.E.M..

This year’s lineup isn’t short on bold faced names, with acts like Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons and Tony Bennett topping the bill (you can stream it on Facebook and YouTube this weekend). “It was quite humbling to take a step back and look at the Bridge School benefits as a whole body of work, 24 years,” says Pegi. “The 25th is this weekend, which we are really excited about. We’ve got some great young talents and some veterans. I’m really excited to see Santana, because I’ve never seen Santana play acoustic. I grew up in the Bay Area, and I saw Santana the first time probably when I was about 15 or 16 years old. And Arcade Fire, they’re just a great band. Eddie [Vedder] will be back, it’s just going to be really fun. Tony Bennett, he’s just genius. We’re looking forward to it.”

The vibe among the artists is always communal. “We don’t have press back there,” says Pegi, “it’s a camera-free zone, so people can come out of their dressing rooms and just hang out and be with each other.”

“Some of those things that we’ve done by design over the years have created this very nice, comfortable, warm backstage environment for them. That’s our goal. We start off the weekend on Friday with a barbecue at our house, so we get a chance for everybody to meet each other. It’s our way of thanking them in advance for coming out and being part of this event.”

Young is also gearing up for the November release of her third solo album, Bracing For Impact, which she cut with her band The Survivors (Rick Rosas on bass, Spooner Oldham on keys, Phil Jones on drums, and Kelvin Holly on guitar). With the recent passing of her friend Bert Jansch and longtime collaborator Ben Keith, she says the name felt appropriate. The album features a reading of the oft-covered “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” written by the late Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse. “I really love Danny’s version of it,” she says. “That’s what I used as my reference point. And he did it even slower than I did it.”

Neil Young plays electric guitar on “Lie” and “Song For A Baby Girl,” and adds his trademark harmonica to a cover of Tarheel Slim’s “Number Nine Train.” Neil also helped write the Bracing For Impact song “Doghouse.”

I had to put my old dog Carl down in December,” Pegi says of the song’s origins. “The band had come into rehearse for our tour that we did in December, opening for the great Bert Jansch. Who, of course, has sadly left the planet now, too. So, I put old Carl down, and I was pretty brokenhearted about that. But, the band had come in, and so we went over to the studio to rehearse. It was sort of like a wake rehearsal, I would say. And somehow, that song came up.”

“Neil probably started it because he was jamming with us that night. I didn’t even remember the lyrics, so I was just making up lyrics. We just had so much fun with it, and we were playing a show the next night. We did it there, and it just became part of our repertoire. It came out of a sad place, but it was okay because we were able to howl with the best of them.”

When asked if her husband ever gives her feedback on her music, Pegi says hat he’s always taken a hands-off approach. “Because our son doesn’t speak, we’re both pretty good at reading non-verbal communication,” she says. “We’re kind of experts now. But, we don’t really have that with the songwriting or music. If I’m singing backgrounds for him, and he wants to hear something a certain way, he’s really clear about that. And I don’t get any more slack than any other band member because he’s very clear about what he wants to hear. But when it comes to my songwriting, I can’t think of anything negative he’s ever said, at all. He’s completely supportive.”

“He loves that I’m making music and having fun with it,” she adds. “So, it’s a mutual admiration, I think.”