Neil Young And Daniel Lanois: Love And War

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

I remember you said you wrote the songs on Prairie Wind chronologically because the songs just started coming out as a whole, almost like a suite. Is that usually the way you write or is it never the same twice?

NY: Well, these songs are not presented chronologically on the record but they were recorded as they were written, more or less chronologically. So if you see a timeline of the record you can see the evolution of the writing. But there’s really no method other than when I feel like writing, I write.

What makes me feel like writing is the knowledge that I’m not going to create something that’s going to be a problem. In other words, if I create something and then there’s nothing to do with it, then I have to walk around with this thing. So knowing that I had a guy that was working with me and a great team, that we’re going to take the music and go with it, that I could go in there and deliver it and we could have a great time doing that, and then I could just back off and go try to find something else, kind of go hunting, and they could keep all the stuff back in the teepee. Come back, and then ‘wow, look what you did with that. That’s very good. Sounds good.’

DL: You know, there was kind of an automatic Canadian curating system at play here. I mean to be honest here, we had an excess of material. Neil came in, it was a nice set of songs and we recorded them all. And then as new songs came in, they bullied some of the other songs and pushed them out into the corral.

NY: Yeah, they did.

DL: And in fact Neil had some very beautiful songs– my favorite one called For the “Love of Man,” isn’t even on the record largely because I felt that we had the slow songs covered. We had “Love and War” and “Peaceful Valley Boulevard,” and if you were to then do “For the Love of Man” or another great one called “You Never Call,” now that pushes the record down to a lower tempo. And I thought that these new electric ones that were coming in were offering us an advantage at a better balance. So the direction of the work was largely dictated by the new songs coming in. That’s always a tough one because you write a song, you think, well, surely we must put it out. We’ve done a good job recording it and it’s beautiful, so it takes a lot of courage to say, ‘well, let’s just put them aside for now and have a look at this other selection.’

So was it more a sonic palate rather than a thematic palate that was the determining factor of what songs made the record?

DL: It was an instinct that we were operating by at a certain point. I think at a certain point, I actually said, “Please consider these eight.” It would give us a 39-minute record, and we always talk about how there was something right about the length of vinyl. People’s attention span seems much more attuned to that.

NY: We never heard anybody complain about the length of this record.

No one said it was too short? Maybe they were afraid to tell you.

NY: That’s a long record in my history. I hate it when they’re too long. The bonus track is a bummer. First of all it’s an uncontrollable thing. You’ll leave the CD on and suddenly you’re listening to this other track and you’re like, “Where did this come from?” It’s not part of that, and it’s a bonus. Oh, great. Thanks. Got a bonus track here. How can we handle that? And the hidden track. That’s a record company thing. That’s all bogus. Seventy-six minutes. Just because a CD can hold 76 minutes, it doesn’t have to. Why not make the 40 minutes that it should hold sound better? Anyway, don’t get me started on that.


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