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30 November 2022

Neil Young On His New Album, Working With Rick Rubin

Neil Young Rick Rubin Apple Music Interview
Photo: Rodolfo Sassano/Alamy Stock Photo
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Neil Young has marked the release of his new album, World Record, with an interview in the New Yorker.

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Talking to Amanda Petruisch, Young expanded on the writing of World Record. “I came up with the melodies for eight or nine of these songs while going on walks,” revealed the singer-songwriter. “You know how you do. You might be taking a walk with the dog or something, and you start whistling a tune. Maybe it’s not a tune you even care about; maybe you’re imagining you’re seeing a parade somewhere, and this is what the band is playing.

“Then I said, wait a minute, I’ve got my phone—which is a funky old flip phone, with a really funky camera in it—and I turned on the camera and made a movie while I was walking along, whistling this melody. That kept happening for weeks. I’d take my little flip phone with me, and record anything that I started whistling and didn’t know what it was. No words, no instruments, no tones, no chords—just the rhythm of walking, and whistling. And that’s how it started.”

Young went on to describe how he changed his writing process to complete the songs, “Then I was in Malibu, thinking about recording with Crazy Horse. I remembered that I had these whistling things in my pocket. I started listening to them, and I just banged out lyrics — I never corrected anything, except for my spelling, which is awful. I was using a computer instead of writing by hand—I never use a computer, so that was weird—and I’m listening to this guy whistling a melody, and I’m making up words. It was almost like I was writing with somebody.”

When it came time to record World Record, Young called on an old friend, “When we were ready to go, I called Rick [Rubin]. Rick and I had worked together in the past—we really like working together, and we have a lot of fun anytime we’re doing anything. I called him and I said, “Listen, I booked the studio. Are you around?” He had been in a house fire, where he was caught on the second floor. He had suffered from smoke inhalation, so his voice was all crazy, but he said, “Yeah, I want to come to the studio—we’ll hang out.” He’s speaking in this low voice. So that’s how it was approached.”

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