Springsteen sideman/solo artist expounds further on his teaching/playing theories and more
One-on-One vs. Online Teaching:
As we learned in Part I of this article, Nils Lofgren’s online guitar school has been a solid success for the diminutive guitarist, best known as a sideman with Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, as well as a solo artist of considerable merit. When asked to compare learning guitar face-to-face with a teacher versus online, Lofgren had this to say.
“Sitting down one-on-one with somebody, which I have done, is nice, and it’s a great way to share, as opposed to not sharing. Sometimes when you’re with a teacher, he dictates the flow, and sometimes he’s going too fast for you. The nice thing about the online lessons, once it’s downloaded, and I encourage people to do this is, find a lick you like, then shut me off! Work on that, and that may be the rest of your day. You don’t need to turn me back on. Just silence the teacher and really get into that one little lick.
“Find things that engage and excite you. I’m a big fan of American football and basketball, and there are guitars all over the house. I learned a long time ago, if the guitars are in a closet or off in my studio, I won’t pick one up. But I have them around among the furniture, and will pick them up to play while I’m watching sports on TV.”
Playing With Bruce:
Lofgren admittedly went through a self-described “blue period” in the ‘80’s, and jumped at the opportunity to join the New Jersey rocker’s E Street band, just after Born In The USA was released. That album skyrocketed Springsteen to the top of the charts internationally, and allowed Lofgren to play for the biggest audiences of his career. Since then, he has played a supporting role in the band, but the sometimes-spontaneous Springsteen occasionally throws a curve ball, like the night he gave Lofgren an unexpected extended solo on “Because The Night,” something we discussed in Part I of this article.
“I started working on a solo for that song in my room at night, and sure enough, for the next forty, I never got to play the solo again! After the tour ended, we did some charity Christmas shows in New Jersey and Bruce asked me what I wanted to play. I did one of my songs, ‘Shine Silently,” and when Bruce asked me what I wanted to do for a second song, I said, ‘I want to play ‘Because The Night’ and play the solo on it!’ So, then I got to play this long piece I worked on. For the next tour, years later, I got to play the solo every night, crafting it, refining it, and experimenting. Some of it is tough for my hands, but every guitarist has some kind of physical limitations.”
Out of curiosity, I went to Lofgren’s website and watched a clip of the aforementioned solo, and was suitably impressed with the sheer physicality and artistry of Lofgren’s technique, as he employed extreme bends, deft harmonics, fast-fingered triplets and straight ahead shredding. Always being a very animated stage presence, Nils capped off his solo with a forward somersault and spins. Trust me, it’s impressive.
Lofgren has always favoured Fender guitars, although he’s been known to pick up a vintage ’52 Les Paul Goldtop, a Telecaster, and a Rickenbacker on occasion. His main axe is a ’61 pre-CBS Stratocaster- he has another as a spare-with replacement pickups and the finish stripped to natural wood. With Bruce, Nils straps on Fender Jazzmasters with heavy gauge 13-56 strings, and also uses a Gretsch Black Penguin or Black Falcon on occasion. He uses and endorses Takamine acoustics, and also treasures an old Martin given to him by Neil Young years ago. Lofgren uses Fender amps on the road exclusively; currently two Twin Reverbs, although he has also used Vibro Kings and Super Reverbs.
Present & Future:
Nils Lofgren is a proactive exponent of self marketing. His website, www.nilslofgren.com, is a treasure trove of information that lists all his activities, as well as everything the guitarist offers for sale, including recordings, online teaching courses and various merchandise. A new project Lofgren is excited about these days is, Blind Date Jam, a concept that sprang up over the years based upon very casual and informal downtime jams among musicians. Lofgren realized that us average folk never get to hear some of this oftentimes memorable and spontaneous music. The concept was to plan nothing in advance. Bring your instrument, and whatever happens “happens,” as they say. The first edition of Blind Date Jam is available for sale on Nils’ website, as one might expect, and features Lofgren jamming with pedal steel guitarist Mike Smith. The music is highly inspired and quite moving.
From a 2009 interview written by this author and published in Premier Guitar, Lofgren summed it all up.
“If you find yourself challenged, frustrated and pushing yourself to learn to play, don’t forget to enjoy the gift of music. It has to be fun, too. I find myself consciously separating myself from all the hard work simply to enjoy playing music, and I do it on a regular basis.”