Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard praises Neil Young as the “ultimate songwriter, singer, lead guitarist and soundscaper”

“Neil’s as old as hell, but he’s like a kid in terms of how excited he is about music.”

Neil Young and Stone Gossard

Neil Young and Stone Gossard. Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

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Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard has sung the praises of Neil Young in an extended essay, describing him as the “ultimate songwriter, singer, lead guitarist and soundscaper”.

In the piece for Louder, Gossard recalls finding Young’s music when he asked Pearl Jam to play on his 1995 album Mirrorball, an offer he says was “such a compliment”.

“When I went back and listened to all his albums they just blew me away. Even his most obscure records have songs that are so beautiful and so moving that you can’t believe they weren’t huge hits,” he says.

“I’ve been listening to [1994’s] Sleeps With Angels a lot, and that’s such a beautiful record – Western Hero is gorgeous, Trans Am is incredible and Change Your Mind is one of the most fantastic songs ever written, it’s just ridiculous in the way it starts to climb each time for his solos. And this is one of the records that people don’t even talk about much! Every era of his career is great and he’s still making cool, interesting records.”

Gossard adds that he’s now seen Young play 30-40 times, but maintains that “every time is an education”, continuing: “He’s the ultimate songwriter, singer, lead guitarist and soundscaper, he’s in that Dylan zone. The way he mixes up distortion and feedback and blues and folk and rock and soul and noise is just inspirational.

“The way he digs solos out, just throttling his guitar is masterful. And he has the heaviest groove around. He just sits back, and where he puts the downbeat just feels so great, so perfect.

“Plus the simplicity of his chord changes is amazing. I’d have conversations with him where I’d say ‘God Neil, I’m so excited, I love that new song where you’re just playing three chords’ and he’d go ‘Yeah, you know lately I’ve been really into just two chords…’ and it’s like ‘Wow! God!’ When I was in high school [Mudhoney guitarist] Steve Turner said to me ‘Don’t learn to play your guitar, don’t figure it out, just get a band and do it’ and that was the most liberating thing I’d ever heard, I’d never in my life heard anyone talk about art that way.

“So when Neil Young says you should concentrate on writing songs, but just use two chords, that’s incredibly liberating, it makes music sound like it’s for everyone, not this complicated, untouchable thing. Imagine if people knew that they could write a hit song after just learning a chord or two, imagine how freeing that would be.

He concludes: “Neil’s as old as hell, but he’s like a kid in terms of how excited he is about music. He’s the ultimate, I don’t think anyone can touch him. And he’s a gentleman, definitely one of the good guys.”


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