Neil Young Blasts Music Industry’s Pressure On Artists, Calls It “Bullsh*t”
Neil Young in an interview, 2005 - Team Coco / Youtube
At an age when some rockers tend to lose their enthusiasm, Neil Young, who is almost 80 years old, is as passionate as ever about music, the environment, and the profound impact of love.
World Record, his 12th album in a decade, gathers these passions into a love letter to Earth. The Godfather of Grunge collaborated with his longtime band, Crazy Horse, and the influential Rick Rubin to produce his latest effort.
Young delves into the delicate state of the planet with a mix of emotions encompassing hope, sorrow, and frustration. The album features 10 fresh tracks, including the uplifting and melodious “Overhead,” the poignant “This Old Planet (Changing Days),” and the spirited “The World (Is In Trouble Now).”
Twelve albums in a decade is certainly an amazing feat; it’s something most artists of today can’t replicate. The passionate Young did not like the overthinking and overwork done on every single release these days, and he has very choice words for it.
“That’s a bunch of bullsh*t, it really is. I don’t like that part of it. People are already trying to figure out what they are going to do with the shit they haven’t even made.”
“Go ahead and do it, don’t wait.”
Take it from the man who churned out 40-plus records and has no plans on stopping.
During an interview with Zach Sang in the latter’s YouTube show, Young wasn’t too fond of the “overthinking” done by today’s music industry.
The pressure of delivering perfection out of every release, and the social media fuss generated around it, does not sit well with the rock icon.
View this post on Instagram
“You can do whatever you want, people just need to free themselves up,” Young advised. And when the radio DJ reminded the musician that many artists were unsure of what road to take, Young shared yet another kernel of wisdom that the young’uns ought to sit on: “Go ahead and do it, don’t wait.”
Artists should free themselves from the shackles of having their art dictated by others. This unnatural and constrained process takes too much time. Young believes that an artist’s sole job is to only do art.
And releasing his art has always been a priority for the veteran rockstar, who spent a significant amount of time recording and releasing songs for six long decades.
Even if one of them turns out bad, Young does not make a big deal out of it.
“Some of them weren’t very good.”
Even the best bands in the world did not create a fan out of everyone who stumbles upon their music. Even The Beatles or Led Zeppelin had their critics, and they sometimes crank out a bad song or two.
Neil Young was no exception. The former Buffalo Springfield member admitted that his back catalog isn’t perfect. “Some of them weren’t very good, some of them were pretty good, but it doesn’t matter because they are there.”
A musician as prolific as Young, who’s already writing in his studio even before his records hit the shelves, does not dwell much on whether his album does well or not. In fact, Young admits that he “never noticed”.
— The Verge (@verge) January 28, 2022
Ultimately, as the wise Young points out, music is the only thing that truly matters and should matter. Each project should exist in its own realm, free from excessive analysis.
Neil Young’s six-decade career has demonstrated that not every release must attain commercial success to establish a lasting legacy, emphasizing that the key ingredient is unwavering determination.
The burdens imposed by today’s music industry are wearing down artists, who would do well to draw inspiration from Neil Young and acknowledge that setbacks are an inherent aspect of life’s path.
August 25th, 1969
CSNY Soundcheck at the Greek Theatre in LA.
— Neil Young Archives (@NeilYoungNYA) July 29, 2019
As Young aptly said in this separate 2022 AARP interview: “When the music comes, I’m ready and everything else stops.”
44 albums and counting
Young isn’t just a prolific musician who’s always ready to literally face the music, he’s a grunge and folk icon and relentless pioneer countless people look up to. From his early days with Buffalo Springfield to his enduring partnership with Crazy Horse, he’s consistently challenged the status quo.
It’s this fearless pursuit of his unique sound that has allowed him to release music that spans the spectrum of folk, rock, country, and beyond.
View this post on Instagram
Young’s unwavering dedication to the craft and his selfless passion for his art did not create a self-centered iconoclast out of him. Instead, he approached his art with a sense of urgency, releasing albums as soon as they were ready.
This blistering style has given us a vast and diverse discography that includes iconic albums like Harvest, Rust Never Sleeps, and After the Gold Rush.
With forty-plus albums out, the most recent ones being World Record and Chrome Dreams (an acetate recorded in the 70s but only released in 2023), Young embraced all of them in their imperfect glory.
“That’s the way I live my life. I’m not hunting for it. I’m not standing over the hole with the gun waiting for the rabbit to come out,” he said.