Come June, guitarist Nils Lofgren begins his fourth decade as a member of the E Street Band. But for the millions of fans who have come to know the versatile, multi-talented musician (and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) for his long tenure with The Boss, there is also a loyal group of record buyers who have followed Lofgren since his days fronting his own band Grin in the early '70s.
For those fans, the upcoming 10-disc box set Face The Music, due out May 27 from the Concord Music Group, will prove a treasure trove. On nine CDs and one concert DVD, the meticulously annotated collection traces Lofgren's rich musical life and times, starting with his pre-Grin band Paul Dowell and the Dolphin to his work with Neil Young and Crazy Horse and throughout his solo career up to his latest full-length effort, 2011's Old School. Two of the discs contain 40 previously unreleased tracks and rare gems.
As much as he relished the opportunity to flip through his back pages, Lofgren admits that retrospection isn't his usual default mode. “It's not like I've haven’t forgotten what I’ve done," he says, "but because I’m so focused on being in the E Street Band and the other things I’m doing, I don’t dwell on the past. I’m always like, ‘What’s my next solo record?’ Old School is one of the best albums I've ever made. I’m as proud of that record as anything I’ve done."
For all his skills as a multi-threat singer, songwriter, ace guitarist and keyboard player, and despite a string of critically acclaimed albums, hit singles always eluded Lofgren. "You learn to put it all in perspective, and you keep going," he says softly. "There are a lot of tracks through the years that could have gotten more exposure at radio, but for whatever reason, the stars didn’t align for that heavy rotation. But even then, I was more focused on what was next for me. I still am that way. The dream is still there.”
Lofgren sat down with MusicRadar recently to talk about Face The Music and some of the legendary names that have figured into his remarkable career. (You can pre-order Face The Music at Amazon.)
Were you surprised when Concord approached you to put together the box set?
“I was, yeah. It was a big surprise. For decades I had gone to the old companies – I owned them money because I didn’t have any hit records. I offered them five dollars a CD to buy my old music, just to sell on my website and make it available. They’d always say no, even though it costs a buck and a quarter to make a CD. It’s not a unique story. If you don’t have big hit records in your career, your old stuff can become extinct.
“Psychologically, that was crushing, but I had to get over it. So I was resigned to the situation – it was what it was. But about sixteen months ago, Concord came to me with the idea of doing a box set. They seemed really into it, which was great. The more I got into it, the more I felt like we should do it right and make it comprehensive with the bonus tracks. To be able to hand-pick the material and know that it was going to see the light of day, it was very powerful for me. We turned it into what it should be: a massive, 45-year retrospective. They gave me a couple of great art directors to work with. My wife, Amy, and our assistant, Omar, pretty much turned our home into a work station for this project for over a year and a half.”