The Acoustic Storm Interviews
Jesse Colin Young
The Acoustic Storm interviewed Jesse Colin Young on September 13, 2017 in the midst of his tour with with Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre.
ACOUSTIC STORM: What inspired your latest tour?
JESSE COLIN YOUNG: I stopped turning about seven years ago and I really had no intention of going back, I was just burned out on it and I thought well, 50 years is probably enough. Then in the spring of 2016, my son Tristan was graduating from Berklee College of Music, and I went to hear his senior recital. These young people he had assembled in a band, they just blew me away with their energy and their talent. In a moment, I went from being done with that to thinking, wow I want to play music with young people like this. I want them to play my music and I want to be in the middle of it (laughs).
So I asked Tristan to help me put a band together, and we started in the fall of 2016 and by February of this year we were playing gigs in New England. It was really cold and I had sworn I’d never do it again, but that was the place to do it because everyone was living in Boston at the time. We were selling out and I’ve been using the whole of my career to pull songs from. So I get to about 18 songs which were picked from the very beginning of my career all the way to new songs I”m writing for the band, I think if I had not been writing in the spring of 2016 before I went to see Tristan’s recital, perhaps the band would not have happened.
The response has been incredible. People love the band and the different arrangements of my music. It’s a marvelous experience, and the energy. I played with Corky Siegel the other night in Chicago. He had the Siegel-Schwall Blues Band and we played together at the Avalon once upon a tie. He said, “Jess, when you come off stage, you look 20 years younger.” I feel 20 years younger (laughs). It’s amazing, there’s tremendous chemistry between all of us, and there each geniuses in their own way. It’s the most marvelous band I’ve ever had, and I can’t say enough about them. On my website, we’ve got bios on each band member so people can get to know them. It’s some exposure playing with me, and it’s wonderful for me because it lifts me up in an incredible way, that I’ve never experienced before.
AS: What are some of the most visceral memories you have of the 60’s music scene and the unique character of those days.
YOUNG: I think one of my strongest memories I have of the 60s, is the first time the Youngloods played the Avalon Ballroom. I think it was June 15, 1967. We were living in New York, and that’s where we got our record deal, but we had no idea what was happening on the west coast. We flew in and checked in to this cheap motel. I’ll never forget it. I turned on this little funny-looking radio that was built into the formica between two beds, and there was “Get Together” on the radio.
Later that night, we walked into the Avalon Ballroom, and instead of 40 people, there were porobably 400 there with psychededlic lights I had never seen. The people were so into the music and the love coming off the crowd was just blowing us away. We thought, we found a home for our music and our families, and this is it. So we went right home to New York and we finished “Earth Music” for RCA, and packed our stuff and moved to Point Reyes-Inverness area, which is about 35 miles north of San Francisco. We just decided we wanted to live in the country, and we fell in love with the countryside in Marin. It was an amazing, life-changing move.
AS: Let’s talk about some of your best-known songs. First off, how about “Ridgetop”?
YOUNG: After two years of living in Marin in rented houses, I built the house on the ridge-top and the studio next door, and this was paradise for me. No more going to L.A. to record. Coming home off the road, going up on the ridge and staying there, and the band coming up to record in the studio.
AS: “Song for Juli.”
YOUNG: That was originally “Melody in B-flat.” It was something we rehearsed in between working on “Ridgetop” and “T-Bone Shuffle” and all the other songs that were to be on “Song for Juli.” One day, my ex-wife was there and she was writing lyrics, and my daughter Juli was probably 6 or 7, and my son was 6, 7 or 8, and my son Cheyenne had come along four years after that. He was getting a lot of attention, as babies do. I think Juli was hurting and needed to feel special, and the song turned out to be a lovely corroboration by her parents together to give her some of that special love.
AS: “Morning Sun.”
YOUNG: “Morning Sun” was triggered by the birth of my son Cheyenne, and by our moving into our house on the ridgetop when he was very young . I loved to walk in those woods and watch the red-tail hawks circle, and I was thrilled to have a son. I mean it’s all there in the song.
AS: “Get Together,” written by Dino Valenti, but made famous by the Youngloods.
YOUNG: I didn’t find “Get Together,” I found itin the Village. The Youngbloods were playing at the Cafe-A-Go Go in New York, this was before moving to San Francisco. We played there for very little money just so we could use the stage and the equipment to rehearse with. I had become the bass blayer, because we had three guitarists and coulld not find a good bass player to join the band. So there was a lot of practicing that I needed to do. So one day, I’m walking through the Village, it’s a Sunday and I’m figuring maybe the Go Go is dark and that we could go in and rehearse. So I stopped by and walked down the stairs and heard some music, and it turned out there was an open-mic. Buzzy Linhart, who I had seen playing vibes with Tim Hardin at the Night Owl, which was another hot spot in the Village, where Hardin played and the Spoonful. He was singing and I fell in love, and just rushed backstage which I had never done and said “I’m Jesse Young from the Youngbloods, and I need the lyrics to that song.” He wrote them out for me and I took them into rehearsal with the Youngbloods the next day, and the rest is history.