Neil Young’s crucial advice for young artists

Neil Young is a veteran of the music business. Since aged 16, the Canadian singer-songwriter dedicated his life to honing his craft and learning every trick of the trade. Few can match his experience, and Young is happy to share his wisdom with younger artists by dishing out crucial advice whenever possible.

When Pearl Jam gained traction, Young took a liking to them as a band and, most importantly, as people. In fact, he recruited them as his backing band for the 1995 album Mirror Ball and treated the musicians like family. For Pearl Jam, the experience was formative, and one nugget of advice Young gave singer Eddie Vedder stayed with him for many years.

“He took our whole band under his wing, I guess it was right around that second record,” Vedder once explained to Howard Stern. “Then we ended up getting closer and closer over the years. It started by playing Bridge School, the first time, I think, was ’92,” he said of his relationship with Young.

He also detailed the best piece of advice he received from Young, revealing: “I do remember one time we were at the ranch, at his place, and we took a walk. It’s kind of that famous fence line. Smoking a joint, we sat down near this little pond. This was right before the second [album, Vs.], somewhere in that time.”

Vedder continued: “He said, ‘Hey, just so you know, there might be some people that’ll try to pull you away from this group, but you guys, the sum is greater than the parts. Remember that. I’m sure that’s probably already happened to you. I thought no, I’m good with these guys. Actually, no, no one’s singled me out yet.”

That advice helped propel Pearl Jam to the top, and Young could tailor his words of wisdom to their needs after spending time with the band. However, speaking generally to all young artists in 2019, the Canadian unleashed one pearl of wisdom he believes to be imperative to a successful musical career.

Speaking to CBC, he explained: “Be true to yourself. Just do what you want to do. The last thing you want to do is please anybody else. Just forget about the pleasing everybody. It’s the most useless pastime you could ever have. Doesn’t make any difference to anything. It’s a waste of time.”

Throughout his half a century in the music industry, Young has never strayed from this mantra, even if it has been occasionally to the detriment of his career. For example, removing his music from Spotify made it harder for Young to find new fans, but on a moral level, he felt uncomfortable with his work funding views he disagreed with. He’s always stayed true to himself, even when others have questioned his decisions, and artists could do worse than take a leaf out of his book.

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