Nils Lofgren Shares 'Blue With Lou' From Album Featuring Unreleased Lou Reed Co-Writes

Carl Schultz
Nils Lofgren

As its title indicates, Nils Lofgren's new album Blue With Lou is a nod to the late Lou Reed, with six tracks Lofgren and Reed co-wrote -- five of which have never been released. And the "rageful" title track, premiering exclusively below, is Lofgren's tip of the hat to that material, which helped inspire his first new studio album in eight years.

"I didn't know what I was gonna call the record, but I knew that these six Lou Reed songs had to be on it," Lofgren -- who recorded Blue With Lou at home in Arizona, mostly live with a core trio of himself, drummer Andy Newmark and bassist Kevin McCormick -- tells Billboard. He started working up the "Blue For Lou" track during sound checks, while touring in Australia with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band during early 2017. "I kept playing with it through a couple weeks, on my own and thought, 'Man, one day I've got to do something with that'," Lofgren recalls.

Lofgren adds that the track, which also features guest vocals by Cindy Mizelle, is "kind of my vision of what Lou meant to me. He was a big proponent of all art and its ability to heal us and to make you think and disturb you and seek solutions. The song is kind of a rageful thing but solution-based in the sense of 'I want to get out of my own way let my crazy come through,' but headed towards something better than we're in. It's a lot of the things I think Lou conveyed in his music."

Lofgren and Reed were brokered together during the late '70s by producer Bob Ezrin, who worked with both artists; Lofgren remembers a 4:30 a.m. call from Reed one night telling him he'd completed 13 sets of lyrics to a tape of music the guitarist had sent him. The two wrote the 13 songs during an initial session together at Reed's apartment in New York, with some ending up on each of their albums -- notably "City Lights" on Reed's The Bells in 1979, which Lofgren re-recorded for Blue With Lou.

Lofgren says he "always thought someday (Reed) might call and want to dust off the five that got left behind," but that didn’t happen before Reed's death in 2013. "I felt like finally the whole batch would be shared -- I felt like that had to happen," Lofgren explains. "It was a really special thing we did together, and I wanted to take it to the finish and have all 13 songs we did together out there." Reed's widow Laurie Anderson has not heard the songs yet, to Lofgren's knowledge, but he notes that, "I hope she hears it. I'd like to share it with her and see what she thinks."

Lofgren -- accompanied by Newmark, McCormick, Mizelle and his brother and former Grin bandmate Tom Lofgren on guitar and keyboards -- hits the road for a short tour starting May 10 in Minneapolis and wrapping up June 2 in Dallas. Meanwhile, he's been in Telluride recently to record new music with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, which Lofgren was part of during the '70s and rejoined last year for some shows, including dates earlier this year. "(Young) was talking about maybe some more shows later this year, and then out of the blue he came up with an idea to get us together and start kicking around some new songs he had and see what happens," Lofgren says. "It's all kind of surreal. Neil, as always, has got a new batch of great songs so, yeah, we'll see what happens."

As for his other "day job," Lofgren is waiting, like the other E Streeters, to hear what Springsteen has planned in the wake of his Broadway run. "You know he's writing. You know he's probably got 10 albums of material in the can," Lofgren says. "He made an announcement that we won't be gigging this year, so we're all hoping, even though there's no news, that next year he might want to get the E Street Band back together and play a bit. That's always a hope. I'm a giant fan, and I've been in that band 35 years now, too, so I just hope everyone stays well and healthy and we can have another go-round. That would be wonderful."