Between organizing the 25th annual Bridge School Benefit Concerts, readying 25th anniversary CD and DVD sets and making an album of her own, Pegi Young can rival her husband, Neil, these days for a perpetually busy schedule. Young is gearing up for the concerts, which take place Oct. 22-23 at Shoreline Amphitheatre with a lineup that includes her husband, Foo Fighters, Arcade Fire, Los Invisibles featuring Carlos Santana, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Beck, Tony Bennett, Dave Matthews, Mumford & Sons, Diana Krall and Jenny Lewis.
“We start thinking about what the lineup is going to be for next year immediately after we finish, so it really is a year-long process,” Young tells Billboard.com. “But this year it’s our 25th anniversary, so that’s certainly something to celebrate. Twenty-five years is 25 years, so that’s something we’re excited about and celebrating with our supporters. And we have a great lineup for both days, so my fingers are crossed for good weather.”
In addition to working on this year’s lineup, however, Young was also overseeing the CD and DVD sets, which come out on Oct. 24. Young describes the selection as “an arduous process” but also an enlightening endeavor. “It was sort of astounding to look back and say, ‘My gosh, this has been flabbergasting how much talent has come across the Bridge School Benefit stage,” she says. “When you’re in it, you don’t always have that perspective. So it was hard to narrow down who we should pick for the first 25 years. That was very difficult.”
The projects feature performances by 40 different acts who have played the benefit shows during its first 24 years, including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, the Who, Bruce Springsteen, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s cover of Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush” and a teaming of Young with R.E.M. on “Country Feedback.” The DVD also includes a disc with documentaries about the school and the concerts, as well as interviews Bridge School students conducted with the performers.
“The DVD and the CD have some overlap, but there are some differences as well,” Pegi Young says. “We wanted to use as much as we could, and that’s what was probably the most challenging about this project. And then we finally said, ‘OK, this is just the first 25. We’ll come up with other ways in which we can share what’s happened over these past years.”
Young won’t have much time to take a breather after the Bridge School Benefit shows, however. On Nov. 15 she’ll release her third album, “Bracing For Impact,” which features 10 songs recorded with her band the Survivors, as well as the Watson Twins singing backup, during a five-day session in May and early June in Los Angeles — though the track “Baby Girl” dates back to sessions for her self-titled 2007 debut. Young also covers the Danny Whitten-penned Crazy Horse song “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” and Tarheel Slim’s “Number 9 Train,” while Neil Young performs on four tracks and wrote one, “Doghouse.”
“It’s just things that were on my mind at that time,” Young says of the songs. “I really do kind of try to weave a story in through the songs, so I still pay attention to things like sequencing and thematic relevance. So that’s probably what I was going for… to come up with a body of work that told a story of sorts. And at the core of any of my short little body of work is that people will be able to take the songs into their lives and they will resonate with them on some level and apply it, even if it had nothing to with what sparked me to write the songs.”
Young and the Survivors will play eight dates opening for Stephen Stills during November in California, Colorado and Arizona, and she says that “we’ll see where else we can get some gigs, because we love to play.” She’s also looking forward to showing off the Survivors, a new band for her since the passing of Ben Keith and the departure of Anthony Crawford. “Spooner Oldham, (keyboardist), Rick (Rosas, bassist) and I were looking at each other and going, ‘Well, gosh, it’s just the two of us left now, because Phil (Jones, drummer) came into the band later on. So it just kind of came into my head. We just made up the name of our band — we’re the Survivors.”
In the midst of all this, Young has also been helping Neil work on his memoir, “Waging Heavy,” which is due out in the fall of 2012. “I’m looking through it,” she acknowledges, “not so much for content but more for ‘This person’s name is spelled like this’ or ‘Well, this didn’t happen on this date…’ So I’m helping him put things in the right place and in a timeline. And I’m also the spelling bee champ from back in the day, so I can help with that, too.”