My Favorite Album: Whitney on the Music of Neil Young - “Our favorite songwriter of all time is Neil Young. He has so many albums that are sick, so choosing one album would be a little tough.” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, August 5th, 2020  

My Favorite Album: Whitney on the Music of Neil Young

“Our favorite songwriter of all time is Neil Young. He has so many albums that are sick, so choosing one album would be a little tough.” – Max Kakacek

Jul 09, 2020 Photography by Olivia Bee Issue #66 - My Favorite Album - Angel Olsen and Sleater-Kinney
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They loved Neil Young but leaned Bob Dylan. 

To hear Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich discuss their favorite album is to also discuss Whitney’s latest album, Forever Turned Around. The Chicago-based duo at the center of the indie folk band are obsessed with all things Neil Young these days and that includes an inability to arrive at a single favorite album.

“Our favorite songwriter of all time is Neil Young. He has so many albums that are sick, so choosing one album would be a little tough,” says Kakacek. “As far as songwriting goes, I think we challenge ourselves with using him as a benchmark for our songwriting.”

“Honestly, when we were writing the first album, I’d taken a break from listening to the Neil Young side of that era,” says Ehrlich. “We were more into The Band and Jim Ford and more of the Dylan side of things.

“Then on this album, I think we got more of a specific songwriting bug where that became more important. We thought studying from the master was important, so we genuinely formed a new appreciation for [Young] in this songwriting process.”

The inspiration from Young is two-sided for the guys in Whitney, but it begins with the ability of his songs to translate in any setting.

“For the songwriting process for us this time, we talked about Live at Massey Hall a bunch because it was him reducing his songs to their simplest forms,” says Kakacek. “His performance on that album is more devastatingly lonely and beautiful than a lot of the studio recordings.

“We kind of considered that process while we were writing, wondering how these songs would be performed just on acoustic and piano and whether or not they would stand up to the studio versions. It’s that idea of the songwriting process as one where there can be multiple versions of the song and they’re just as good no matter how they are interpreted.”

The pair is equally taken in by Young’s ability to craft such meaningful and memorable songs over such a span of time.

“We were in Germany and we were talking about Neil Young with someone and someone said, ‘You can make it your entire life’s work trying to hear all the Neil Young songs that were ever written.’ There were thousands,” says Kakacek. “Even in the ’90s when you’d think he would have, by odds, fallen off as a songwriter or put out records that were sucky, he puts out Harvest Moon. That kind of dedication to the craft is super inspiring.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. For the issue we interviewed musicians and actors about their all-time favorite album.]

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