Kim Gordon reveals the valuable advice she received from Neil Young

Rock musician and former Sonic Youth frontwoman says she’s ‘not a natural singer’

Neil O'Connor
Tuesday 05 March 2024 10:26 GMT
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Kim Gordon has shared the valuable piece of advice she received from legendary singer-songwriter Neil Young, which has stuck with her through the years.

Gordon, 70, is a rock music pioneer, known for her speak-sung vocals while serving as the aloof frontwoman of New York’s experimental “no wave” band Sonic Youth.

She is also a successful solo artist and painter. Her critically acclaimed memoir, Girl in a Band, was published in 2015, and her second solo album, The Collective, is due for release this Friday (8 March).

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Gordon reflected on how she feels about the prospect of a Sonic Youth reunion. The band broke up in 2011, at the same time as her marriage to guitarist Thurston Moore. She also spoke about what she’s learnt through her career in music.

“Neil Young told me that it doesn’t matter how good your voice is, in terms of range or whatever,” the LA-based artist said. “It’s about how authentic it sounds. That stuck with me.”

She later explained: “I’m not a natural singer. I know what works for me in the sense of using rhythm and space, and I really do like working off rhythms.

“I really just wanted to do more of that. I feel much freer in what I’m singing about in a certain way. I don’t feel like I have to hold myself back in some way.”

Kim Gordon (left) says she received some great advice from Neil Young
Kim Gordon (left) says she received some great advice from Neil Young (Getty)

In a 2019 interview with The Independent, Gordon recalled being shooed away from Young while Sonic Youth were touring with the artist for his Ragged Glory shows.

“They thought we were freaks,” she wrote in her memoir, “mainly because I was a woman onstage and they always thought I was going to get hurt. It just aligned me with the whole rock thing – they’d throw a birthday party for somebody and there’d be a stripper on the side of the stage. I remember the stage manager yelled at me once because I was over there: ‘You’re distracting Neil.’”

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Her confidence, or lack thereof, works in extremes, she told Rolling Stone: “It’s not self-doubt – just mulling things over, thinking about it, and then saying, ‘F*** it.’

“On this record, a lot of the lyrics are improvised. I started out with some lines. Depending on the song, some had more than others. But when we were recording, things just come into my head, or they’ll just come out of my mouth.”

She sounded doubtful over the idea that Sonic Youth would reunite, remarking: “It would never be as good as it was.”

Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth (Rex)

The Collective sees Gordon reunite with producer Justin Raisen, whose previous credits include albums by Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira, and with whom she collaborated on her debut solo album No Home Record.

“I’m surprised by how well it’s been received,” Gordon told The Independent of her first album. “Because I didn’t really think about it. I think the record’s kind of eccentric.

“The music isn’t something you listen to as much as experience, and the things I’m talking about are not easy to digest.”

She added: “A lot of solo records kind of suck. So I wasn’t in a rush to do it. There’s so many expectations people have. So many Sonic Youth fans. Nothing is gonna be as impactive as the band was.”

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