Neil Young drives a 1956 Crown Vic back in time in Jonathan Demme’s ‘Neil Young: Journeys’

Rock shapeshifter Neil Young uses a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria as his wayback machine in Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme’s new film, “Neil Young: Journeys.”

The singer and filmmaker document a road trip from Young's hometown of Omemee, Ontario to a performance at Toronto's historic Massey Hall.

“[The Crown Vic] is the same age, within ten years, as I am, so traveling in this vehicle seemed to make sense,” Young told in a sit-down interview along with Demme in New York City. “I love old cars. I always ride around in old cars. That’s the way I like to live.”

Following behind his brother Bob on a driving tour of Omemee and its environs, Young tells Demme stories of his youth, recounting what sounded like an idyllic childhood set in the Canadian countryside.

“I loved seeing the brothers trudge around out there, through whatever that crackly vegetation is out there,” Demme told of a scene where Neil and Bob survey land that used to be their back yard. “There’s something about grown siblings on the property of the house where the family once lived -- later the house burned down -- to hear these guys still connected to it. That meant a lot to me when I saw it on camera.”

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Young’s stories about growing up are interspersed with songs from his powerful 2011 Massey Hall performance. “[It's] the show I did when I was out on the road a year ago,” Young said. “It was like a play.”


“Most of the songs from the show are in the film. We rearranged them for the movie,” Demme added. “It was interesting, too, because the way they were arranged for the show had a narrative feeling to it. But when we started editing the songs together, especially when we started juxtaposing them with the progress of the [trip], there was an invitation to move them around a little bit, and that was a lot of fun.”

Demme said the back-and-forth between Young’s filmed recollections and the Massey Hall performance added dimension to the songs, which include Young classics like “Out of the Blue” as well as newer songs like “Love and War” from 2010’s “Le Noise.”

“We found the more we tried to include [the road trip], the more the songs benefited, because you had a moment of ventilation, after the build-up of these very powerful songs,” Demme explained. “And you’re riding around with the guy who just blew your mind with that last song!”

“Neil Young Journeys” is Demme’s third film with Young, following 2006’s “Heart of Gold” and 2009’s “Trunk Show.”

“After we did two, we joked about, well, let’s make it a trilogy. But a trilogy is a pretty abstract notion. You can apply it to almost any three things. We’re kind of a trilogy of people sitting here,” Demme said. “But I’m shooting for a quartet now.”

“A quadrolopogy,” Young offered.

Demme said Young, 66, is still the same guy he first captured in “Heart of Gold. “

“He’s still making great music. He’s still an incredibly hard worker, incredibly candid and, just, there. I don’t see any changes,” he said.

Young and Demme, 68, come off as close friends, both in the ease with which Young told Demme personal tales for his film, and in their relaxed interaction during our interview.

“Remember when my other house burned down, and my bus burned down, and then my car burned down?” Young asked Demme as they talked about the vignette where he revisited his old back yard. “Apparently [my childhood] house burned down at the same time. I found that out. That’s interesting.”

“Yeah!” Demme exclaimed.

“A lot of burning going back there,” Young said, laughing. “Yeee – horror movie.”

The two also argued about which songs from the Massey Hall performance hit the movie’s cutting room floor.

“We left out a couple songs. Did we leave out ‘Helpless’?” Young asked. “We used it in the background, we used that as a soundtrack. 'Out of the Blue'? Did we leave that out? … There were three of them in the beginning that were old ones.”

“We left ‘Man Needs a Maid’ out of one of the movies,” Demme offered.

“That was the other one,” Young said.

“Was that ‘Trunk Show’?” Demme laughed.

“That was a good version, and we left it out,” Young said, feigning annoyance.

After the interview, Young excused himself to use the restroom while Demme tried to piece together the movie’s track list in his head. Young re-emerged.

“We left out ‘Cortez the Killer’,” he said. “It was ‘Cortez the Killer’.”

Demme laughed: "So that's where you do your best thinking!"

“Neil Young: Journeys” opens in New York City and Los Angeles on June 29.