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Neil Young and Crazy Horse.Courtesy of Warner Records

There’s the old story about Neil Young listening to songs from his 1972 album Harvest on his ranch in California. A left speaker was in his house with the windows upstairs open and the right speaker sat in a barn, with Young listening from a rowboat on a lake in between. Asked if the audio mix was to his satisfaction, he yelled back, “more barn,” now a catchphrase among Young enthusiasts.

Apparently he can’t get enough. Young’s new album is Barn, named after the place in Colorado in which it was created and recorded.

“We rebuilt an ancient 1870s ponderosa pine barn that was used as an overnight stagecoach stop,” Young says, speaking to The Globe and Mail on a recent Zoom session. “When I first saw it, it had sunk into the ground. It was half as high as it used to be.”

Out Dec. 10, Barn is Young’s 18th studio album with his electric cohorts Crazy Horse. A documentary film of the same name will be screened at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto on Dec. 11.

The album rocks corrosively on the environmentally concerned Human Race (”Who’s gonna save the human race/ where are all the children gonna run and hide?”) and on Heading West, a barre-chord reminiscence about his teenage years in Winnipeg: “Mommy got me my first guitar.”

Courtesy of Warner Records

Elsewhere there are love songs, a saloon-piano romp about the fossil fuel politics (Change Ain’t Never Gonna) and a wheezing-accordion album opener called Song of the Seasons. That one isn’t about a barn, but a cottage in Ontario where Young and his actor wife Daryl Hannah have been spending a lot of time recently.

Your new album starts with Song of the Seasons, with a line about looking through a wavy glass window. Is that literally, or is it a metaphor?

I think it’s literal.

The song is set in your cottage in Ontario, near where you grew up in Omemee?

Yeah. It was a fishing lodge, built in 1906 on a lake. It’s incredible. I just love it. My wife and I just got back. We were there for a couple of months. We’ve been there for two or three visits since we bought the place last year.

There’s another song on the album, Canerican, about your dual citizenship. What brings you back to Canada?

I love Canada. Coming back is always a joy. There’s a certain lightness to Canada that is not like any other place. People are friendly. It’s a beautiful, natural country compared to other places on the planet. It’s in my blood. When I come to Canada, I feel like I’m home. I feel relaxed, and the longer I stay the more comfortable I get.

So why leave?

I have a lot of things going on, and people I’m working with. And I have beautiful homes in the United States. One in the Rockies and one on the West Coast. They’re all beautiful and they’re all different.

Your new song Heading West is about your high-school years in Winnipeg and your mother. How satisfying is it to write and sing about her at this point in your career?

I wish I had done it when she was on this planet. But that didn’t work out. It’s great to remember those times and to commemorate her involvement and her support in what I was trying to do in that part of my life. She bought me my first electric guitar. She let my first band rehearse in the living room.

I was in Winnipeg when you gave two concerts with Crazy Horse in 2019. How did that visit go for you?

It was fun. I was with my old friend Jack Harper, the original drummer of the Squires. We cruised around and looked at the community clubs we used to play in. And at night I played with Crazy Horse. We played pretty well, but better one night than we did the other night.

The second night at Centennial Concert Hall was better than the first at Burton Cummings Theatre.

Yeah, definitely.

There are songs on the new album about fossil-fuelled cars and climate change, which made me think of your line about Mother Nature being on the run, from After the Gold Rush. But is she on the run? Aren’t we the ones who are in danger?

Yep. We’re the ones on the run. Quite often Mother Nature is fine, but animals are dying left and right and going extinct. But Mother Nature continues on, according to the rules of nature. This is just what happens. If you screw something up, it will stop working. If you don’t pay attention to it and take care of it and use that ugly, terrible word science, you could blow up the planet.

How are you doing yourself?

I’m pretty good. I seem to be getting stronger.

What do you attribute that to?

I really don’t know. I feel physically stronger than I ever did. I don’t know what to make of it, but I’m not arguing with it.

I just saw Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall. What’s this I hear about you playing there at some point again yourself?

If everything works out, I will. But I’m still not playing anywhere. I don’t want to. I don’t think we’re ready. I don’t want to be part of a superspreader event. I’m waiting until we get a grip on what we’re doing.

The last song on the album is Don’t Forget Love. A lot of your songs over your career have that word in it, love.

It’s because love is in a lot of life. It’s just the way I am. I write about it. I don’t really think about it. Love just keeps coming back, and you can’t turn it down.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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