Bruce Springsteen is no longer sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this [album].
On Sunday night at a Netflix FYSEE event on behalf of his special Springsteen on Broadway, the Boss revealed that inspiration has finally struck with regards to new music for the E Street Band.
“It’s been about 7 years without writing anything for the band. I couldn’t write anything for the band,” he told director Martin Scorsese, who appeared in conversation with him. “Then about a month or so ago, I wrote almost an album’s worth of material for the band and it came out of just — I know where it came from — but at the same time, it just came out of almost nowhere.”
“I had about two weeks of the daily visitations; it was so nice. It makes you so happy. You go ‘I’m not f–ked, alright! There will be another tour!’” he exclaimed with a laugh of his E Street writer’s block breakthrough. “But you have to capture a little piece of the divine to do that.” That’s right, the Boss confirmed he and the earth-quaking, booty-shaking E Street band could be touring with this new material whenever it is ready to enter the universe.
There’s the small matter of his new solo album first, which debuts in June and was only announced in late April. He hasn’t released an album of new, original music with the E Street Band since 2012’s Wrecking Ball. The group released High Hopes in 2014, but it is a collection of cover songs, outtakes, and re-imagined tracks.
For years, Springsteen’s fans have likened his music and particularly his live shows to religious experiences, comparing them to revival meetings and tapping into something inherently spiritual in his work. After joking at length with Scorsese on the impact of Catholicism on their work, the Boss got serious and addressed the role of the divine in his creative process, which he said was crucial to this new material.
“If you’re very, very fortunate and good at your job, you capture a small piece of the divine. It’s why the creative process has never been and will never be explained,” he said. “There’s a small, tiny divine part of ourselves that connects to something that is bigger than you and bigger than the folks who are doing the listening or the watching. You’ve captured a small, small piece of the divine and when audiences walk out of a film that’s really moved them or hear a piece of music, that’s what you get to bring them and you bring it to yourself. It’s like I can’t do it for you unless I’m doing it for me…But whenever I’ve really written something that I felt has had some quality to it there’s always that little piece where I’m going, ‘I’m not actually sure where that came from.’”
Springsteen also talked about the focus of the evening’s “For Your Consideration” event — his live special Springsteen on Broadway, which brought his record-breaking Broadway show to viewers at home via Netflix back in December. He revealed that the show itself was a bit of a happy accident arising out of a performance for President Obama.
“President Obama, the last couple weeks he was in office, he asked me to come down and play at the White House,” Springsteen recounted. “I had written the memoir, so I said, ‘Well maybe I’ll read from the book a little bit and I’ll play a few songs.’ Then, when I went to read from the book, I realized reading something is different than the way you speak it, so I rewrote what I was going to say as a spoken word piece. I went down and played about 90 minutes of what became the Broadway show in the East Room, and it was just some alchemy there that felt really right.”
Coincidentally, two of Broadway’s biggest hits in the last five years share an origin story. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s early performance of what was then called the Hamilton Mixtape also took place at the Obama White House — Miranda later said that moment served as a crucial springboard for what would become Hamilton.
Springsteen discussed some of the creative processes for Springsteen on Broadway and what would become the filmed version of it. Director Thom Zimny originally wanted to tape the special with no audience and just focus on Springsteen’s performance — but Springsteen feared what would happen to the energy of the piece without a responsive audience.
“Tom said, ‘There shouldn’t be any audience, we should just film it with him onstage.’ And I said, ‘Well who’s going to laugh at my jokes? I’m going to tell a joke and you’re not going to hear anything. That’s not going to work out,’” Springsteen detailed. “We ended up having kind of half an audience and that tended to work out well. It was just a very simple approach of trying to shoot what the audience saw, but that’s a lot more complicated than it seems.”
Ultimately, they filmed Springsteen on Broadway live over the course of two nights with a reduced audience size before it hit Netflix in December. The special opens on a close-up of Bruce, which Springsteen said was producer Jon Landau’s idea. “That was his shot. I don’t know if he was influenced by the great Elvis’ ’68 comeback special. First thing you see is Elvis,” mused Springsteen. “Elvis’ face is much better looking than my face.”
He also elaborated on how he considered the monologue portions of the show much more essential than the songs themselves. “I had a thing where I said, ‘Ok, people have heard these songs before, so how am I going to give them renewed meaning?’” he explained. “If I contextualize them through the stories I’m telling so that people have a renewed vision into how they were written and what they were about and hopefully each story brought you to the beginning of the song and suddenly you were able to hear that song renewed again. The monologue section of the film was really the central part of the performance and the central parts of the film, and when you get that right, it’s meditative.”
Springsteen on Broadway is eligible for Emmy consideration for Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded), as well as several technical awards in the Variety Special category, including Outstanding Directing, Writing, Editing, Lighting Design, and Sound Mixing.
Should the show be nominated for Outstanding Variety Special, Springsteen, who already has an Oscar, multiple Grammys, and a special (non-competitive) Tony award, would be in the running for the rarefied EGOT. But when it comes to awards consideration, tramps like Bruce, baby they were born to run.
Springsteen on Broadway is now streaming on Netflix.
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