Little Steven Talks First Album in Two Decades, 'Soulfire,' Listen to 'Blues Is My Business'

Steven van Zandt
Jo Lopez

Steven van Zandt

It's been nearly 20 years since Steven Van Zandt released a solo album. That long drought will end on May 19 when the charter E Street Band member affectionately known to millions as "Little Steven" will drop his sixth solo effort, Soulfire. The collection of all-new recordings of songs that span the Rock and Roll Hall of famer's career includes "Saint Valentine's Day," which fans will receive when they pre-order the album here.

The disc from Wicked Cool/Big Machine/UMe focuses on Van Zandt's signature "soul horns-meets-rock 'n' roll guitars" sound with his newest collection of the 15-strong backing band The Soul Disciples backing him. The album was arranged and produced by Van Zandt at his Renegade Studios in New York City and co-produced and recorded by Grammy-winner Geoff Sanoff (Fountains of Wayne, Stephen Colbert) and co-produced and music directed by guitarist Marc Ribler; the album was mixed by the legendary Bob Clearmountain (Rolling Stones, David Bowie), and Bob Ludwig (Led Zeppelin, Nirvana). 

Background vocals on the tracks “I Don’t Want To Go Home” and “The City Weeps Tonight” feature the a cappella group The Persuasions. 

In a Billboard exclusive, Van Zandt talks about "Blues Is My Business” (written by Kevin Bowe and Todd Cerney and recorded by Etta James in 2003), a fiery tune that represents a first for him. “I’ve never recorded a real urban Southside-of-Chicago blues thing before," he says of the song that finds him mining a funky groove. "I went though a blues period growing up but by the time I got to the recording studio, I’d kind of gone in a different direction. We worked it out for BluesFest and I liked the arrangement so much, we recorded it for the album.”

Get an exclusive listen to the song:

The album also features the Motown-inspired "Love on the Wrong Side of Town," co-written with his boss, Bruce Springsteen, which you can hear below.

“I’ve always been very thematic with my work, very conceptual,” Van Zandt says in a statement about the album. “I need a big picture, I can’t just do a collection of songs, that doesn’t work for me. In this case, the concept became me. Who am I? I’m kind of my own genre at this point. So I tried to pick material that when you added it all up, really represented me. So there are a couple of covers, a couple of new songs, and some of what I feel are the best songs I’ve written and co-written over the years. This record is me doing me.”