Bruce Springsteen, by his own admission, showed up at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood Sunday night, May 5, “begging complete strangers for their vote” at an event hosted by Netflix to promote his Springsteen on Broadway special before Emmy voters.
The film was discussed during an often humorous, personal chat between Springsteen and Martin Scorsese, who first met in 1975 when the legendary director and Robert DeNiro went to see Springsteen at the Roxy in Los Angeles. But it was about 30 minutes into the 40-minute talk that Springsteen said what any Boss fan wanted to hear: There will be another tour with the E Street Band.
“I’ve spent about seven years not writing anything for the band. I couldn’t write anything for the band,” confessed Springsteen, whose new solo album, Western Stars, comes out June 14. “And 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 mean I know where it came from, but at the same time, it just came out of almost nowhere. I had almost two weeks of those daily visitations and it was so nice. It makes you so happy. You go, ‘Fine, I’m not fucked.’ There’ll be another tour.”
The news brought a cheer from the 200-person audience, who were also treated to a two-song acoustic performance of “Dancing In the Dark” and “Land of Hope and Dreams” by Springsteen.
Among the other highlights:
You Gotta Have Faith: Both Springsteen and Scorsese attended Catholic school and its influence has never left either of them. “All my work was informed from my years at Catholic school and I was never able to outrun it,” Springsteen said. “As I got older I stopped fighting against it. Now I draw on it and enjoy it. First of all, there’s no greater well to draw from than the myths in Catholicism: Redemption, damnation, death, sexual torture… The faith you had as a child, I think was very fear-based. You’re in second grade, so you’re seven years old, and, you’re making your first confession. What do you have to confess? I had to make things up. You went into the dark box and you confessed, supposedly, your deepest secrets… As you get older, if it works out, it becomes love based…The record Nebraska was very influenced by Flannery O’Connor and her stories were always based on the unknowability of God. I think as you get older, that’s what you grow comfortable with: Faith is faith. It’s trust. It’s about all of the mysteries and the answers that you’re never going to come up with…But if you let it be, that’s when you find a little bit of peace. That’s what I’ve found anyway.”
Bruce Springsteen, Funeral Crasher: “I get drawn back to my [hometown] church. I attended some stranger’s funeral a month ago,” Springsteen said. “I was driving by it and saw the door was open and I said, ‘I gotta go in. I gotta go back.’ I went in and there was some nice man’s funeral going on and I sat in the back and it was completely bizarre.”
The Dark Side: “If you’re an artist, the darkness is always more interesting than the light. It’s nice when you let the light in at the end of something, but I was always interested in what were the things that didn’t go right,” Springsteen said. “I had a habit—I would drive back to my hometown and I would do this over and over again and I used to ask myself, ‘what am I coming back here for?’ And I still do it. I’m nearly 70 years old… I don’t know if you’re going back to fix things that went wrong or so much happened there that informed your work and your life, it still remains a rich location, but I always wanted base the heart of my work in the dark side of things and then you had to earn the light.….The artists that are interesting: You think of Hank Williams or Elvis or Frank Sinatra or Bob Dylan or Marty Scorsese, it’s ‘What’s bothering that guy? [‘A lot,’ answered Scorsese, with a laugh]. That’s what keeps us watching. That’s why you can watch Bob DeNiro’s face on the screen for two hours..it never gives up its secrets. I don’t think there’s necessarily an answer, but you do ask question after question in the work that you create and those questions are fascinating and they bring you closer to a certain kind of truth and that’s the best you can do.”
Reaching for the Divine: “As a kid you had your little rote prayers before you went to bed,” Springsteen said. “I think as you get older and find your form that you’re going to work with, you find your little prayers that provide you the inner vision and you capture a small— 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. There’s a small tiny divine part of ourselves that connects to something that is bigger than you and bigger than the folks and everyone watching…It can come in many, many forms, but whenever I’ve really written something that I felt had some [divine] quality to it, there’s always that little piece of ‘Oh, I’m not exactly sure where that came from.’”
Thanks, Obama!: “The whole [Springsteen on Broadway] came about as a bit of an accident.” Springsteen said. “President Obama, the last couple of weeks he was in office, asked me to come down and play at the White House. I said I’m not going to bring the whole band down, so I’d written the memoir and said, maybe I’ll read from the book a little bit and play a few songs. And then when I went to read from the book, I realized that 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. There was just some alchemy there that felt really right.”
From Play to Film: “[Director] Thom [Zimny] and [Springsteen’s manager] Jon [Landau] were debating what was going to be the role of the audience,” Springsteen said. “Jon first said, ‘there shouldn’t be any audience, we should just film you on stage.’ [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.’…Then we decided we’d have an audience, but we won’t show an audience, which is what you did in The Last Waltz. We didn’t want to telegraph to the audience what they were supposed to feel.”
Thanks, Elvis!: Springsteen’s Netflix special opens on a close up of his face. “That was Jon Landau. That was his shot,” Springsteen said. “ I don’t know if he was influenced by the great Elvis ’68 Comeback Special where the first thing you see is Elvis going [imitating Presley, ‘If you’re looking for trouble”] and you see Elvis’s face. Much better looking than my face. It was a good kick off.”
First Night Jitters: “You’re got to make your internal life available and you can’t worry about that,” Springsteen said. “You’ve got to be ready to look into the camera, which is unforgiving and frightening. We shot two nights. And the first night, I was really uncomfortable, which was a little unusual, but I came out and I’m looking into the camera and I‘m trying to do what I usually do and I realize I’m doing the weirdest thing you can do on stage, which is think about what you’re doing. Don’t ever do that…because you’re fucking it up…I went home and said, ‘I gotta up my game for tomorrow.’ I came back the next day and found I was more relaxed because when you’re too completely self conscious, you’re not in it and when you’re not in it, you’re not making your emotional life available. As long as you’re making your emotional and inner life available, you’re very watchable. The audience will watch you do that because it’s death defying. You’re on a tightrope. That was our biggest concern because there’s one old guy and an acoustic guitar. That’s the show.
We Can’t All Be the Boss: Springsteen asked Scorsese how he selects the music, which plays such an overwhelming part in so many of his films. “It comes from my 78s and 45s, from my old collection which I still have,” Scorsese said. “In fact, in Mean Streets, we used the old 45s with the scratches. It’s a film that sounds like the music. If I could play music, I wouldn’t have to do all this.”