As he prepares to hit the road for his first-ever solo tour, E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent is girding himself for Bruce Springsteen song requests, and some likely “Brooooooce!” bellows from the audience.
“I don’t know what to expect on the road,” Tallent, who’s supporting his 2016 debut solo album Break Time, tells Billboard. “That’s part of the experience. I’m sure especially when we get to places like the Stone Pony [in the E Street terra firma of Asbury Park, N.J.] there are going to be some people there in case Bruce might show up. But I shouldn’t let that keep me from going out there and doing it on my own. I’m hoping for the most part that people are there with an open mind, and hopefully we can win them over with our show.”
Tallent did posit one idea earlier: to answer any calls for “Thunder Road” with Robert Mitchum‘s “The Ballad Of Thunder Road.” But he’s thinking twice about it now. “It might be fun; I have an arrangement of that, but now that it’s been mentioned it kind of takes the surprise out of it,” Tallent says. “We’ll see what happens.”
Tallent’s tour — which kicks off April 21 in Edwardsville, Ill, had has 14 dates booked into May — was originally planned for the spring of 2016, but was pushed back when Springsteen decided to extend his “The River” tour in North America and then add treks through Europe, North America again and (early this year) Australia and New Zealand. He’s hoping to add more dates throughout the year as well.
“I was promised I could do this for the rest of the year, but I don’t believe that,” Tallent says. “There’s some opportunities to do things in September, and I’m like, ‘Do I dare?’ The album’s been out a year, and it’s not a major-label release or anything like that, so the good part is it’s still new to a lot of people. I’m just taking one day at a time and we’re gonna do these dates and take the temperature at that point.”
The ’50s rock-flavored “Break Time” — which features guest appearances by Duane Eddy and Doug Kershaw — was a long time coming for Tallent. “The whole idea of the album was the answer to the fans who say, ‘Well, what do you do when you’re not with the E Street band?'” Tallent explains. “I think people think they just put me in cold storage somewhere and I sit there until it’s time to go out again. But the fact is I’ve been producing records for 30 years now.”
That behind-the-scenes back catalog includes records for Steve Forbert and Jim Lauderdale, as well as Marshall Crenshaw‘s version of “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” for the La Bamba soundtrack. There’s more where that came from, too, though future Tallent releases will take a different tact; The next one, in fact, will “sound like 1966…more of the garage, the Farfisa, Vox organ, Fuzztone genre, like Syndicate Of Sound or something like that. More garage, more raw.”
Tallent has about half of the songs for the next album written, but the delay in touring behind Break Time has pushed the timetable back a bit. “I want to give (Break Time) it’s best shot before I start on the next one,” he acknowledges, “but I am kind of foaming at the bit to start on the next one. This has been a great experience.”
Tallent plans to include “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” in his sets as well as other ’50s favorites — including some Chuck Berry material to salute the late pioneer, who the E Street Band have backed several times over the years since first doing so in ’73.
“I got to know Chuck a little bit — as much as any outsider could — but we used to talk on the phone occasionally,” says Tallent, who tried unsuccessfully to contact Berry during a visit to St. Louis shortly before his death on March 15. “It’s sad; He’s one of the inventors of rock ‘n’ roll, for sure. And it’s one of those things where people aren’t really appreciated until they’re gone. So I’m really happy there’s a new appreciation for the work that he did.”