Bruce Springsteen’s music has always been a potent mixture of the personal and the political. In an in-depth interview just released by Sony Music, the great songwriter looks inward, to a shattered economy and his own emasculated father, to discuss the origins of his new album, Wrecking Ball.
Actor, writer and director Antoine de Caunes interviewed Springsteen in front of an audience in Paris, France, on Feb. 16, 2012, and found Springsteen fully prepared to take stock of his work.
“My work has always been about judging the distance between the American reality and the American dream,” he says. “How far is that at any given point? Like if you look at this record there is the question asked, 'Do we take care of our own?'”
Wrecking Ball is an unapologetically angry look at the state of the U.S. economy, and what Springsteen calls the “destruction of some fundamental American values” over the past 30 years. “You can never go wrong with ‘pissed off’ in rock and roll,” Springsteen says.
“The genesis of the record was after 2008, we had the huge financial crisis in the United States,” he told the audience. “There was really no accountability for years and years. Previous to the Occupy Wall Street, there was no pushback. There was no movement, there was no voice saying an outrageous, basic theft had occurred.”
Springsteen has seen first-hand the damage unemployment can cause a family. He drew on his own experience, growing up in New Jersey in a household where his mother was the primary breadwinner and his father always struggled to find work.
“Work creates an enormous sense of self as I saw in my mother,” he says. “My mother was this inspiring, towering figure to me in the best possible way. I picked up a lot of the way I work from her. She was my working example. You know, just steadfast, just relentless. But I also picked up a lot of the fallout when your father doesn’t have those things. And that results into a house that turns into, quite a bit like a minefield.”
Songs like “Death to My Hometown,” “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Jack of All Trades” cover familiar ground for Springsteen, mixing disillusionment and patriotism, anger and hope. Springsteen says his recurring theme is tied to the recurring cycle of economic hardship.
“If you listen to the record, I use a lot of folk music, Civil War music, there’s gospel music, ‘30s music in ‘Jack of All Trades,’” he says. “The idea was the music was going to contextualize historically that this has happened before in the 1970s, it’s happened in the ‘30s, it’s happened in the 1800s. It’s cyclical. Over and over and over and over again. So I try to pick up some of the continuity and some of the historical resonance through the music.”
The interview also covered Springsteen’s Catholic upbringing, his songwriting process and reflections on his friend and collaborator, Clarence Clemons, the E Street Band’s saxophonist who died after complications from a stroke in 2011.
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on Jun 18, 2012