By Brian Ives
Bruce Springsteen calls his new album, High Hopes, an anomaly. The record is comprised mostly of new versions of songs he has recorded before, but even the “new” songs have been works-in-progress for years. Springsteen talked with Rolling Stone at great lengths about the LP, out next week (but that you can stream now!). Here’s five things we took away from the lengthy interview.
1. There’s an album of electronic music, a la “Streets Of Philadelphia,” that he’s been working on since the ’90s.
“I made an entire record similar to that record, where I was using drum loops. I’ve been listening to that for almost 20 years… I’ll pick it out sometimes every two or three years and I’ll see if I have any fresh insights. And if not, I put it away, and if I do I may work on it a little bit.”
2. He’s working on an album that he started before 2012’s Wrecking Ball.
Springsteen was working on a more stripped-down album when he got sidetracked by the project that became Wrecking Ball, and he’s finally back to working on that album at the moment. “I was missing a song for that record and so I wrote ‘Easy Money,'” he said. “‘Easy Money’ then turned into a 10-day recording session where I wrote and recorded all the rest on ’em, a completely different album.” Later in the conversation, interviewer Andy Greene returned to the subject of that album and if it will come out next: “I don’t know. [That’s] the only thing in this entire conversation where I don’t know exactly what I’m doing.”
3. He feels that his best songs need to have authorized, studio versions.
And that’s why he will do studio versions of songs like “Land Of Hope and Dreams” and “American Land” (both of which appeared on Wrecking Ball) and “American Skin (41 Shots)” and the electric version of “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” (which are on High Hopes) years after debuting them in concert. Regarding the latter two songs: “Those were two songs that I said, ‘Okay, these are two of my best songs that I’ve written over the past 10 or 20 years.’ And they didn’t have a formal presentation on a studio record. When that happens, a song always loses a little of its authority.”
4. So, what about a Bruce Springsteen “Bootleg Series”?
Bob Dylan has been releasing archival material under his Bootleg Series banner for decades, and Neil Young recently took to putting out old, previously unreleased concert recordings in his Archive Series. Springsteen has a treasure trove of commercially unreleased songs and alternate versions. When asked about this, his response was: “Old concerts, I don’t know. Do people need them anymore? [Laughs] Don’t they just go on the Internet and find them?”
He then noted that there is plenty of material that predates his solo career: “If you go on YouTube, there is actually quite a bit of it there. And I had a prog band [laughs], basically. I mean, Steel Mill was a heavy-metal, prog-rock, blues-based classic, sort of late-1960s, early 1970s four-piece unit. We made a lot of music. I never close the door on any of it. I suppose it would be nice to get some of the classic concerts that have kept people’s interest over the past 20, 30 or even 40 years and maybe formalize them in some way.” His next archival project though, will be a deluxe representation of his 1980 double album The River.
5. After spending much of 2013 touring internationally and playing no full length U.S. concerts, will he tour here this year?
“We’re playing in Africa. We’re playing in Australia. Then we’re possibly doing some more playing. It would be nice to get back in the States if it seemed like it was going to work out for everybody involved.”