Photo by Ben Kaye
There’s always a push and pull between a musician being simply an artist and expressing their political opinions. For someone like Bruce Springsteen, though, someone who’s long been seen as a champion of the underclass, it’s almost expected that he take a stance in a divisive era such as this. However, much like he was content to save tossing his full weight behind Hillary Clinton until the eve of the election, The Boss isn’t feeling particularly moved to address our current POTUS in song.
In a recent interview with Variety, Springsteen was asked what he might do next after his upcoming Broadway residency. He said he’d likely move on to a solo record, but one that would not be “topical at all.” “Topical writing at the moment doesn’t hold a lot of interest to me. I really got out a lot of what I had to say in that vein on Wrecking Ball,” he said. I’m not driven to write any anti-Trump diatribe; that doesn’t feel necessary at the moment.”
Springsteen pointed to the current proliferation of music in the anti-Trump vein as one reason he’s staying out of it. Calling such an exercise “redundant,” he added, “And, once again, I always try to look at what I can deliver that’s personal to me and of most value. The audience has a wide variety of needs; whatever you’re writing, you’re trying to meet your own need… So I hope I write about the things that obsess me well enough for my audience to care about them.”
He went on to say that Charles Blow of the New York Times “carries the flag pretty well” in terms of his opinions on Trump. Meanwhile, Springsteen’s currently more interested in writing music that’s “an affair of the heart:” “People want you to go deeper than politics, they want you to reach inside to their most personal selves and their deepest struggles with their daily lives and reach that place; that’s the place I’m always trying to reach.”
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He wouldn’t rule out writing a topical song if he was so moved, but right now he’s focused on “character pieces” that resonant beyond the present, much as Woody Guthrie wrote. “That’s the target; those are the kinds of works that you aspire to,” he said. “It’s like if The Rising was only about 9/11, it would have been hollow. But you can listen to it today and it’s a record that has a spiritual resonance that, whether it was connected to that event or not, it retains its life and its poetry.”
Regardless of what it ends up being about, it seems fans at least have a new Springsteen solo effort to look forward to. His last album of original songs recorded without the E Street Band was 2005’s Devils & Dust.