Bruce Springsteen's upcoming album, Letter To You was primarily recorded live with the full E Street Band in the studio — thanks to Steve Van Zandt. During a new chat with Uncut, “Little Steven” and the rest of the band shared a private look into the making of the album, which is set for release on Friday (October 23rd).
Van Zandt, who co-produced 1980's The River and 1982's Born In The U.S.A., explained, “(Bruce and I) have an ongoing conversation and one of the regular topics is that if we do make another record, let’s do it the old way. You got a taste of the E Street Band on the recent records, it’s us playing, but it’s not the same as him walking in with an acoustic guitar and saying here’s the song, now everybody contribute ideas and we’ll build it from scratch. That’s quite a different experience. You get it on The River, Born In The U.S.A. — and now you get it on Letter To You.”
Van Zandt went on to say, “It’s the fourth part of an autobiographical summation of his life. . . The book, the play, the films, the albums — they were all fantastic. They were all better than they needed to be. It’s wonderful to see this level of quality of art being made at this age. This rock n' roll generation has changed science. It’s changed the conception of chronological time.”
Pianist Roy Bittan was out to lunch with Springsteen when “The Boss” mentioned a new album was in the works: “He dropped the bomb. He said, 'I wrote a whole bunch of songs for E Street.' I looked at him, I was kind of shocked. He said, 'Yeah, I did it in about two weeks.' That wasn’t the first time he had done something in a quick burst, but I was taken aback as he had been so involved with the Broadway show, the book, and this Western Stars project had been on and off for years. To hear that in the middle of all this he had written a bunch of E Street songs was terribly exciting. So the first thing I said was, 'Great, now don’t demo them.' Because when you demo, it’s carved in stone. Then you have to play 'beat the demo.'”
Max Weinberg painted the picture of what the recording setup for the band was at Springsteen's New Jersey Thrill Hill recording studio: “Bruce was about three feet to my left. Steve is three feet to my right playing through an amplifier — we don’t care about leakage; leakage is part of our personality. Roy is opposite me, 10 feet away, Garry (Tallent) is next to Steve, and Nils (Lofgren) and Charlie (Giordano) are in the second line on their instruments. We are very close together, which is unlike a concert where we are all spread out. You’ve got Stevie and Bruce doing what they did in the old days, bouncing ideas off each other and I’m in the middle watching the tennis match.”
Steve Van Zandt told us that Bruce Springsteen's recent work isn't that far away from what first attracted him to his earliest songs: “Well, he's still writing at a very high level of quality and that's always inspiring to me. Sometimes it maybe a little more politically slanted or socially slanted than romantically or emotionally slanted — but, y'know, I don't really judge that way. You go onstage with the script that you have and you do that as well as you can possibly do it. Y'know, that's all I know.”