Whatever you do — if you’re lucky enough to meet Bruce Springsteen — just don’t call him “The Boss.”
That’s the way Peter Ames Carlin starts his new biography, titled simply Bruce. The music icon has been profiled any number of times, but this is the first biography where Springsteen granted his biographer interviews — not just one, but many over nine months.
While talking with Think Out Loud‘s Dave Miller, Carlin shared what it was like to spend time with Springsteen, as well as discussed details about his early family life, his relationship to his fans and his career.
On meeting Bruce Springsteen:
“It was a little bit otherworldly, as you might imagine. Obviously I had followed his work and been a fan since I was 15 years old, but a lot of things had changed since then. I mean, not my affection for his work, but maybe the depth of my appreciation for it. And after spending that much time working on the book, really the most important thing to me was not the fan boy like, ‘Oh my god, it’s really you,’ type of response that was going on somewhere deep inside, but mostly I was just as focused as I could possibly be on every nuance of who this guy [was], what was happening with this guy in this moment, what was his exchange with me like for him and how was he responding.
I just needed to pick up every molecule of what was happening between us because obviously I’d worked so hard on the book … This was going to be super important to the book and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. It was like three-dimensional chess, you know, the pieces were moving backwards and forwards, but there was so much happening underneath it, that I was trying to pick up on, coming from Bruce that it was very complicated, very exciting and somewhat draining.”
On Springsteen’s early family life:
“One of the great secrets in the family that I came to know something about is that his father was manic depressive and that that gene for manic depression and for just mental instability had been traveling down through the Springsteen family for generations. Not everybody gets touched by it, of course, but the people who are can be at times quite disturbed. So … the world that [Bruce] grew up in was just very emotionally stilted, very just sort of haunted and dark.”
On Springsteen’s relationship with his fans:
“He’s very conscious of his relationship to the fans and their relationship to his persona and his music and in some ways the example that he sets or what he projects into the room. And so it’s a large part of the power of his work and power of his connection to the audience is because of the fact that he does not take them for granted, that he treasures that relationship and he knows that there are things that he can project, the way that he can make that connection real and make it as magical and rewarding for them as it is for him.”
Listen to Think Out Loud‘s full conversation with Peter Ames Carlin.