Bruce Springsteen sat down with Howard Stern live on SiriusXM Monday morning for a wide-ranging conversation that covered everything from the sale of his song catalog to his memories of Clarence Clemons and thoughts on Taylor Swift. Springsteen appeared on the show to promote his new album of covers of the classic soul, “Only the Strong Survive,” which will be released on November 11.
Springsteen made headlines in December when it sold its entire music catalog and publishing to Sony Music for nearly $500 million, in what may be the largest single artist music catalog sale to date. When Stern asked Springsteen his reasons for the deal, he said that at 73, “it was a timing thing” and expressed confidence that Sony would do a good job of nurturing his songs.
“I hit the luckiest job in the world, because they gave me a fortune for something I would have done for free,” Springsteen said.
But Springsteen has no plans to slow down any time soon, saying he can’t think of retiring because music is his main inspiration.
“I can’t imagine it. I mean, if you get to the point where you become incapacitated or something…but until then, I mean, look at Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger. I played Pete Seeger in Washington, at Obama’s inauguration Pete was 91 or 92 years old, and he went out and sang ‘This land is your land.’ So look at these guys… I don’t know if I’ll do three hour shows [when I’m older]. But I have many different types of music that I can play and play. Broadway show, I can do the rest of my life, one way or another, if I want to.”
Stern, a therapy fan, asked Springsteen about the length of his shows and whether he had discussed them with a therapist. Springsteen admitted that if something went wrong during a three-hour show, he’d be obsessed with it on the bus, even writing notes on how to improve the next show.
“I used it as a cleansing ritual,” he said, likening it to growing up in the Catholic Church learning original sin, saying it was all about “clearing your soul and mind.”
“A lot of the rituals I created myself were purification rituals, and I’ve outgrown them,” he said, acknowledging my being a perfectionist.
He also spoke about the death of E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011, revealing that he played a song for him in the hospital.
“I had a feeling that he could hear me because he could hold your hand. When I went to see him for the first time [after his stroke]“There was some response to your voice and to being in the room, I just felt it,” Springsteen said. “I knew he was going to die, so I just brought the guitar and played a song called ‘Land of Hope and Dreams.’ … It’s about scrolling to the other side. It’s about life and death.”
Springsteen continued, “His brother was there. I think Jake, his nephew, was there. And there were a few other people. But it was just a small space… It’s a hymn… It was a song we were playing at the end of the night.” [on tour] And it was one of the last songs Clarence and I worked on together on the sax.”
Springsteen was a complement to many of the performers on the show, including Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Taylor Swift, and his daughter Jessica, a huge fan of him. Springsteen listened to “Midnight” from Newark Airport to Colts Nick with his daughter, he said.
“She was good. She’s very talented, and a great writer,” he said.
As for his writing process, Springsteen said it’s not as simple as simply putting pen to paper.
“I don’t have anything to say every day, you know. I don’t go into a room at 11 and write until 3, or something like that,” Springsteen said.