E Streeter Nils Lofgren talks Springsteen, latest CDWritten by Chris Kozak | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are no bad nights on E Street, according to Nils Lofgren. The longtime Springsteen sideman has a metaphor for just how amazing it is to perform with “The Boss” night after night.
“We’re in the Super Bowl, we’re in our hometown, we’re guaranteed a victory and we’re just working on the point spread,” he said. “If you like playing in a band, and you like playing before an audience, it just doesn’t get any better than Bruce and the E Street Band. I think it’s the greatest tool box in rock ’n’ roll history.”
Lofgren, Springsteen and the rest of the E Street Band know a thing or two about Super Bowl performances, having brought down the house at halftime of Super Bowl XLIII before 95 million viewers.
Speaking with Toledo Free Press Star from Washington, D.C., during a break from the “Wrecking Ball” Tour, Lofgren said he spends his off days working on “musical homework” and discussing his latest solo release, “Old School.”
“It’s work, but it’s also big, brilliant fun if you do the work properly — the goal is to get out here and have some fun,” he said.
For “Old School,” Lofgren took a look at his own lot in life and the world he lives in: “I realized as I was coming up on 60 — an impossible number to spin — and I had a surprising amount of gratitude for where I was in my life. I was surprised at the anxiety and some of the fears I had, looking around my planet at everything that’s wrong. It’s certainly not age appropriate to keep your head in the sand. So I wanted to be very authentic with the songs I wrote, to not just talk about the bad or the good but to share the whole experience and what 60 meant to me.”
Performing next to one of the greatest American songwriters, Lofgren has absorbed the context and climate of Springsteen’s rage-filled lyrics. Lofgren’s lyrics on “Old School,” penned during the past year and a half, range from touching metaphors for loss to calling out the nation’s leaders, with the deftness you’d expect from someone with 25 solo records under his belt.
“‘Old School’ eases into a much more serious topic — the people in charge are making a lot of mistakes, with no greater mistake than allowing predators who go after our children to have second chances,” Lofgren said. “I’ve never met a parent that thought a predator that went after their child to rape, maim or murder should get a second chance. Never met one. How you keep them from getting a second chance?
“‘Miss You Ray’ is about loss, and I use Ray Charles as a metaphor for that. The grief gets pretty heavy as you get older and say goodbye more and more, so you need to focus on what’s left. Focus on who, and what, is still around you.”
Lofgren joined Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1984 for the Born in The U.S.A. tour, stepping in for the departing “Miami” Steven Van Zandt.
“I’m still the new guy,” he said with a laugh. “I only joined 28 years ago.”
Leading up to his E Street inclusion, Lofgren was already legendary. At just 17, he appeared on Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” as well as several other Young records during the mid-1970s. It’s a friendship that continues, and still serves as a source of inspiration for Lofgren.
“I was in the hospital, getting two hips replaced, and Neil called and gave me a pep talk. And near the end he said, ‘Hey man, you gotta hurry up and get well, ’cause we need you; there ain’t too many of us left.’ And I knew at that point that would make a great song.”
“Old School” is dedicated to Clarence Clemons, the former E Street saxophone player who passed away in June. It’s a loss that still impacts Lofgren.
“Clarence stood next to me for 28 years and he was a dear friend. Offstage we spoke every week. We had a powerful friendship and I really miss him. I knew I was going to. It hurts as much as I expected it to,” he said.
Despite the pain and the loss, Lofgren, Springsteen and the rest of the E Street Band continue to perform. It’s a job that Lofgren said he has learned to take day by day.
“I can’t be greedy or arrogant enough to count or predict too much of a future. God willing and health permitting, we’ve got shows until July 31. I know there’s a possibility we may work into the fall, but there are no guarantees,” he said. “All of us, deep down inside, hopefully find something about life to love and cherish and want to stick around as long as we can.”
“Old School” is available at www.nilslofgren.com. Lofgren, with the E Street Band, will perform at the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 12 and in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17. For information, visit www.brucespringsteen.net.