Back in August, I wrote:
How is possible to be Bruce Springsteen? … How can anyone deal with a blank sheet of paper when faced with that kind of creative pressure? It wouldn’t be at all unreasonable for this guy to sit at his desk with an open notebook asking himself, ãWhat in Godâs name do they all want out of me?ä
In this week’s cover story for Entertainment Weekly, the always excellent Ken Tucker asks Springsteen the same question through a slightly different route, and comes away with some great answers. Once they get the obligatory “how do you think you’ll do at the Grammy’s” stuff out of the way, the conversation shifts into an examination of how a megacelebrity can avoid ending up like Elvis:
The key to survival in the line of work he…INVENTED is the replenishment of ideas. You can’t really remain physically or mentally healthy without a leap of consciousness and a continuing, deeper investigation into who you are and what you’re doing. Those are the things that will make sense of the many silly and weird things [he laughs] that will happen to you [when you’re a star]! [But] what keeps you from maintaining that replenishment of ideas is an insecurity about who you let in close to you. To have new ideas you usually need to have new people around, people willing to challenge your ideas in some fashion, or to simply assist you in broadening them. Which means you have to be open to the fact that your thinking isn’t everything, y’know?
The performers who suffer through their success have a difficult time making those connections, because they come from a different environment. The culture of ideas is usually over here [gestures to his left] and you’ve grown up over here [gestures to his right]. In between is this tremendous void that, when Elvis started, was rarely bridged. Bridging that void is your ace in the hole, but to do it you’ve gotta be aware of the limitations of where you come from and be willing to say, ”Well, I’ve gotta go out and seek new things.”
There probably aren’t a ton of musicians who’ll spend time in an interview talking about Bob Herbert, Philip Roth, and Rage Against the Machine.