Bruce Springsteen has opened up about the film adaptation of Western Stars in a new Q&A at the London Film Festival.
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Speaking at the premiere of the film last weekend (October 12), Springsteen – together with the film’s director, Thom Zimny – opened up about the process of adapting the songs to screen, the ways in which he developed the film’s narrative and his song writing process. Springsteen also spoke about his regret of not having his wife, Patti, appear on the record.
Speaking to host Edith Bowman about the process of adapting Western Stars to the screen, Springsteen said: “It was very enjoyable because I got to go inside the songs again…[to] try to [get] a deeper understanding of what they were actually about. What was I actually trying to write about?
“…I was working on a meditation about men and women and love and the difficulty of love and how do you move from being an individual actor into a life that’s filled with people and family and friends and some communal experience. Everybody has to walk that journey. And so the film was a study about what that trip is like, and the spoken pieces end up being just these meditations, you know these little tone poems that lead people into a deeper understanding of the music.”
Opening up about the writing process, Springsteen revealed that he often takes on characters to enable him to reveal more about himself. He explained: “When I write in character, in other words, I’m writing these narrative short stories…it’s a way of exposing your own inner life and struggles but you’re writing all the details of someone else’s life.
“…I tend to write real cinematically when I do that whether it’s ‘Nebraska’ or ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ or ‘Devils & Dust’, those are all my short story records and are really, they’re my little movies that that I script out before. And so, those songs are always suggestive of a visual landscape.”
Springsteen also spoke about his regret of not having his wife Patti appear on the record, admitting it was “a big mistake.” He elaborated: “I should have had Patti on the record…because it’s all about men and women and Patti brings so much and we’ve been together for such a long time, for 30 years, and so that’s a lot of experience around that one little microphone.
“…Oh my Lord there’s this whole 30 years of emotional life together between us. She’s wonderful and really her presence even when she’s not singing with me, just she’s actually, if you dig deep down into the centre of the film, she’s there.”
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When asked about the process of writing, Springsteen also revealed his nervousness of never being able to “write again” because of the “mystery” of writing: “I just hope I can write something. You always think you’re never gonna write again. Because you can’t explain writing. Writing is a mystery. Anything creative remains a mystery.
“…You often think ‘I have no ideas’. I [can] wander around for a year without any ideas or any inspiration and suddenly something comes along. You find another vein in your creative mind that you can tap. And so, for this record, it was Southern California, Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb…”
Reflecting on the last two prolific years which has seen him variously release an album, perform on Broadway and make a movie, Springsteen joked he was a “man of many talents.”
He added: “You know I write books and Broadway plays and now l’m making movies. I’m going to try being an astronaut next, I’ll let you know how that goes. I’ve been lucky I think some of it might have to do with you know you’re turning that, you know, you’re getting to that age where you sort of, you’re summing up a lot of what you’ve learned and what your life has been.
“…I’ve had a really, really good run over the past five years as far as feeling really inspired and being really creative. I’ve done things I’ve never done before. It’s been, I feel very lucky for that because you never know.”
‘Western Stars – Songs From The Film’ will collect all of the live performances in the film and will be released on October 25.
The soundtrack will also include a cover of Glen Campbell’s classic ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’. Springsteen and Ron Aniello co-produced the album. It’s due out October 25 via Columbia Records, and pre-orders are available here. The film version of ‘Western Stars’ will be released three days later on October 28.