A few days before the release of Letter To You, his twentieth album, which he created with his E Street Band pals, Bruce Springsteen revealed some of his secrets to writing a good song. The main thing: find a title that packs a punch.
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“An exciting title, that helps,” launches the Boss, who answered questions from twenty journalists from all over the planet during a Zoom press conference at which The newspaper had access on Wednesday.
On screen, the now 71-year-old legendary singer-songwriter starts rummaging through his repertoire to support his point.
“Thunder road, Born To Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The Rising, these are all good titles. Racing in the Street. A good headline can put you on the right track. I try to follow it, like someone following directions on a map, to the heart of the subject I’m writing about. ”
Details that make the difference
Both a tribute to his missing musical friends and a love letter to the rock and roll, the song Ghosts, second extract from the album, serves as an example to emphasize the importance of personalizing a text by adding small significant details.
In Ghosts, he’s talking about an old suede jacket, a Les Paul whose neck he’s manipulating, or that old Fender Twin from Johnny’s Music store downtown.
“It’s fundamental, insists the Boss, for your story to be credible. In the case of Ghosts, everyone has had a friend whose coats, books, or records meant a lot not just to them, but to you. ”
These elements, he adds, act as talismans, in a way.
“A magic trick”
Even if he trusts his wise old man who has seen other things, Bruce Springsteen admits that there is an element of the supernatural in the creation of a song. Something that is both terrifying and “incredibly rewarding”.
“It’s terrifying,” he takes the time to explain, “because you never know when you can do it again. It’s like a magic trick. I don’t know how it happens. I’ve been doing this for fifty years and I don’t know how a song comes about and I don’t know anyone who can explain it either. We create something out of nothing. It’s in the air, in our emotions, it’s in our head, our soul, our mind, our heart, our intellect. ”
Then when it all falls into place, it’s happiness. “When it’s happening and the song is good, it’s one of the best feelings in my life.”