“Was one of them Florence + the Machine? No? I don’t think this is a question I could possibly answer because I played with Bruce Springsteen, which overshadowed everything else and wiped away the whole day of what else happened. Who was it?”
WRONG. You were sandwiched between Passion Pit and Portland indie-poppers Hockey. Florence + the Machine played later on the same stage. What went through your mind when you discovered The Boss wanted to join you onstage for ‘The ’59 Sound’?
“We were playing in 10 minutes, so when he showed up, I couldn’t think. My musical professional brain took over because my regular brain freaked out, and I said to him: ‘Do you know the song? Then let’s go!’ It was a small tent and felt pretty epic afterwards. I freaked out. I had to go straight back to the bus and lie on the floor thinking: ‘What the hell just happened? Am I in a club now? Do I get a card or a badge now?’ I should at least get a Nando’s Black Card after playing with Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury! [Laughs] ”
The Gaslight Anthem were dogged by comparisons to Springsteen for years – to the point where you stopped a show in 2013 after an audience member was heckling ‘Bruce!’ throughout.
“You don’t want to be in anybody’s shadow, and that perception was coming mainly from the media. When we spoke to Bruce, he treated us as equals – not some covers band. Now we’ve been around for a long time, we have the freedom to say: ‘We don’t care. Bruce likes us. Our fans like us’, but when you’re young and coming up, you don’t have that self-assurance – especially as I was on a 250-day-a-year tour schedule while trying to battle severe depression and anxiety with no medication. And I wasn’t on drugs and didn’t drink. So that was raw. That was a tough time to be in, so if anybody wants to show a video of me freaking out, let’s see how they would do!”
Now you’ve teamed up with Springsteen (who was a catalyst for getting The Gaslight Anthem back together in 2021 after their hiatus since 2015) for a duet on ‘History Books’, the title track from your forthcoming sixth studio album….
“Bruce is a friend, and it’s not lost on me how crazy it is that I can say: ‘Oh, I can text my friend Bruce Springsteen and see if he wants to catch a little TV tonight!’ Him coming on the record now felt like a full-circle moment of owning our own story and accepting that we’re a band from New Jersey. ‘Cause there’s other bands from New Jersey, but there’s not other bands who hold that position with him. My Chemical Romance are a much bigger band than ours worldwide, but Uncle Bruce doesn’t hang out with them! [Laughs]”
Any surreal Bruce Springsteen stories?
“Any time I’m sitting in a car with him, I’ll look over double-take: ‘That’s him right there! I can smell him! He’s here! And he smells great!’ But how do you process something like that? You just sit there and think: ‘I hope I don’t say something that makes him mad’ [Laughs]. But you also don’t want it to end either.”