At Esquire, Bruce Springsteen talks to Michael Hainey about Trump’s divisive politics, raising kids to become solid citizens, how to deal with the baggage of your upbringing to be the person you truly want to be, and how, at age 69 after two serious bouts of depression, he’s still figuring it all out, just like the rest of us.
This is, curiously, the first word that Springsteen says when he takes the stage. An unlikely, unromantic, unpoetic choice for a man who has always been more about the sensory than science. Yet in many ways, DNA is Springsteen’s unrelenting antagonist, the costar that he battles against.
This is the central tension of Springsteen on Broadway: the self we feel doomed to be through blood and family versus the self we can—if we have the courage and desire—will into existence. Springsteen, as he reveals here, has spent his entire life wrestling with that question that haunts so many of us: Will I be confined by my DNA, or will I define who I am?
We ignore our demons, he says, at our peril. The show is, as he calls it, “a magic trick.” But in other ways, as I tell Springsteen, it is a revival show—not just him energizing the audience through the power of his life-affirming, raucous songs; it is also a self-revival show. This is the work of a man revealing his flaws so that he can inspire us to redeem ourselves.
You’re Bruce fucking Springsteen! How do you not know who you are?”
“Ugh.” Springsteen laughs and lets out a sigh. He drops his chin into his chest and then smiles and looks up. “Bruce fucking Springsteen is a creation. So it’s somewhat liquid—even though at this point you would imagine I have it pretty nailed down. But sometimes not necessarily. [Laughs] And personally—you’re in search of things like everybody else. Identity is a slippery thing no matter how long you’ve been at it. Parts of yourself can appear—like, whoa, who was that guy? Oh, he’s in the car with everybody else, but he doesn’t show his head too often, because he was so threatening to your stability. At the end of the day, identity is a construct we build to make ourselves feel at ease and at peace and reasonably stable in the world. But being is not a construct. Being is just being. In being, there’s a whole variety of wild and untamed things that remain in us. You bump into those in the night, and you can scare yourself.”