Nils Lofgren in spotlight with solo gigs, DVD

Photo by Joe Quever

A few Bruce Springsteen-related questions, if you don’t mind. Does every E Street Band member have a bright-red, Springsteen-only phone at home that rings whenever he wants to record or tour?
NL:
(Laughs) Not quite, but it’s very seat-of-your-pants, last-minute notice. There are a lot of successful people [who do that]. I learned that with Neil Young. I used to get a call from Neil’s management: “We’re going on the road; here are the dates.” And two weeks before you’re about to head off, you get a call: “Neil isn’t feeling it. We’re not going.”

Bruce is somebody who when he’s ready, he’ll let you know. But it’s not like you get a lot of notice. So it’s not unusual.

With four guitarists in the E Street Band, how are parts and roles typically defined, both in the studio and onstage?
NL:
It’s turned into this beautiful, accidental, kind of osmosis thing. … Bruce has based this band around a two-keyboard sound, so it certainly doesn’t need four guitar players. So it was a perfect opportunity for me to be a much greater swingman – meaning go learn a little pedal steel guitar, go learn a little dobro, go learn some bottleneck, go learn some lap steel. Bruce got me on the six-string banjo in the studio. It was a nice opportunity to become a musician on four or five other instruments.

I like playing rhythm guitar, so if Steve [Van Zandt] and Bruce have the Stratocaster and Telecaster, respectively, then I would naturally go to an acoustic guitar. And once in a while, Bruce will say, “I want three electrics,” and to marry the sound together, I would play this old Fender Jazzmaster with the heaviest strings you can buy. There’s no way you can bend them; they have this thickness and warmth to them that [works] when you gotta have three electrics. But in general, I have all these other sounds that give me a wide array of other things to add.

As you close in on age 60, what are some of your goals for the next few years? Or at this stage in your life and career, do you take things as they come and not look too far ahead?
NL:
The immediate goal is, after almost a four-year break, I’m going out as a bandleader, singing my own songs. I do a lot of improv soloing in my shows on acoustic and electric, so this will be really healthy for me musically.

I’d like to get a new record out on my Web site (www.nilslofgren.com) by next summer, and so I’ve started demoing new songs. I’ve got a beginners and intermediate guitar school, so I’ll be taping some lessons this winter.

My main goal is to stay healthy and creative. My forte is playing live. I have a beautiful home and wife, and I get homesick, so if I’m going to leave home, I want to really do something special for the audience that’s satisfying for me and makes me feel like I accomplished something.

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