By Callie Oettinger | Published: December 23, 2016
Bruce Springsteen has a memoir out — and interviews have followed its release like B pursuing A.
During an interview for PBS’s “Newshour,” Jeffrey Brown brought up Springsteen’s voice.
Jeffrey Brown: You write about your voice. You say, about my voice, “First of all, I don’t have much of one.”
Bruce Springsteen: Yes.
Jeffrey Brown: Right? But you worked at it.
Bruce Springsteen: Initially just sounded awful, just so terribly awful, but there was nothing I could do about it. So, I just kept singing and kept singing and kept singing.
And I studied other singers, so I would learn how to phrase, and learn how to breathe. And the main thing was, I learned how to inhabit my song.
Jeffrey Brown: Which means what?
Bruce Springsteen: What you were singing about was believable and convincing, that’s the key to a great singer. A great singer has to learn how to inhabit a song. You may not be able to hit all the notes.
That’s OK. You may not have the clearest tone. You may not have the greatest range. But if you can inhabit your song, you can communicate.
Focus on that last line.
“If you can inhabit your song, you can communicate.”
Now jump to the beginning of the interview, where Brown asked Springsteen how much of him is in his songs.
Jeffrey Brown: What about that voice, though? Because in songs — I think of writers I have talked to, or poets, and there’s always the question of, how much of that is you?
Bruce Springsteen: I would say, in your memoir, it’s you.
I think that, when you’re writing your songs, there’s always a debate about whether, is that you in the song? Is it not you in the song?
Jeffrey Brown: What’s the answer?
Bruce Springsteen: So, every song has a piece of you in it, because just general regret, love. You have to basically zero in on the truth of those particular emotions.
And then you can fill it out in any character and in any circumstance that you want. If you have written really well, people will swear that it happened to you.
His answer reminded me of Steve’s recent “Use Your Real Life In Fiction” Writing Wednesdays series. Springsteen zeroes in on the real emotions — love, regret — and on the truth of those emotions he hangs lyrics that may be fiction, yet ring just as true as nonfiction.
Let’s take a quick detour to something else I read this week, “How to Build Relationships That Don’t Scale,” by John Corcoran, which closes out with “6 Tips for How You Can Build “Unscaleable” Relationships.”
The relationships the tips are focused on helping you achieve aren’t the Facebook friends who like everything you post but never buy your book. I’m talking about the neighbor who remembers your kid’s birthday every year, or the friend who buys your new books (who never asks for freebies), or the secretary at the doctor’s office who slips you in with the doc before everyone else in the cramped Friday afternoon waiting room. I’m talking about the people who have a connection with you — who like you and what you’re doing — and want to support you and your work.
Now take Corcoran’s tips and combine them with Springsteen’s advice about inhabiting and finding the truth. What you get at the end of the baking time is the one thing you need (other than a superb creation) to share your work.
You get a message that people buy into and want to share.
Look at what I’m doing here. I’m sharing Springsteen’s interview because I respect his honesty and work. I like that he tells the truth, that he shares what he’s experienced – and then there’s his work code and creativity. I’m sharing Corcoran’s post because 1) it’s good and 2) it’s on the Art of Manliness site, which I bought into years ago because I respect its founders Brett and Kate McKay.
One last stop for this thought train: James Altucher’s Facebook post “Be A Person Not A Personal Brand.”
Don’t be a book or a film or a tube of toothpaste. Focus on the person not the product.
And if you’re still trying to sort out you (as most of us are), consider trying on some of the things that made Springsteen “The Boss.” You might find that you like how they fit, too.