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Self-Discovery, Activism, and Rock & Roll

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Self-Discovery, Activism, and Rock & Roll with Stevie Van Zandt

Stevie Van Zandt, Chase Jarvis

Self-Discovery, Activism, and Rock & Roll

Stevie Van Zandt, Chase Jarvis

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Lesson Info

1. Self-Discovery, Activism, and Rock & Roll with Stevie Van Zandt

Lesson Info

Self-Discovery, Activism, and Rock & Roll with Stevie Van Zandt

Hey buddy, what's up? It's Chase, Welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis live show here on Creative Live, you know, the show where I sit down with amazing humans and I unpacked their brains with the goal of helping you live your dreams and career hobby in life and are incredible guest today is Mr Stevie Van Zandt. You are familiar with Stevie because you're familiar with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band. Well, Stevie is a member of the E Street band, he's been inducted into the Music Hall of Fame. He's also an author of a new book called Unrequited Infatuations, he chronicles trading his baptist faith for a life of rock and roll, creative risk taking and principled rebellion. Of course, we talk about the book, but so much more in the huge life that is, Stevie Van Zandt, you're going to enjoy this conversation, creativity, entrepreneurship, going against the tide, trusting your gut, it's all in this episode and more. I'll get out of the way and enjoy this conversation wit...

h Mr Stevie Van Zandt. Mhm. We love you, Stevie, thank you so much for being on the show. Welcome. Good to see you man appreciate the work you put into letting us behind the scenes on your life. Congrats on the new book, and uh to that end, I have many questions, my friend after, after knowing a little bit more about you, obviously I was aware of your work for a decade or more. Um but first of all, why a book, you've been on stages all around the world for your entire life, virtually, and what made you want to write a book and get it on paper. Um I think it was partially the circumstance, you know, uh to be honest, if it wasn't for the quarantine, I don't think it would have happened, you know, um and and and really, you know, it was because of the previous three years, you know, 2017, 18, 19, when I had the three most productive years of my life, you know, I put out like, six album packages in in three years and Reconnected with my life's work, which I kind of abandoned for 30 years, a mere 30 years. Um so it was just kind of a circumstantial situation and uh you know, I had these new managers, I've never had a manager as I as I talked about in the book. Uh well, I got into so much trouble. Um the new the new manager suggested, you know, why don't you write a book? And I thought, you know, uh maybe at this point I actually I could do something that could be useful, you know, uh my own uh narrative is whatever that's that's the least interesting, you know, part of my of the book, I think um what's interesting, I think what could be interesting is is the things I've seen, you know, the places I've been and sharing a bit of the the things I've picked up along the way, you know, because I wanted the book to be useful, You know, not just some story of some music guy, you know, I didn't really, you know, I didn't want it to be just for musicians or something, only music people could could enjoy. You know, I wanted to be more universal than that. And uh, you know, I wanted it to be like a like a detective novel, like, you don't know what's coming next, you know, because that's my life, man. I I never know what's coming next. And uh, you know, eventually, uh you made it happen, you made it happen because it's a page turner and let's depart from the book for a second. And you mentioned, you know, something that I think is relevant, and it does it does, you know, it's it's a thread throughout the book. But your engagement as an artist, you just shared that, you know, early in a career with the E Street band playing with Bruce Springsteen, and then there was a, Would you say, just 30 years, you just walked away from your life's work for 30 years and now you're back for there's so many people listening and watching who have either done that, you know, as a betrayal of themselves. You know, just walked away from their true self to go do what the world wants them to be or become, or real life circumstances, um things that are outside of our control have sometimes taken us away from that. I want to hear your experience, Why did you do that? Why did you have this departure from, as you said, I think your your true calling, your true self, and remember the exact words you but it's fascinating. No, that's a big question, you know, that's uh we could fill up our entire with just that question. In fact, that's what really the book is really kind of about um answering that question. Um let's see how can I do this? And give you the short, shorter, shorter version here, basically. Um I outlined five albums when I, you know, embarked on this so called solo career in the eighties. And I'm and I'm a very, very uh all my records are very conceptual and and and uh thematic. And uh I laid out exactly, I outlined the five albums before I even wrote them. Um and um yeah, it was very, very uh systematic about the whole thing. And and I and along the way I discovered a whole side of my brain I didn't know existed, which was quite analytical, you know, I spent most of my life in complete chaos. So it was, it was a surprise, you know, to, to find when it came to politics, I actually could look at very complex situations and and find a solution, um, you know, analyze them. And uh of course executing the solution, of course is another is another matter entirely. But I could I could look at any any any political situation in the world with a bit of research, I can tell you exactly what needs to be done to solve it, you know, which was a big supporter of South Africa, South Africa, for example, is that one of the things you're talking about? Yeah, and that that will forever be the one example where um it was conceived and executed um beyond, you know, even what you could write up, you know, what you can imagine it was, it worked exactly like we hoped it would um, you know, knowing that the, you know, the sports boycott could lead to the cultural boycott, which is where we came in, which would then bridge to the economic boycott, which would bring the government down, you know, and that's exactly what happened. Um you know, it was just one of those rare moments in worldwide Liberation Politics where everything just worked according to the plan, you know, you'll never see that again. Um but, you know, there's 100 other examples where, you know, you kind of, I mean, the idea was just to write about these things, you know, I didn't intend to become engaged in them, you know, when I when I started, it was just uh, you know, I was just going out there as an artist slash journalist, you know, and then all of a sudden it became artist slash journalist slash activist, you know, which I really hadn't hadn't planned on. Well, you know, you just you just become emotionally engaged in these things when you're writing about them sometimes. Um Anyway, so I did those five albums. Um and this is where the sort of unrequited infatuations comes in. Uh I did not achieve any particular success um economically, you know, commercially um artistically, uh I was very, very happy with them all. And there's very little I would change artistically in my entire life. I've been very, very happy with that, which is, you know, obviously that was my priority, and I did that, right? But you know, when you're when you're creating content of any kind, um there's two sides to to all content, you know, uh the creation of the content and there's the marketing of that content. Uh and um it's not really two different things, it's two sides of the same thing. And I never had that partner to market my content, you know, that, I mean, that was my biggest, my biggest sort of flaw, you know, so, so so you never got a chance to really see, you know, um what was working, what wasn't working? And in the end, um uh I did the five albums I outlined, I learned what I wanted to learn. I I uh I said what I wanted to say about those things, you know, about, about who's controlling our destiny and and and why and how and and in our place in the world, and, you know, some of those big questions were answered in those five albums. And then I just kind of went out into the desert for seven years, um, through a bunch of circumstances, you know, that I talked about having to do with, oddly enough, the success of of Sun City in the South African issue actually got me, you know, I don't want to be overly dramatic about it, but it was um, kind of black ball from the business because uh starting to become a little bit too successful politically. And, you know, and I know that sounds ridiculous now. It's just own it, own it. I think it sounds like it sounds right on time. Yeah. At the time, you know, you could feed people in Africa, you know, but you start bringing down governments and people like, they're like, you know, are we next or what, You know? Uh and so I had four different record companies um negotiating for a new deal when Sun City came out. And when it was a huge success, and we actually uh overrode Reagan's veto and, you know, all the impossible things that were that we had to do got Mandela out of jail and everything else. Um, and then suddenly those four record companies disappeared uh, and did not want to, you know, stop negotiating. You know, So I I thought, well, you know, I blew that career, that's a second career. I've blown, you know, so I took two careers down, you know, what else can we do? And I just kind of walked my dog for seven years until David Chase called and said, you want to be an actor? And I was like, sure, why not? You know, like I literally have nothing better to do, you know? So, uh you know, like barked, they embarked upon a third career, which I probably have blown by now. Well, what you're referring to in case people don't know is your role as Silvio in the sopranos. Now, you've talked about just, I want to deconstruct some of what you said, you walked away from a career, you gave it up or blew it up or however you want to talk about with the the, the E Street band then your solo career that uh resulted in what we just spoke about the um contributing to the transition in South Africa. And most people don't have one of those, let alone two of those experiences. And you talked about walking your dog and essentially stumbling into a third Now, you know, what is the saying? Once, Lucky Twice. I don't know what there's probably some great uh saying there, but clearly, clearly you have talent, you have this genocide aqua. And it's well articulated in the book I through stories rather than overtly stated. But in your own words here on camera, how if you're, you know, so good at blowing things up. How or why do things keep appearing for you? Because right now there's someone listening who walked away from their job and it is terrified about the financial consequences they may be in, but they couldn't stomach their boss or that line of work for one more minute. And so if if you're speaking to that person right now, how have you stumbled into, you know, legendary career, one legendary career arc after another man. These are some good questions. Um I'm a professional Stevie big work. Yes, we should do this for a living. Um I really, I'm trying, I'm trying to separate, you know, the artist part of this from the more from the more universal uh you know, question. Um I think one thing that is universal, which I talk about in the book very clearly is uh don't ever, you know, don't ever leave your power base until you have another. Yeah, that's that's one thing I think that everybody could, could sort of uh you know, try and try and remember or try and deal with if possible. Um Sometimes you gotta go, you know, you gotta, you know, like you say, you you hate your job, you hate your boss, you hate, you hate it so much that you're not having any quality of life. Um And in that case, I would wonder why you got into that situation in the first place. Um but in my case, um you see, I wasn't I wasn't um no, I wasn't entirely like unhappy. Uh it was just a compare a compulsion to to do other things and and I wasn't I wasn't thinking clearly uh enough to um to take my own advice and and and many other people's advice at the time, I mean saying, you know, you cannot leave the E street band. I mean you've been working for 15 years, you know, to make it in rock and roll, you just made it okay last year and you're leaving, you know, I mean, it was, you know, quite a crazy thing to do. Um So I mean from that, you know, I learned uh you know, don't don't ever jump off the ship until you have another boat waiting, you know, uh I think everybody could maybe learn from that. Uh but what was it, was there something special about you, you that made it, so people wanted to call you, like you don't just get a phone call from someone in doing a legendary tv series. I mean, was it the circle of friends you had, was that the vibe you put out, did you have always had a desire to act and the right people in the right place, knew that you had this dream or was it literally none of those things and just the universe looking out for you? I think a little bit of the ladder because I didn't have any intention to be an actor, I had no interest whatsoever. Uh So that came out of the blue entirely, I think it starts off with a bit of um inner security, I think, you know, I think I've kind of uh I've kind of had an inner security right from the beginning. Uh I mean, you know, again we can talk about this all day long, but that probably comes from, you know, the love you get as a kid, you know, or something, one of those things, you know, where, you know, um some people just grow up insecure and some people grow up feeling, you know, pretty secure. I I never with one reason why I didn't really have the ambition to be a front man. Um I think you need you need to be a front man, you know, in order to be a good front man, you know, uh you have, you have to need that spotlight if, you know, there's a need in you to get that that attention and get that uh spotlight uh you know what I mean? And get the the the, the adulation and get that, you know, uh what's the word, you know, uh that that pat on the back, you know, that that uh you know, um I never really, I've always been more secure than than that, you know, and I think I probably communicate that I guess, I guess um you know, and I do a good job, you know, I mean, I'm a good, I'm not only a good leader because I've been a boss of my own world before I met Bruce and certainly after, but, you know, so I'm kind of, you know, multiple personality in that way, which is unusual where I can be a good, I'm a good boss and I'm also a good soldier, you know, and I do know, and I kind of do a good job, you know, So so people, I think, I think people recognize that, you know, I've never had any criticism of uh of my work, you know what I mean? Uh Well, let me let me interrupt there for a second. But no, I think that there's something interesting in there, you've you've you've had this, you know, multifaceted, you talked about leadership, you're either sort of soldier or a leader as you mentioned, and I'm wondering if if maybe David Chase when he called you up to be in the sopranos, there is a world in which your role as Silvio as the right hand man to Tony soprano looked a lot like the role and the relationship that you had with Bruce Springsteen, you talk about not needing that position, that adulation to pat on the back because you were always secure in your own weather through upbringing or something else. Is that was that parallel intentional? Was that something that was made known to you by David Chase, or, you know, is it just again, dumb luck? Yeah, we we kind of um Mhm. It was funny because it didn't exactly start off that way because originally he wanted me to play Tony soprano. Um so yeah, yeah, so you know um you know, and then uh you know, I I go into more detail obviously, but but basically um at some point HBO wouldn't let him cast me as Tony soprano because they got brains. Uh and and uh and so he said you know what else you want to do, and I was like well uh you know, now that I think about this, you know, it was kind of it was kind of happening very very quickly. Uh I said, you know, now that I think about it, I really feel a little weird about taking an actor's job, I really don't want to do that, so I'm just gonna go back to my walking the dog and uh and he was like no no, I really want you on the show, I will write you in a part that doesn't exist, okay, so you're not going to take anybody's job, you know, I was like, wow, okay, and and uh you know, so what so what do you want to do? So I said, well I have some treatments, you know, I I never had, I never had thought about acting, but I did think about writing and maybe directing uh you know, I've always I've always been a fan of, you know movies and you know whatever, and I said I I got a treatment about this um independent hitman named Silvio Dante that uh runs the club and he kind of lives in the past, you know, it's it's it's set in modern day but it's it's kind of living in the past so it's like a uh you know like a Copacabana type of club and uh you know big bands and then Catskills comics, you know and and dancing girls and uh you know and all the five families have tables in the club, you know and the you know police commissioner and the mayor and you know it's kind of like a mob version of Casablanca, you know, kind of uh huh He said, well that's interesting, let me think about it and he came back a couple of days later and said we can't afford it but we'll make it a strip club and you'll and you'll and you'll run it for the family, you know, and and we'll use the back room as you know as the office, you know, so it kind of went there and then um you know, I kind of wrote a whole biography about this character for myself, you know that they had grown up with Tony and they were best friends and really you know uh I was the only one on the show did not want to be the boss, you know, I like being behind the scenes guy. So I kind of like started planting those seeds Um And then by the middle of like the first season uh I had kind of become the under boss and Consul Yeti which which did in fact reflect a lot of my life with Bruce Springsteen and I was able to very easily understand those dynamics that happened um when you're the you know when you're the guy that most the most trustworthy guy of the boss you're the guy who has to bring the bad news occasionally. Uh You're the guy who uh you know the only guy who is not afraid of him you know? Uh So I I really did understand you know and that really helped me. Um No got clicked right? Yeah. Would it be putting words in your mouth if if indirectly just through your suggestions it seems like you know with David Chase you almost again he said ah I only want to do it kind of it looks like this or don't take an actress job. And he said okay I'll write you a part. You're like okay I like this I get this guy and in a way you were putting that out into the universe. So is that is that fair to say. And then the universe again provided for you and where you're dropping seeds and hints and this is who you had experience with this right? This is this is your authentic experience you're not trying to play somebody on T. V. Well that's right in my region. Well no no I mean in the end it did reflect my real life just just you know but it didn't start off that way. It kind of kind of developed that way you know and in the end it wasn't the universe. It was David Chase. You know it was his this guy is you know he's a really really brilliant guy and uh I mean you know you could you could tell I mean just just from the casting alone uh you know he's he's seeing things that people are don't usually see uh everybody passed on the show because he insisted on filming in New Jersey. You know uh you know so he had a he had a real specific vision about this thing and each character you know no matter what I I was just making suggestions mostly for my own benefit in the end you know he's the one who made all the decisions and took the character to those special more important places. You know what I mean? That was all him. So um fair enough. But I can't ignore the fact that you're planting those seeds. Well yeah oh yeah and I think I think you know your life experience you know at that point you know in my life you know I mean I've been around you know by then you know this is uh this is a midlife midlife new career new craft to learn you know and so you know, the later, I think the later you have success, the more, the more the better you are at it, and, and, and, and and the more you can enjoy it. And, and, and, and the later you get a, you know, in this case, the craft of acting, you know, I think has a lot to do with your life experience, you know? So I've had I had a lot of life experience by then, you know, by the time I started acting, so I could use that, I could use the previous, whatever it was by then, what is this, you know, like, uh, You know, 40, years of being on the planet, you know, uh, you want something, you pick up a few things along the way. Help you know, let's talk, let's let's no, let's talk about some of those things you picked up along the way. So I could be wrong. But I understood you were uh, you came from the baptist world to rock musicianship. That is a very non expected path. And I'm wondering if you can help us understand, You know, there are people right now again who feel trapped and whatever they're doing. And one might have been able to say that, you know, being in the baptist church was very different than being on stage in front of 100, people in the stadium. So how it was that a revolution for you? Was it a, you know, somehow did you see it as natural, not many people make that jump and I'm wondering how you did. Yeah, well, keep in mind now, I was born a catholic, you know, and and the catholic church and catholic religion is where all the show biz is okay, that's that's the, that's the show business religion, you know, that's that's where the action is, man, you know, you know, and I ended up studying all the religions just just for fun, uh, you know, uh you know, most of the entertainers, you know, who end up, you know, in the entertainment business, you know, maybe jewish, you know, and and thankfully so, but the action inside the church is really in the catholic world, man, you know, they got the rituals, they got the pump and circumstance, they got the scandals, they got the drama, you know, and uh, you know, and you know, so I think I had, so I had that for the first few years of my life, you know, before uh my mother remarried and uh, and uh changed teams uh, you know, to the baptist protestant world. Um and then, you know, so I had an inclination towards uh some kind of metaphysical uh, you know, some kind of uh uh, you know, some kind of compulsion to to um to want to belong to something, I think that's kind of natural for everybody, but also to get the inside story, you know, I was wanted, I wanted, I wanted to be on the inside, you know, uh even at a young young age, I could see if there were two kinds of people in the world, you know, they're the kind the ones that are, you know, the guys in the no, you know, the guys, you know, who are making the decisions and then the guys that were following those decisions, you know, I mean, I could just, I could just sense that very, very early. Uh, and so I thought the inside the guys was inside the religion, you know, I thought that's where the, that's where the answers were coming from and that's where the action was, you know, and so at first I was, you know, I was very religious of the kid and then um, and then that, that, that complete that, that, that passion and and uh all everything that I was relating to in terms of religion um got, got switched over to to rock and roll when I discovered rock and roll. And uh, like I said, I became a, you know, rock and roll, pagan or whatever and uh, and have been ever since really, you know, uh, I got a light switch, was that just a light switch for you a process? No, I talked about, you know, there was like three, at least three epiphanies that got me there. Uh, one just happened. Uh, one of those real spiritual religious type epiphanies that you read about? Like in the bible or something when I was listening to a record called Pretty Little Angel Eyes uh by Curtis lee, I just had this feeling of ecstasy come over me uh completely unexplainable. And uh you know, I listened to a lot of records by then. Uh for some reason, that record, I had this uh ecstatic feeling come over me. That was the first epiphany. And then uh you know, seeing the Beatles was the second, and and seeing the Rolling Stones was the third. So, but by the third epiphany, I was all in, you know, I was like uh what people say, they get from religion and what I used to get from religion. I'm now getting from rock and roll, I'm getting that kind of uh emotional connection. Uh Um that's that's just uh exciting my senses all the time. And I want to do it 24, you know? Yeah, I want to, that makes me ask a question about your creative process. Right? Clearly storytelling is an aspect of it, right? And that I think that's part of what made, you know, Springsteen successful his ability to tell stories through songs. You, you know, we've talked about, you know, your role in South africa, this idea of the life experience that you had had enabled you to pick up acting at a very, you know, high level, very quickly with the sopranos is is that key to your creative process or how how do you what's, you know, Stevie, what's your process for making an album, making a song, um writing the book? Yeah. Well, are you a schedule it out and you talked about your life being chaos, your scheduling it out every morning at nine a.m. I'm gonna wake up and write for two hours and I'm going to practice and I'm going or is it something very different? Uh Yeah, very different than that? Um I wish I was more regimented like that. Um uh first of all, the the the rock art form is a storytelling art form, you know. Uh and I guess uh I guess most of the arts in some ways is a story, storytelling aren't really if you think about it, you know, even a painting, you know, tells a story, doesn't it? So, I mean, I I think I think all of the arts are probably storytelling arts now that now that I think about it. Um and that and that came specifically in my in our case, you know, in the in the rock music case. Uh pretty much from, from chuck berry. He he set the standards for storytelling and institutionalized this new species of human being called the teenager, which I talked about in the book. And uh and it went from there and then bob Dylan took it to the next level of, of um more personal expression and uh engaging social and political uh subject matter. Um By the time I started my own, you know, again I I started off uh you know, as an arranger and producer and and and I started writing for for other people, specifically Southside johnny and the Asbury jukes, so that by the time I became an artist myself, um I had particular ideas about how to do that. I always loved the idea of concept albums, I've always gotten more out of, again, the story, The storytelling taken to its maximum effectiveness, not just in one song, but in 10 or 12, you know, the ultimate example will always be Tommy uh by the who, although he kind of did it again with Quadrophenia, uh not quite as specifically. Uh the story wasn't quite as quite as coherent, you know, Quadrophenia, but uh but you know, Tommy to me is the ultimate example of it, and I mentioned that across, you know, uh anyway, um so so um it all came from, for me, it started really with the Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band, which um isn't isn't a uh a literal concept as Tommy uh is uh but but yet it was a very conceptual record. If you look at the lyrics, you know, lyrics are all talking about the past, they're all very consistent, even going back to the single that came out before the album, which was strawberry fields and Penny Lane, you know, they were talking about um their youth and their past and a lot of it is uh, surprisingly harsh and negative, in fact, um against this extremely new sounding music, which, which, you know, maybe you had to be there at the time, but uh it felt like a brand new idea, a brand new concept, uh, the way that the music just flowed into each other and the sounds were different. Uh uh you know, and it was the most it was the biggest um, mass shared experience I think In Western culture. Uh, you know, maybe ever, um, I was literally could walk down the street that first week in June 1967 and it was coming from every single door to you passed restaurants and and head shops and clothing stores and cars going by. And it was just like it was this amazing moment in, in cultural history, you know, um you know, and people look back on it now and it's all kinds of historical revisionism, you know, saying, well, well, revolver was better. You know, there were more, you know, more innovative and you know, other Beatle albums, you know, you know, and and all that stuff may be true song by song or innovation by innovation. You know, revolver was quite remarkable, but but it wasn't the same as the Sergeant Pepper album. And partially because it started off very much as a concept from Paul McCartney's mind that they're going to pretend to be a different band, you know? Uh and that and I think that's quite liberating and something that I didn't use until my very last record. I just did some of Sorcery, which is the first record I've ever done. That wasn't not only not it wasn't political, but wasn't autobiographical. Uh The first time I ever made a record that was just completely fictional. Uh And it really really very I found it very liberating uh as I think they did uh Sergeant Pepper um you know, just to create different characters, whatever how many remember many songs, you know, and be those 10 different characters in those 10 different little movies, you know? Um So I, you know, I continued to have conceptual records, but my last one was quite different than In the first five in the 80s. Um you know, which were very, very thematic. I would uh I would just, I decided to divide the album album into five different subjects of the individual, the family, the state, economics, and religion, and then had sub themes under those. And that's how I that's how I began. And I and I and I figured out the sub themes, I then started coming up with titles of songs. Uh and and then I would write the songs. So I had I had the whole thing very, very planned out before I did it. Um uh And that's just how I like to do things. I like to I like to I like to write with purpose, you know, and I like to live with purpose. Uh you know, that's what I suggest when I do these master classes for writing, you know, whether it's writing or whether it's producing or whatever, whatever the class, maybe I always suggest, you know, decide what you want to, decide what you want to say, decide who you're talking to, who you talking to. Um What do you want to say with this song? You want to make people cry or make them laugh? You want to confess something, you want to, you know, uh you wanna get laid, you know what you wanna do? You wanna get rich, you know what you want to, you want to get single, what what what what are you doing this for? You know? Uh but I think this is this is fascinating to me because so many other artists are, are like, I'm just gonna look inside man and whatever comes out, that's what comes out and this structure, I'll just share my own personal example with my book. I was looking at thousands of pieces of paper and just like, notes scribbled everywhere in journals and like, okay, this could be a million different things. What is it that I want to say? I need, I need an arc, I need a narrative, I need a goal, target a plan. And do you think that this is uh it sounds very much the way that you're thinking? But is there a right way to do it? Or is that just right for you? Well, uh, yeah, that's, you know, when it comes to this, this kind of stuff, there's really no rules. Let's face it. But but but, you know, there's there's suggested there's suggested uh, behavior. There's there's half, yeah, okay, that's good. Yeah, as far as, you know, if you're worried about efficiency, you know, uh, you know, if you're worried about, you know, maximizing your potential, then there, you know, there's some things that that, you know, you can follow that will help that. Uh, you know, I mean, for me, it's always been a time thing I the one thing I hate the most in this world is wasting my time. So I don't want to waste my time waiting for the muse to speak to me, you know, I don't waste my time waiting for lawyers to finish the goddamn contracts. You know what I mean? I don't I don't have time, Right? I had a d d long before it was fashionable. You know, I mean, I just I just, you know, I don't have time, you know, watch these lawyers, you know, take forever for these deals or that's why, you know, end up spending my own money, usually, you know, I don't want to wait, you know, and it's the same thing with with artistic stuff, you know? Um I can't wait around, you know, for some for some mystical muse to speak to me, you know, is there is there something around, is there something about time? Like, are you afraid of death? Is that you want to put all this every you want to, you know, live hard and, you know, maximize your potential on this planet? What is it the relationship of not wanting to wait around? I think, I think it's just from from uh from being so slow, you know, very, very, very slow kid. Uh um you know, I didn't I didn't fully embrace uh being an artist Until I was in my 40s, right? Uh is that right? No, 30th, I guess it would have been 15 in the eighties. Yeah, and I'm in my thirties 30 which is which is late, you know? Uh so, so, you know, I I didn't even begin to embrace Being an artist until in my 30s and uh and I just felt like I'm catching up, you know, trying to catch up ever since you're trying to, trying to again, you know, you go through life, what are you trying what are you trying to do? You're trying to realize your potential that, you know, you know, you're here for? So you might as well, you might as well get the most out of it, you know? And then along the way if you can maybe improve what's going on a little bit, I think that's also something that's uh certainly artists, I think need to ask themselves every so often, you know, how can I be useful, you know, And I think that that that's where you get connected to the social problems or political problems or or whatever it might be, you know, maybe just helping somebody make it through the day, you know, uh you know, I mean, you can you can be you can be useful and I think I think you should be useful, you know, I think that, you know, it's one of the things like the question that I think you need to ask yourself quite quite regularly, That's very powerful, what what what are some of the reasons that you didn't identify as an artist until you're in your 30s? I think it was that that that lack of really wanting to be in the spotlight, wanting to be up front, and it wasn't uh it wasn't fear of uh it wasn't really out of fear of of of the spotlight. I mean, I I lead my own band, you know, uh in the mid sixties, you know, I was the leader of my own band, you know, and I and I liked it and I was good at it, you know, and when I started my solo career and had to become a front man uh in the eighties, I I got quite good at it, you know, that's quite a good front man, but I but I never really had that uh, inclination. I never had that need to be to be that front guy and to be in the spotlight. I just didn't uh, you know, um, I like I like I like being in a little bit off to the side a little bit in the back, you know, let that guy take the lightning, you know, let let let you get all this stuff, you know, looking out for yourself. Yeah, yeah, but it's just so you know, and I always wanted I had 11 little moment of it. I'll tell you the Truth, you know, on my third album, I had to hit singles in Italy, uh, on the Freedom of compromise album, you know, and and my wife came over the room, you know the check, you know, just to hang out and do a little shopping, whatever and we couldn't walk down the street, okay. I mean, kids would come out of out of out of nowhere, hundreds of kids, you know, on the autographs and pictures and you know, and it was it was that one moment of really experiencing what it's like to be a star, you know, a real celebrity, you know, and I got to tell you the truth. I didn't like it. I did not like it. I was like, you know, it's it's nice, it's wonderful, you know, you want you want everybody to like you like your work and you know, but I didn't like it. I I want to be able to go to a cafe and observe or right, You know, I used to love the right, I wrote like two albums in cafes in paris, you know, just sitting outside writing, you know, or observing or just enjoying life, you know, I don't want to, you know, I don't I don't I don't want to be stared at or or asked about pictures and autographs and and mobbed and you know, you can't you can't walk down the street. I didn't like it. I got to tell you the truth, you know, and I was like, man, it's hard to find that middle ground because you either, you know, you're either a superstar these days or you're nothing, you know what I mean? That's just how life has gotten in any entertainment world, you know, you're a star or you are or you are nothing, you know? So I'm always trying to find that middle ground, you know, I mean, we're like, can't I just my work speak for my, you know, be successful enough where I can, you know, be successful artistically, but not have to deal with the celebrity stuff, you know, and it's it's really, it's really is no middle ground there, you know? Well, you've carved, you've carved an incredible path for yourself, you know, as you mentioned, being your own band leader early then going to the E Street band, then going back to a solo career then as an actor, it's pretty hard because you're basically using your face Two, you know, as as a piece of the equation. And I'm sure your popularity soared again for you. So it sounds like there's been this constant sort of battle of into the spotlight out of the spotlight. And now I'm wondering if that's maybe one of the reasons your manager was helping you think about writing a book, because these stories are fascinating and you can do it in, you know, relatively safely without exposing yourself. But it made me your comment about, you know, you're either famous or you're not made me go back to something you said earlier, there's the work and then there's marketing the work And some, you know, I talk about this, this is like straight out of my brain too. So it's very happy to hear you talk about it. And what I talk about is called the other 50%, And it's like basically a coin, right coin has two sides, 50, part is doing the work. And the other part is getting that work out there because if it's just the work and it's sitting in your parents basement, it's not doing any potential work. So now, here you are, you've got some management, you know, you saw it firsthand with with uh Bruce and the E Street band. That was a basically a publicity powerhouse. Where have you landed now, having is there some magic alchemy of the right amount of work and the right amount of marketing network. So you can live off the work and have impact and all the things that you want. Is there a sweet spot in there? Is that a constant chase? Yeah, I haven't really found it yet. Uh, you know, um, I was I was really lucky to find these particular to managers who are, you know, comfortable enough and secure enough. Where up, So that's my dog chipping in. All good. We like, we like dogs may I may have to pick her up in a minute. She keeps working here, okay, all good films for lunchtime. Um um, you know, these these managers are, are sort of secure enough and and uh, been around enough to not, you know, uh feel the need to uh, you know, have some massive commercial success. You know, they really, they seem to be, you know, uh, who's this, who's joining the show? Chris is Edie Sedgwick, uh Edie that's, it's an amazing character and Andy Warhol's universe nowhere. Well, also the title of a cult song. Yeah, yeah, amazing, amazing song, that's one of my favorite. Um Anyway, so, so, you know, at the moment, I seem to have sort of hit the lottery with managers who don't mind me not being very successful, you know, commercially, uh, uh, you know, because they, you know, they've they've been very successful. Um and, you know, so they don't have the need the need for me to be successful and they seem to be here for the right reasons, which is helping me, you know, uh be an artist and and and and even the book is sort of an extension of my work, you know, I think, you know, and you know what I mean? Yeah, the way you read it, so you know what I'm talking about, it's an artistic endeavor itself, you know? Um and that's what I'm interested in doing it and and you know, and I can do a lot of things, you know, I learned on doing lily hammer, you know, um I co wrote it and produced it, co produced it, but I also directed the final episode and I, you know, I never really thought too much about directing tv I always thought, you know, it's kind of like a traffic cop, you know, it's different than the movies, but I enjoyed it very much and I said, you know, I could I could I could do this for a living. I really didn't, I enjoyed it that much. So there's lots of these different things I could do. Um My problem is I have all these businesses that are kind of important um but they don't, but they don't make any money. So I have a big overhead constantly, that kind of limits what I can do for fun, you know, um you know, I mean I can't just be an actor in somebody's show. Uh I needed to to be a one of the writers and producers and do all the music and you know, I needed to have four or five jobs just to pay for my overhead for my my, you know, my my two radio formats and my record company and my two publishing companies and uh and the Foundation, you know, my my my music history curriculum and uh you know, I have all of these things that are important, um but they're kind of uh but this is again, I as I'm as you know, I was reading and learning about you and this stood out to me as there is the prescription, there is the perception of the prescription, which is, you know, be rich and famous, there is the prescription, which is, you have to do it this way, make a certain amount of money, and then in a way, you know, there's Stevie's way, which is I'm putting the pieces together in a way that works for me, I found people in my life, I've put that out in the universe of what I want to do. You did that with the sopranos, you have done that with your career from uh you know, as an individual artist and as a band member, as a, as you said, a leader and a soldier as a musician, uh tv star, uh you know, an actor and now an author, like in a way you've, you've broken the mold in almost, you know, in so many conceivable fashions that that is ends up being the meta narrative is that you can, you know, you can have it your way, you can have your cake and eat it too. Did that come at a price or do you feel, you know, do you feel you talked about feeling secure? How does that make you feel rather than at me suggesting how you feel? How did that make you feel that now that I've said, it looks like you've been able to put it together. Yeah. And and I again, artistically I've been very happy and lucky really, um refined people who support what I want to do most of the time, you know, a lot of times you're looking for, you're looking for that patron of the arts to uh to come and help, you know, I could use help. I might know the broadway show I did man, which was, you know, probably the most, you know, spectacular, most satisfying moment of my artistic life. Um and and and the, you know, the the investors never came. You know, and that was a huge, huge disappointment. Uh, and it's always a disappointment, you know, because it's always I'm always underfunded because, you know, uh I got all these ideas, you know, and and you and I, you know, but in the end, if I get them done somehow, I'm happy with them. You know what, what's the price you pay for being me is uh stability. You know, I never really have had stability. I'm still looking for a steady job, okay, You know, that's what it comes down to. Uh you know, I've never had a steady job in that sense, and you never know, you know, when, when the job you're doing right now is going to end, you know, I've never been complete control of of my uh my my career or any any part of my career or my career is plural. I've never, you know, really been in control of them. So, you know, you need you need some kind of success that I've never quite found in order to have that kind of control. So you keep kind of searching for that common ground, man, you know, uh am I going to hit it with this thing? Am I going to hit it with that thing? You know, I'm not big uncompromised, but um perfectly willing, I'm interested in a lot of different things and if one of them happens to catch on, you know, I probably do it regularly, you know, I'm fine with that, I don't do anything that I don't love. So, you know, I'm not, I'm not worried about. Oh my God, this thing I really hated, you know, is now a success, you know, I don't I don't understand that stuff, I, I never have done anything. I've I've hated or haven't loved. So, you know, you're, you're always searching and and the price for me, like I say, stability, that's probably the reason why I never had kids to be honest. I never felt stable enough to give, you know, give a kid that can I support that, you know, the kids need, you know, um I mean, as you know, clearly, clearly you've given it to et you want to come back with my dog for sure. You know, and I, and again, I even I have to thank even my wife, you know, I probably should never even have been married, you know, uh you know, and she's she's had deal with the ups and downs. Uh and you know, and I, and I really uh can't thank thank her enough and be grateful enough to her because, you know, she married this very fun guy, you know, uh we were the rat pack of rock and roll when, when, when when when she married me and I was Dean Martin, you know, I was a fun guy, I was a party guy, you know, I was Miami steve man, you know, and and and uh you know, you know, I'm the first guy you want to call if you want to have a party, you know, uh and suddenly, you know, that guy turned into this, you know, completely ridiculous, political serious political guy, you know, and uh, you know, uh and and she she's hung in there, you know, so far. She's been hanging in there and you know, I can't really, I can't, I can't be grateful enough. You know, I think control is largely an illusion. And the, you know, after reading again, I want to recommend to everyone who's listening and watching unrequited infatuations, a memoir, Stevie, thank you for sharing uh, the behind the scenes to the behind the scenes a little bit about your process. I want to also give a shout out if you a couple of things that you mentioned. Um, one in particular teach rock, which is an amazing nonprofit that helps, you know, provides music education. And uh, there's, if you're at all interested in that it's an, it's an amazing, uh, dozens if not hundreds of lessons um, from legends like yourself, mickey hart and others, uh, that not only teach music but relate music back to pop culture, the role that is played in shaping, shaping our culture and in many ways is the perfect sort of non profit, uh, angle to what you shared with us today. So, um, thank you so much for being on the show. Congratulations on the book. And again, this is shoeing too much commercial success and maintaining an authenticity and an openness. Those are some of the things that I took away from the book and I want to say thank you for writing it. Thank you for your kind words and thank you for mentioning the teach rock dot org music history curriculum. I really feel very strongly that we need to integrate the arts into the education system with every discipline in every grade level. And it really is going to it's going to completely transform the education process. I think we're seeing, we're starting to see early results of that right now. So thank you for mentioning that to Of course, happy to, it's an amazing organization. And again, congrats on the book comes out the 28th of this month and we're going to drop this show right in time for people to pick that up ahead of schedule. Thank you so much again for being on the show. Um, your life story is absolutely fascinating and many lessons to be learned for all of us creators out there. And again, folks remember Stevie didn't even call himself an artist till he was in his 30s. So no matter where you are in your journey, it's never too late. Thanks for being on the show, Stevie and everybody out there in the world. We bid you. I do, yeah,

Class Description

There's a common misconception that artists have a monopoly on creativity...But the very act of making waves - no matter the career - is a creative one. The Chase Jarvis Live Show is an exploration of creativity, self-discovery, entrepreneurship, hard-earned lessons, and so much more. Chase sits down with the world's top creators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders and unpacks actionable, valuable insights to help you live your dreams in career, hobby, and life.


When you listen to Stevie Van Zandt talk about his life – with that unmistakable, rugged laugh often breaking up sentences – you get the impression that you are not in the presence of one man. Surely there are, at least, three different Stevies in front of you.

Talented guitarist, preoccupied journalist, political activist, impromptu actor and, now, acclaimed book author, Stevie is as complex and multi-faceted as a kaleidoscope. First, he invites you to look at something enticing, only to draw your attention to something even more incredible.

With such a diverse, eclectic, and intense career – and personal life – it would come to no surprise that a man like Stevie came about not one, but three huge epiphanies over the decades. Those moments of pure ecstasy and revelation were punctuated by three very distinct events: listening to a Curtis Lee record, seeing the Beatles live, and then seeing the Rolling Stones live.

Those were also the moments that led this former Catholic kid from New Jersey to believe that maybe, after all, God could also be found in a rock’n’roll guitar riff.

Stevie was, and remains, a very spiritual person, but in our hour-long chat with him we also discuss aspects of his life that have a much more tangible significance. One prime example is, of course, his political activism and commitment to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

A commitment that was so effective it helped set Nelson Mandela free, and put an end to the institutionalized racism that had plagued the country for too long.

This achievement alone should be enough to give you a taste for who Stevie Van Zandt is – a man whose quest to make the world a better place through art, activism, and practical change began in a small bedroom in 1960s suburban New Jersey and ended… hang on, no – it hasn’t ended yet.

Some highlights from our conversation:

  • If you want to change your career, make sure you have something good to fall back on.
  • Having success later in life often means that you get to enjoy it more – and are better at what you do.
  • In life, you don’t need to pick whether to lead or to be a leader: you can be both a good soldier and a good boss.
  • Creating content and marketing that content are two faces of the same coin – being good at both leads you to success.

In this episode, Stevie takes us on a trip down memory lane and sets the scene for the bold, adventurous, and uncompromising career that he portrays with authenticity and humble confidence in Unrequited Infatuations.

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