Bruce

Jake Clemons Interview: A Few Questions, A Few Answers!

How do you maintain your youthful complexion? It may sound like a question better suited to one of Hollywood’s glamorous A-listers as opposed to being the first thing I’m tempted to ask an emerging rock talent. Taking up his uncle Clarence Clemons’ spot in the E Street Band, Jake Clemons has been touring with Bruce Springsteen over the last two years, wowing us fans with his saxophone solos, dedicated to continuing his uncle’s legacy on stage each night. As well as marveling at his musical skills, I’ve also been pondering over Jake’s ability to defy the aging process. A charismatic performer with infectious energy, at 33 the saxophonist sports a wrinkle free complexion and a scarf collection better than my own.
A gluten free diet? Weekly facials? A US$500 moisturiser? I can’t see these being the beauty secrets helping Jake achieve his youthful glow. As much as I would love to get some first hand tips on how I could also slow the signs of aging, my questions had to be a little more…normal. Having just released his new EP “Embracing Light” I spoke with Jake about his life with Bruce and the E Street Band, his thoughts on us fans and his favourite spot for #JakesLocal. Speaking just as his US solo tour was coming to an end in November, here’s a few of the questions and answers from the conversation!
So how are things going on your own tour?
It’s going amazing! Each show has been one show after the next. It’s a little bit tricky because our new record’s just coming out, the last record we didn’t push at all. So most people are largely unfamiliar with our music, it’s kind of a dry introduction, which can be kind of intimidating in one sense, but it’s been really really great, everyone’s been really into it….and really disappointed in me for not having music to link with Bruce! 
I laugh (obviously).

How long has your band been going for?
The core of us started in 2010, not so long, I obviously had to leave a little while after that, for other activities (he laughs. So I laugh). I play guitar and sing, and I also play saxophone obviously, a little bit of keys here and there. Everyone in the band is extremely talented, they all play every instrument. It allows us to be really musical – it’s real nice.
So have you been writing while you’ve been on the Wrecking Ball tour?
Yeah the majority of this record is the stuff that I wrote on the tour. Actually, originally I wrote like 15 songs I guess, for the record, then decided to put the EP out. I write a lot, so I was figuring out what makes sense. I wrote a lot on the past tour – I had a guitar with me, a keyboard, a laptop. For me it’s not something I do as a hobby, it’s kind of how I express my innermost thoughts, it’s an important part of my life to write a lot. 
You’ve gone from playing in huge stadiums to more intimate gigs, how has it been doing that?
It’s great, it’s great! I mean both are pretty awesome. I’ve certainly played a lot more clubs than stadiums in my life, so it’s definitely familiar territory but at the same time it’s those big shows -there’s something magical about the more people you have gathering, the more experience, the more that’s invested in it. On both sides of it though, it’s just beautiful, it’s really just about people willing to be there, and be present, and be open, and whether it’s 50 thousand people of 50 people, it’s a rich experience .
Obviously you’ve been playing alongside the E Street Band who have been going for some time, what do you feel they have taught you that you can now put into your solo performances?
Oh man there’s been a tonne, just a tonne. I guess you’d start with just the general work ethic, being aware that every day that you are alive, you are earning it, that’s a big lesson that I’ve learnt from Bruce. It’s such an important perspective to have, that every day that you are working you are earning it. Nobody that comes and buys tickets to your show belongs to you, you have to earn their appreciation. That’s been a huge lesson – just being aware that there is an end goal. You’ve got to really put your sweat in to get there. It’s been a phenomenal experience. Bruce is the absolute pinnacle, there’s nobody in history that has ever been better at providing that experience.
So in terms of work ethic you’ve obviously learnt a lot from how hand the band work. For us fans when we go see you play it’s very much about what the set list will be, do you feel you’ll prefer to be a bit more regimented or off the cuff when you perform with your band in the future?
The off the cuff thing is extremely important to the experience. It’s amazing the anticipation of every song, every show. It’s kind of a communication that’s generated from the band itself, when the band doesn’t know where it’s going to go, when the band is listening in, and therefore the audience is listening in that much more, the excitement and anticipation of what’s going to be next. That’s something I really enjoy both in that band and my own band. It really heightens the experience, but it also means that you’re taking a little bit of a risk, in the direction that you’re taking that show. And when there’s risk – risk creates intimacy, intimacy in terms of effort. You’re building a really detailed conversation, and you want to say things the way you mean them. That’s absolutely been a big big lesson. It’s a bit challenging right now, because at this point it’s really just my band listening in! The audience isn’t especially familiar with all my music. But, again, it creates an energy!
I definitely can’t imagine going to see a band and thinking I know what’s coming next, that’s part of the reason us fans travel to so many of the shows. 
Yeah I went to see XXX band (I can’t say which band, that would be mean) with Tom and he was saying: “First it’s going to be this, and then it’s going to be this.” To be fair, some people really enjoy that I suppose, but I feel like we aren’t on the stage for pure entertainment you know?
We know!

You started playing saxophone when you were 11. I hope you don’t mind me asking, I wondered if it was a daunting thing to step into Clarence’s shoes or if it felt like a natural process?
It’s probably a combination, I wouldn’t say it was daunting per se, but it it was tough from a personal perspective. And at the same time I’d say it was very natural, Clarence and I had a lot of conversations about it over the years. It’s nothing that I ever wanted, but I’m absolutely happy to be able to protect his legacy, to continue to make people aware of the value of those notes, and how important his voice continues to be. 
How many songs did you learn?
I got the set lists for all the shows by the end of the tour we’d played 230 songs!
Are you ever on stage and you’re waiting for Bruce to turn around and you see him say something and you think “Oh sh*t Bruce I really don’t know what one?”

(A hearty laugh from Jake).
There’s usually songs that I don’t know, that I’ve never even heard of. There’s been occasions when he’s turned around and said something and I wasn’t even sure what he was talking about! Fortunately I’ve been able to reference something quick enough to pull it off, but that’s never an easy experience!
And does Bruce himself offer you much advice personally?
Oh yeah! He’s always open to giving me words of wisdom from his own experience and helping me guide my own way. I had a completely different record together in 2012 to what I was going to be recording originally. The conversation we had about his process, the kind of decisions he makes and why he makes them really influenced my own process, so my record completely changed. I’m the kind of person that’s always taking notes. I’ll see something he does and I’ll pay attention to it, and I’ll keep watching, and if I see it again I’ll try to understand why. It’s a highly informed process. I’m three years deep in my solo project, not very far in comparison to the 40, 50 years now he’s been playing. There’s a lot to learn. The wealth of experience that’s there, I can only take a handful, it would be impossible to grab more than that right now. It’s an amazing experience to figure something else out, there’s only so much you can take in at one time. If only my aptitude were a bit higher, I’d be better off!
Awww.

I love to travel and I love to see you guys play live. Every country I go to the experience is partly from the band and the set list and partly from the crowd around me, the crowd can be so different in different countries. Is that something that you guys notice?
Every crowd is different, obviously! (Laughs). Not every crowd is looking for a thriller, some crowds are looking to be more thoughtful. It’s about playing close attention to that and figuring out what those conversations are supposed to look like. It’s definitely a different conversation each night and for each crowd, and some nights are just a pure party and that’s great, that’s awesome, and some nights are a bit more thought provoking. It’s human experience.
I have a favourite country to see you guys perform in, do you have a favourite country to play in?
I’m very much an in the moment person! I feel richly rewarded from the experience I’m able to have each night. Even for myself, some nights I’m feeling grumpy (he laughs) or I’m having a blast, or I’m excited. I’m just grateful to have the experience, because those are the conversations that we were able to have on stage. It’s pretty cool.
You never look like you’re grumpy. I’m grumpy after I’ve been queuing though!
It’s amazing…it’s such a cool thing to have people to do that! Bring a tent and some food or something! I totally get it. I was exposed to that a little bit before the Wrecking Ball tour. There’s a side to that community that people aren’t necessarily aware of. The concerts are a big part of that obviously, but the communal experience, it’s kind of like a family reunion each night. That part of it seems amazing to me, I really dig that. 
It’s cool actually – it is a real community, you can meet people from all over the world that you become friends with – you initially have one thing in common with and then realise there’s so much other stuff. Friendships have been formed which is a good thing! 
Yeah it’s pretty amazing that music can bring people together that way!
So you do your #JakesLocal on tour, it’s great that you check out the cities you are playing in. When I go to the concerts for me it’s very much about “Oh I love Rome I want to go to Rome again” as much as wanting to see you play there. I’ve got a list of everywhere I want to see you guys play based on me just wanting to go there.
That’s great! 
(Well if Jake says so…)

I wondered where has been your top place for #JakesLocal? 
(#JakesLocal is Jake’s twitter and instagram hashtag when Jake goes out and about discovering local places to eat/drink/be merry when on tour).
Oh man! Yeah that’s just really hard for me to answer! Every experience stands out in a different way. I can talk about the lock-ins that happened in Dublin, or the late night terrifying taxi rides in Belfast, or the fish markets in Bergen. Or the amazing late night beers in Rome or the late nights parties that happened in Rio. I mean there’s SO much. I love this earth – I’m glad that I’m from here!!
Final question…because I had to.

You’ve mentioned that you don’t eat meat too often so I wondered where is the best veggie burger for you to recommend to me and other fans?
Hmmm. Oh man you know there was one that I had the other week that was amazing I just can’t remember where I got it! You know what I can say is there’s a place in Brooklyn New York, called 67 Burger. It’s a place that I used to go to and their burgers are amazing, and they also have Guinness milkshakes. You can’t go wrong with that! 
*Hannah books flight to New York.*

Me with Jake in July 2013. See what I mean about his youthful glow??

The new EP “Embracing Light” is now available at www.jakeclemons.com, and also available for download on Amazon here.  Follow Jake Clemons and #JakesLocal on Twitter and Facebook

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This post was written by Hannah BurgersAndBruce

  • travel hack

    good interview. 67 burger it is then …