Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder are two artists that are generation defining. They both have an innate ability to write anthems that are big enough to fill out stadiums without losing that special touch to reach the masses. While there aren’t many musicians capable of such greatness, Vedder and Springsteen have it by the bucketload. On top of that, the two share a kinship, and when the Pearl Jam frontman was facing his greatest fear, he turned to Bruce for help.
Springsteen and Vedder have performed together on numerous occasions, but their first meeting took place in The Boss’ home state of New Jersey during the Vote For Change tour. The string of live dates arrived in the wake of the Iraq war, playing live several swing states before the 2004 election which tried to encourage voters to choose Democrat nominee John Kerry and oust George W. Bush from the oval office. Whilst they didn’t manage to succeed in their electoral wish, the tour allowed the two men to share the stage and let their friendship blossom.
There aren’t many people in the world who are in a position to offer sound career advice to Eddie Vedder considering his mammoth successes, but, despite all the riches, that doesn’t mean that he still doesn’t need reassurances from time to time. However, Bruce Springsteen is called The Boss for a reason, and if anybody can offer Vedder the potent advice that he desired, then there’s nobody better placed to do so than Asbury Park’s favourite son.
“The best part of when you get to do that isn’t actually playing it in front of people,” Vedder told Howard Stern about playing with his childhood heroes. “The best part is either when you’re sitting in the back with Pete Townshend, Bruce or Neil (Young). It’s when you’re right across the small table; you’re sitting on the same couch hearing them play and sing. Playing in front of people is the price of admission. That moment of hearing the guy right in front of you, connecting and learning chords, that’s something.”
During an interview that Springsteen carried out with Vedder, The Boss noted what he saw in him and Pearl Jam that made them stand out as a band who had that special something. “You had the kind of band that simply was a big, powerful band with a reach that wanted to extend to a sizeable audience,” he told Vedder. “I mean, it was just in the nature of your music. I don’t know if you feel like that or not, but that’s how it looked from my vantage point from the outside.”
Their music had a lot in common; namely, that intangible ingredient which hinted towards no glass ceiling for Pearl Jam. However, without the thrashing sound of a band behind him, Vedder took a while to adjust to playing solo shows. The singer began doubting whether this was his calling or a faux-pas. Then he spoke to Springsteen, and his worries instantly turned to hunger.
“I said ‘I’m starting these solo gigs tomorrow actually,'” Vedder recalled to the Daddy Issues podcast. “He gave this one gem of advice that just changed everything – because I was saying I was making mistakes in those first few mini-gigs. He said, ‘There’s real power when there’s just one person up there.
“It’s terrifying, for the audience even. It’s a tight-wire act. There’s just something, an intimacy in it, and there’s a power in it.'” Vedder then went on to sat how this remains “one of the greatest things to hear, because suddenly you didn’t feel as vulnerable.”
If anybody in the world didn’t already think that Springsteen has a heart of gold, this settles it. It’s remarkable to know that despite The Boss is one of the most capable live-artists globally, he still finds it terrifying when he takes to the stage without being backed by his old-reliable E-Street Band. If it’s OK for even Bruce to feel nerves in his stomach, Vedder knew that it was more than fine for him to be petrified.