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Warren Zanes: "Don't erase yourself from the picture"

Warren Zanes
c/o the artist
Warren Zanes

41 years ago this month, Bruce Springsteen released his sixth studio album, Nebraska. He recorded much of the album on one winter night, sitting on the edge of the bed in a rented house in New Jersey, playing acoustic guitar and singing, using a 4-track cassette recorder.

The album would go on to have lasting influence, inspire other works of art including movies and books, and other records. And Springsteen would later muse that Nebraska may be his best album. Four decades later the story of Nebraska continues to be an object of fascination. Among those who obsessed over it was the musician and writer Warren Zanes.

Zanes joined his brother Dan's band, The Del Fuegos, at age seventeen. The band toured with ZZ Top, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, INXS, and others during the time Warren was in the band, and also famously licensed one of their songs for a commercial which led to some serious criticism at the time.

Warren then went on to build a career as an academic, a writer (including the best selling biography of Tom Petty, 2015’s Petty) an educator (he teaches at New York University) a Grammy-nominated documentary producer, and a musical artist who has released multiple albums under his own name, most recently The Collected Warren Zanes.

Throughout it all, he held on to his fascination with Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. He recently published the book Deliver Me from Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.

Warren and I spoke recently about his own personal journey, his thoughts on stardom, work, The Beach Boys, family, addiction, songwriting, betrayal, college towns, fatherhood, Taylor Swift, working with machines, The Kinks, drummers, Booker T. and the M.G.s, Garth Brooks, artificial intelligence, Joseph Campbell, and of course, Nebraska.

Leo Sidran is a Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist musician, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist and podcast host based in Brooklyn, New York.