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Interview: Baillie Walsh (Springsteen & I)

There’s only one boss. The Boss. And he goes by the name of Bruce Springsteen.

My love for Bruce began the first time my dad put on Born In The USA album on a family road trip and it hasn’t faltered since. Neither has it for the millions of Springsteen fans who have rather more engaging stories of appreciation than one girl and her dad’s record collection.

Now comes a documentary which shows exactly what The Boss’s music has meant to his devoted followers, using videos and footage submitted by his loyal fans. And behind it, is Baillie Walsh, the director famous for his insightful look at Oasis and the brothers Gallagher, who has created a film of the fans, for the fans, and by the fans called Springsteen & I.

Bruce’s fan base were more than willing to take part with ‘thousands of clips from approximately 2000 unique contributors from all over the world’ being mailed to Baillie and his team. ’I watched every single clip and everything that wasn’t in English got translated so nothing could slip through the net,’ Baillie remembers. ‘In the end it was instinctive, I was drawn to the characters that I wanted to spend time with, have a drink with and listen to.  Sometimes they weren’t the biggest stories or the most elaborate but there was something about the people that I loved and I thought other people would like too. ‘

The concept for the feature is based on a film called Life In A Day that was made by Ridley Scott and Scott Free films  - who executive produced Springsteen & I – two years a go and directed by Kevin MacDonald. ’They got people around the world to film themselves on a particular day,’ Baillie explains. ‘But we are turning it round and looking at one person through the eyes of many.’

Although Springsteen is the subject, the multi-platinum award winning singer was not part of the creative process. ’[Bruce] wasn’t involved at all.’ Baillie says. ‘He gave us his blessing and the keys to his visual archives and his music but then he and his record company stepped back completely.’

But it’s not just fans sharing their love for the Jersey boy, but a journey through time to see Bruce at his best, in footage which has never been made public before. ‘We have several performances that haven’t been seen before, most of them fairly recent.  The soundtrack was determined by the clips we selected, so the music in the film is entirely decided by the fans and its a wonderfully varied selection.  There was a lot to choose from.’

Despite the 3 hours sets, special requests, a four decade strong back catalogue that is still getting topped up with some of his best work, Baillie thinks Bruce’s popularity comes from a ‘quite simple’ place. ’He is a genuine and generous guy,’ the director surmises. ‘He gives an awful lot back to his fans and through his generosity he gets loyalty back.  He is a fantastic story teller and there are an awful lot of fans out there that relate very deeply to his lyrics and have been inspired by them for a big part of their lives.’

For Baillie, Blood Brothers is his favourite song, ‘its a beautiful song that I hadn’t heard before one of the clips we got sent in talked about it’ and now features in an emotional section of the show that a true fan will struggle not to be affected by.

Every fan should watch this film, and connect with the stories of these strangers who are united by their love and loyalty to The Boss. And those people who ‘don’t get Bruce’ should watch it too, to realise just what a musical pioneer they’re missing out on.

-Hanna Flint

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