Bruce Springsteen was presented with the Woody Guthrie Prize Thursday night, May 13th, and during a Q&A with Guthrie’s daughter Nora and Grammy Museum Founding Executive Director Robert Santelli, Springsteen casually mentioned that he has a new album in the works. “California was an enormous influence on some of my most topical writing through my ‘90s, 2000s and even now,” he said. “We have a record coming out soon that’s set largely in the West.”
Nothing else is known about the album, but Springsteen has been unusually productive in the past couple of years. In 2019, he released Western Stars, which was heavily influenced by the American West and Sixties/Seventies artists like Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach. Last year, he released A Letter To You, which he cut with the E Street Band over just five days at his home studio in New Jersey.
Along with teasing the new record, Springsteen played a four-song acoustic set at the Woody Guthrie Prize event. It begins with a pair of Guthrie songs: “Tom Joad,” which he hasn’t played since the Ghost of Tom Joad tour in 1997, and “Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee),” which he hasn’t done since 1996. Springsteen closed with two Guthrie-inspired originals: “Across The Border” (unplayed since 2008) and “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”
In his acceptance speech, Springsteen spoke about Guthrie’s profound impact on his life and work. “I was going through a period in my life when I felt strangely hopeless,” he said. “It wasn’t until I came across [Guthrie’s] work that I found that hope… It was the first music where I found a reflection of America that I believed to be true. Where I believed that the veils had been pulled off and what I was seeing was the real country that I live in and what was at stake for the people and citizenry who are my neighbors and friends.”