Patti Scialfa knows that being the boss’ wife has its advantages. Especially since her husband is The Boss.
Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen, who married in 1991 and have three children, found themselves working on new albums simultaneously this year — her third solo set, the soulful “Play It as It Lays,” and “Magic,” Springsteen’s first recording with the E Street Band, of which Scialfa is a member, since 2002’s “The Rising.” As they each finished, it became clear that they’d both be ready for release around the same time.
So Springsteen, who also played on Scialfa’s record, laid a metaphorical gentleman’s coat over the puddle in the street.
“He wanted me to be able to put mine out before his,” says Scialfa, 54, who started working on her album last year, after being part of Springsteen’s “The Seeger Sessions” album and tour. “We knew we were coming close together; It’s just the way it worked out.
“I guess we thought at this point, it doesn’t really matter much. When I was younger I would probably want more room to myself, but at this point it doesn’t matter.”
What it has meant, Scialfa says, is that “it’s been an exciting time at home because we’re both pretty busy. It feels like a great, creative time. It just feels very positive.”
That’s certainly been echoed by the commercial showing for Springsteen’s “Magic,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in October and logged a second week there after a oneweek interruption by Kid Rock’s “Rock N Roll Jesus.” The reception has been typically rapturous for his tour with Scialfa and the rest of the E Street Band, and some of the shows have included a duet version of “Town Called Heartbreak” from “Play It as It Lays.”
“It’s a song I had written a very, very long time ago and resurrected for this record,” says the New Jersey-born Scialfa, who was part of Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes before joining the E Street Band in 1984.
“I re-wrote some of it, and I put it on because it seemed to fit in with all the ideas of ... demanding the best out of yourself and demanding that from the people around you.”
Scialfa had a formidable support cast working with her on “Play It as It Lays.” Besides Springsteen, she’s backed by E Street multi-instrumentalists Nils Lofgren and Soozie Tyrell as well as well-credentialed bassist Willie Weeks and drummer/coproducer Steve Jordan — who had to leave the project for awhile to tour with Eric Clapton.
Scialfa’s life with Springsteen certainly contributed to her creative path. Many of “Play It As It Lays’ “ 10 songs examine “the real complexities of trying to have a real relationship that is long-term — the good days, the bad days, everything.” And there were certainly some rough patches that occurred while she was working on the album, including press reports that she and Springsteen were having marital difficulties.
Scialfa calls the rumors “completely ridiculous” and “filled with massive misinformation” — pointing out that many of the articles cited comments by her mother, calling her Veronica when her name is actually Patricia. There was a tendency to shrug things off — “You figure you’re in the public, so it happens,” Scialfa notes — but at the same time she acknowledges that the issue “got larger than we thought” and, not surprisingly, crept into her songs.
“Sure, that stuff ends up coming into your work, ’cause I was working on it at the time,” she says. It can be heard particularly in a song called “The Word,” which Scialfa says started about her “very complicated” relationship with her father but ultimately became about “any relationship” after the rumors surfaced.
“Y’know, I’m 54,” she explains, “and I want to write in my skin and in my age. I don’t want to have to change my perspective while I’m writing. I want it to be timely with how I’m feeling, because in the singer-songwriter tradition you’re trying to take emotional topics and make them like a fingerprint. There were a lot of things that informed the record. For me, it was a way of claiming power and vitality well into your 50s. It was a very visceral kind of thing because it was done intuitively and not intellectually. It was exciting.”
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band peform at 7:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 5) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $91.50 and $57.50. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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