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E Street Band bassist started musical love affair in Detroit
Garry Tallent is floating both in and out of his comfort zone while he's Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's The River Tour.
Being in the band, of course, is second-nature for the Detroit-born bassist; He is, after all, E Street's longest resident, having joined when Springsteen formed the group during 1972 in New Jersey. His spot between the front of the stage and Roy Bittan's keyboards is well-established, as is his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after the group's 2014 induction.
But this year Tallent has also released his first-ever solo album, "Break Time." And while he's worked outside of E Street as a producer and sideman, this is his maiden voyage out front, which is taking some getting used to.
"It's frightening and thrilling," Tallent says by phone from Dallas before an E Street show there. "I've been toying with the idea for a long time, but it never really seemed that important. My fear, of course, was always that anything I do is going to be compared to Bruce Springsteen, and I know a lot of people would expect it to be just another Springsteen kind of record."
Instead, the energetic "Break Time" is a celebration of Tallent's early musical roots in rockabilly and 50s R&B. Some of those were planted during the time he spent in Detroit, where his father worked on auto company assembly lines, including at Dodge Main. "That was the music that I fell in love with, and it motivated me to want to play music," recalls Tallent, 66. "I listened to the radio, and I had an older brother who brought record into the house, so it was all part of my childhood, I guess."
Living in Detroit, meanwhile, gave Tallent a kind of independent attitude, even if he was only seven when the family moved to Tennessee in 1956.
"I know it's a big city, but I never really thought of it that way," Tallent says. "The amazing thing is I was five or six years old and I would just wander all over the city. I'd got to the movies on Saturday afternoon my myself or I'd take my little brother. I remember going back to see a school pal and just taking the city bus across town all by myself.
"It's kind of a different world now than it was back in 1956."
Tallent's family wound up moving to Virginia and Delaware before landing in New Jersey during 1964. He'd already started playing music and became part of the local band scene, having picked up bass after learning tuba in school. He began playing with Springsteen in 1971. shortly before the E Street Band came together. "It's always been a great situation -- great music to play and Bruce is, like, the ultimate bandleader," Tallent, who Springsteen once dubbed The Tennessee Terror, says now. "You couldn't ask for a better band to be part of."
Outside of E Street Tallent, who resides in Nashville with his wife Tammy and two children, established his studio credentials producing Marshall Crenshaw, Jim Lauderdale, Steve Forbert and others. He has his own recording studio, MoonDog and was a partner in the D'Ville Record Group. Changes in the nature of the music industry, meanwhile, helped inspire him to take the recording artist plunge with "Break Time."
"Nowadays you don't need a big record company budget and promotion and all that," he explains. "Everybody can make a record in their bedroom and put it out and just kind of see what happens. All of a sudden there was nothing stopping me, so why not just go ahead and do it and give it a try and have some fun with it, not take it too seriously."
Tallent actually had a tour booked to support "Break Time" that he had to postpone when Springsteen decided to take "The River" on the road after releasing "The Ties That Bind" box set in November. Tallent is still planning to play those shows and is already talking about another album, on which he plans to dip into his Beatles influences and what he calls "my 60s garage band material."
Meanwhile, however, he's happy to be back with Springsteen and his fellow E Streeters. Shows are currently booked into July in Europe, and there are rumors of North American stadium dates. And doing "The River" at each concert in its double-record entirety, Tallent says, has been a collective move away from the "comfort zone" of Springsteen's usual open-ended, unpredictable shows.
"It's kind of surprising doing one record night after night," Tallent says. "I never would have guessed. It's completely against the grain of what our shows have always been. But it's good and people seem to be liking it.
"And when I hear Bruce explaining about his thought process in formatting the record and writing the songs, there's a lot I wasn't aware of. I'm learning along with the rest of the audience."
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14.
The Palace of Auburn HIlls, Lapeer Road at I-75.
Tickets are $58-$153.
Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.
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