Bruce Springsteen documentary director says band has a ‘secret language’


For Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band is more than the trusted posse of players that he was born to run with throughout his storied career.

They’re his religion.

“The E Street Band is not a job — it is a vocation, a calling,” says the New Jersey rock god in the new Apple TV+ documentary “Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You,” premiering Friday. “It is both one of the most important things in your life — and, of course, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll.”

The film goes inside the making of “Letter to You,” Springsteen’s new album that also drops Friday. Over five days of recording his first studio LP with the E Street Band since 2014’s “High Hopes,” the doc — featuring narration by Springsteen — captures their undeniable, unbreakable bond.

“These guys had a secret language together,” director Thom Zimny told The Post. The experience was like “watching a master class on a band and a bandleader,” he said. “They were completely alive in the moment, but they also took the time to reflect on the journey.”

“Letter to You” director Thom Zimny and Bruce Springsteen
“Letter to You” director Thom Zimny and Bruce SpringsteenRob DeMartin

Having worked with the Boss for 20 years, Zimny — who won an Emmy for directing 2018’s “Springsteen on Broadway” — got a new perspective as “a fly on the wall” watching him record his first album live together with the E Street Band since 1984’s “Born in the U.S.A.” (The parts for “High Hopes” were recorded separately.)

“When you walk into a room and you see the E Street Band … it’s like the energy of a concert in a small room,” said Zimny. “The biggest surprise was this beautiful thing that unfolds when they all start to play together a song that they’ve never heard before. I don’t think I was ready for it. There’s something magical that happens when the E Street Band gathers together and creates a song. I was just grateful that I had cameras to hopefully capture it.”

Bruce Springsteen's "Letter to You."
Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter to You.”Apple TV+

Springsteen describes his “45-year conversation” with his musical brethren toward the beginning of the black-and-white film: “The E Street Band is a finely tuned instrument of great flexibility and power. They can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Our years of playing together have created a shorthand and efficiency in the studio comparable to that of a finely tuned racing engine. We are a unit 45 years in the making, decades in the refining, and we bring that power to bear when we engage with you.”

Growing up in Point Pleasant, NJ, Zimny worshipped Springsteen long before he got to collaborate with his idol. “My connection with Bruce came early on, listening to ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ as the first record that I owned,” he said. “I was able to really get a sense of how cinematic his music was … The music has carried on and grown with me throughout the chapters in my own development as both an artist and a man.”

Bruce Springsteen's "Letter to You."
Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter to You.”Apple TV +

But Zimny is able to balance being a lifelong fan with doing the job at hand. “I feel like the responsibility I have working with Bruce is to be able to wear many hats in telling the story,” he said. “There’s a part of me that wants to draw upon being a fan and remembering how I connected to some of the music. But I also have to be in the moment collaborating with an artist that I admire. There’s not a moment of fandom that carries over and gets in the way of being able to be creative in the space.”

Looking back on shooting “Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You” a year ago — before social distancing was a thing and live music came to a halt — is “bittersweet” for Zimny, whether it’s watching the band hug each other or seeing them do shots together at the end of the day.

“There’s small gestures that read differently now to me,” he said. “You can hear their excitement of going on the road and sharing this music with fans. I’m just very grateful to have the trust with this band and Bruce to capture this moment right before everything was shut down.”

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