From the factory town of Freehold to a residency on Broadway sharing his life through song Bruce Springsteen has enjoyed a career through which he has become an icon of small-town America. Describing himself as ‘a creature of his environment’ The Boss may not naturally spring to mind when you think of Derby but for Sophie Sparham there was a connection.
“I’m a massive fan of Bruce Springsteen. I grew up listening to him being played in my dad’s car but I’m probably a bigger fan than my dad now! Whenever I have needed something in my life as a form of comfort, or something to relate to, I always put Bruce on.”
The idea of a tribute was born out of fundraising Sophie was already undertaking, she said: “Myself and Laura Mitchell were already doing challenges for charity – a marathon and a half marathon but I wanted to do something less individual, more collective. I’d been given a zine for Christmas about Bruce Springsteen – Butt Springsteen – about a guy discovering his sexuality through Bruce Springsteen. I liked the idea of queerifying something, of taking something so masculine and flipped it on its head and got female performers to interpret it. From that Ruse Springsteen was born!”
Known for his tales of Blue Collar America he might not seem like a natural fit to Derby but Sophie finds his songwriting has huge relevance to our city, and those living in it, she said, “The man is a master songwriter and I love albums like Nebraska, Darkness On The Edge Of Town is probably my favourite Bruce album. In the title track he encapsulates so well the struggle and the loss of freedom and the yearning for freedom as an everyday working person and it’s what I do when I try and write poetry.
“When I first started writing poetry I was inspired by songwriters like Bruce, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen. Reading poetry came second to writing, the first thing that got me into it was song lyrics. He’s very inspiring to me.”
“Derby is going through lots of hard times at the moment. We’ve had lots of important services cut that we need, so many homeless people on the streets, shops are closing down left right and centre, It isn’t that different to the blue collar America he is singing about, although we’re in a different country, a different setting. It’s one of the reasons I relate to him – I’m living that life at the moment. His songs really relate to Derby.”
The gig will take place at the Hairy Dog – a venue with a fight on its hands to survive the month in Derby. Last month the Council’s licecing sub-committee revoked its premises licence and now the venue is appealing the decision in order to be able to continue bringing live music to the city. Sophie is a supporter of the venue and of alternative spaces for the importance they play in grassroots culture. She said, “Alternative spaces are so important and I want people to see how great a venue the Hairy Dog is and how much it needs to stay open. Without venues like this bands can’t get very far, we need venues like this for up and coming performers, for bands to experience a proper stage set up for the first time. It’s a different experience, a taste of a professional stage set up, to get them on to supports. Without these places the music scene just dies. It makes me sad we’re in this situation. Venues are shutting around the UK but venues like the Hairy Dog are what keep our scene going, our culture alive. We need more venues like this – not less!”
For her it is giving her the chance to get up and sing the songs of a musician she admires. For other budding performers she has firm advice about getting started, “Do it. Singing, in all honesty, is one of the best things I have ever done. It’s been an amazing experience and whether you want to step on stage to sing, to do poetry, to play an instrument – just do it. It will be scary but once you get on there and do it, and challenge your sen, there is nothing better. You have to tell yourself you can do it. I have terrible stage fright for poetry, singing, everything, but tell your sen you can do it. I’ve struggled with mental health issues and singing has massively helped – it makes you feel good, and on top of the world – when you do it and you come off you’ll want to do it again. Trust and believe!”
With a band comprised of Laura Mitchell, Carol Hodge (plays in Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life), Gez Addictive (Addictive pHilosopHy), Nick McCann, Becky Deans and Lauren Louise Sophie promises you’ll be dancing in the dark, driving down thunder road and feeling born to run with their rendition of all the greatest hits of the boss. She said, “I’m hoping we raise a lot of money for charity, as much money as we can for the charities, but I also hope everyone has a really nice time. From those in the band to the audience – it’s a celebration. A lot of bad things are happening in the world but we have to celebrate the good as well and this is what we’re doing on this night.”
Ruse Springsteen And The D E Street Band will play the Hairy Dog on Saturday 18 August 2018 as part of a fundraiser for Samaritans Derby branch, Derby Women’s Centre and the Padley Centre. Tickets are £4 and more details are here. Support from Ellen Cohen: Roz Bruce’s female tribute to Leonard Cohen the evening is hosted by poet, Leanne Moden.
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Image by I C Things.