Tom Morello looks back on his nights playing as part of the E Street Band as an all-time high. Morello first jammed with Bruce Springsteen back in in 2008 at a California gig, where he joined the band for “The Ghost Of Tom Joad.” He eventually became a touring guitarist for the E Street Band in early 2013 for an Australian trip that Steve Van Zandt was unable to make, and went on to perform on eight tunes on Springsteen's 2014 set, High Hopes.
While appearing on the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, he spoke honestly about what's it's like to back “The Boss”: “Really, Bruce is probably the only person where I would be a sideman in their band. I don’t feel like I’m kind of built that way. I love Bruce Springsteen. He’s the only friend I have that I subscribe to a fanzine about. That’s kind of rarefied air there. The last tour that we did in North America, it was 34 shows and 182 different songs. And I never had the jukebox gene, which a lot of musicians have, who played thousands of cover band club dates. I never had that. So, for me, it was work. I learned about 250 songs before the first show, because I wanted to be ready! I didn’t want to be the problem.”
He touched upon what it's like to be such a stylized player immersing yourself into such a well-defined machine: “Y'know, the E Street Band had been great for over 40 years without me in it. So that is first of all, don’t cause no harm. Y'know, and then secondly, when Bruce gives the nod, y'know, try to blow the roof off the place with some crazy solo that E Street fans would not be expecting . . . I know that some of the non-traditional elements of my guitar playing may have divided some of the faithful, but Bruce asked me to play like me.”
He went on to explain the vibe of hitting the stage with Bruce Springsteen, explaining, “There's no one’s more excited to be in the room on that night than Bruce Springsteen is. He has that kind of commitment to, 'I’ve played shows for 42 years and tonight’s going to be the greatest show.' It was inspiring to be around that. And honestly, like, every night I might give myself 15 or 20 seconds, maybe during 'Born To Run,' to just stand there and look over and trip out: 'I am rocking 'Born To Run' with Bruce Springsteen.'”
When caught up with Tom Morello just before High Hopes was released and asked him how it felt to be respected enough to be asked to record with Springsteen and the group: “It's spectacularly exciting. I'm a big Bruce Springsteen fan and the fact that that musical and personal relationship has, y'know, developed over the years is something that I'm really honored. And this record, I just did my best to rock on it in a 'Morellian' fashion and very pleased with the results.”