E Street Band Sax Player Jake Clemons Talks New Solo EP, Being Inspired by His Famous Late Uncle
-- Jake Clemons is best known as one of the latest additions to Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, taking over sax duties for his late uncle, Clarence Clemons, but he's also an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitar player. The 33-year-old musician has just released a new five-song solo EP, Embracing Light, which showcases his many musical talents.
The record is a heartfelt collection of tunes that features some elements reminiscent of the Boss' work, but is clearly an expression of Clemons' own unique musical vision. The songs include influences ranging from folk-rock and alt-country to blues, gospel and classic rock.
Jake tells ABC News Radio that his experience playing with Bruce and the E Street Band actually inspired him to rework the collection before he released it.
"When I first started a couple of years ago, I had a whole record outlined and sequenced," he reveals. "And I kind of threw that out after spending time on the road with these legends…the masters of this craft, and started fresh."
Clemons explains that, in observing Springsteen, he decided that it was important for the new project to have "a message that you really want people to understand and to experience."
That theme, says Jake, is "embracing light...it's this concept of the moment you open your eyes in the morning is the moment you're being born. And hope is for right now. It's not for later."
While Clemons has a vocal style that's all his own, his saxophone playing clearly bears his uncle's trademark sound -- not surprising, since Clarence was Jake's mentor and his inspiration for even picking up the instrument. Jake tells ABC News Radio that one new song on which he particularly was trying to channel his uncle was the jangly mid-tempo rocker "You Must Be Crazy."
"That saxophone solo's absolutely Clarence-esque," he points out. "I was searching for that...I was able to use his horn on this record and tap into the essence of him that I was familiar with."
Of course, Jake has been using a similar approach to the sax when he performs with the E Street Band. He says he spent about nine hours a day learning his uncle's parts while preparing for the gig, and he explains to ABC News Radio that although Clarence never gave him actual music lessons, he still "taught me an immense amount" thanks to those rehearsal sessions.
"I spent so much time listening to his delivery and understanding the value in what he was saying and how he said it," Jake maintains. "And the value of those notes."
While helping to carry on his uncle's legacy by playing with the E Street Band, Jake says the experience also has helped him to come to terms with the loss of his beloved relative in the company of musicians who are, essentially, part of his family too.
"We all went through that process together…me and the E Street guys especially, experiencing that healing as a family," he explains. "And it's something that continued on as a celebration and that's still present."
Clemons currently is touring Ireland with his and his solo group, and they will return to the U.S. in time to serve as the opening act at Robert Randolph and the Family Band's December 27 concert in Englewood, New Jersey. Then, next month, Jake will rejoin Springsteen and the E Street Band for a winter tour leg that kicks off January 26 in Cape Town, South Africa.
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