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  • Amy Mantis

If you need me, I’ll be the girl crying in the balcony at the St. James Theater

The first songwriter I remember feeling an intense connection to was Bruce Springsteen. Something in the way he told his stories resonated with teenage me. There was a hunger in his songs that I hadn’t come across in the music I was listening to until I came to discover the Boss.


And I know I’m not alone in my resonance with Bruce. Millions of people have connected to him and to themselves through his songs. He has touched countless lives, and I consider myself lucky to be amongst them.


As a preteen, I listened to a lot of pop-punk, as an early teen/when I started playing guitar, I listened to progenitors of mainstream punk (the Ramones, the Clash, etc) and fell in love with Nirvana, when I was 15 I found my way to the Rolling Stones who were my gateway band to not only the blues but the rest of classic rock. (Sidebar: clearly I’m into a lot of high-energy music. This likely has something to do with my being a high-energy person. But I digress.)


And somewhere amidst that endless stream of sound, I found Bruce. Or Bruce found me - but more than likely I found him as I remember listening to Born In The USA in the back of my mom’s van on the way to Christmas dinner. I can’t have been more than 16, and I couldn’t take my headphones off.


I have a tendency to phase artists in that I get SUPER into someone’s entire body of work in short bursts, and sometimes they stick around in my rotation. Oftentimes they fall off. But Bruce is one of the ones that stuck. So much so that tonight, for the second time, I’m getting to bear witness to the magic and the majesty that is Springsteen On Broadway. I still can’t believe it’s actually happening, but it is. I saw it in 2018, and as soon as I sat down in my seat, I began to cry. The show hadn’t started yet, but I was so overwhelmed by just being there. Chances of it happening again tonight? Strong. For myriad reasons.


On my hierarchy of influential artists, Bruce is chief among them. Friend of the band/Former band member, Wells Albritton, once said to me, “Amy, I know you worship Bruce Springsteen, but your songwriting style is much more like Tom Petty’s.”


And Wells is 100% correct. I don’t think it’s always heard in my songs, but I can feel it in my process. It’s a sense of urgency. Bruce and I deal with very different subject matter and have had drastically different lives, but the desire - the need - to write our songs, however different they sound, is virtually identical. That hunger. That hope of connection to another, to understand the world as it lays out before us and to understand our own worlds. That’s the throughline.


I was fortunate enough to meet Bruce when I was 17. It was a fluke. We both happened to be seeing Jersey Boys on the same night, and I pushed my way through the crowd to meet him. And I cried before, during, and after. I wrote this verse when I got back to my hotel:


I looked my hero straight in the eye

And he stared straight back at me

And I knew if I didn’t surrender

It would end up a catastrophe


If you need me, I’ll be the girl crying in the balcony at the St. James Theater.


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