Growing up in awe of his late uncle Clarence Clemons, celebrated saxophonist of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Jake Clemons could never have imagined he would one day fill the shoes of one of rock and roll’s most coveted sidemen.
Following the untimely passing of Clarence Clemons in 2011, Jake Clemons, an accomplished songwriter and performer in his own right, got the call that would elevate him from the ranks of a struggling musician to become an integral member of one of the most revered bands in the world, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
“When he passed it was nothing short of tragic,” recalls Jake Clemons, from his home in Virginia. “I had to put my instrument away for a while. I wasn’t really interested in coming out of my bedroom. It was good friends of mine that encouraged me to come out.”
“I was available and Bruce asked me to come over and things just went up from there,” adds Clemons. “For me, in terms of the struggle on a personal level, I was comfortable around the guys in the E Street Band. They were an extension of my family, so it was never difficult for me. I felt at home there. For me, the hardest parts were going home at night back to the hotel, which I had done so many times with Clarence, and not having him there. The first time we played on stage was at the Apollo. It was a very intense experience, not only that people were hearing those parts played by someone else, but being on a stage that was known for making or breaking people. It was a really intense and a big healing moment for me. Things were starting to look up for the first time. I felt like Clarence was literally with me, so I decided to keep playing.”
Clemons has performed on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Bands Wrecking Ball (2012-2013), High Hopes (2014), The River (2016) and Austria and New Zealand (2017) concert tours.
Clemons has recently released his first full-length studio album “Fear & Love” (2017). Featuring a collection of heartfelt emotionally charged songs that showcase the songwriting skills of this multi-talented instrumentalist, Fear & Love offers an unforgettable debut from this rising star.
Standout tracks include, “Hold Tight,” “Janine,” “Burning,” “Shadow,” “Fear & Love” and “Sick, Broke and Broken.”
“I had a real specific vision for this record,” says Clemons. “I wanted to tell my own story of the previous two years. When I went into the studio we spent maybe ten days with a full band and tracking everything live. Overall I was really happy with it. We were able to spend a lot of time mixing it and doing some post-production.”
“I wrestled with having guest appearances by musicians on the album and deeply considered it,” adds Clemons. “It came down to our band is really talented and I thought it was best to feature them and keep it simple and straight forward. The record deals with a sense of so much who we are, which is based in fear and love and the decisions that we make. We are deeply rooted in either fear or love. I have had to reconcile a lot of things personally. I found myself trying to view the reality of that, especially in terms of a relationship I was in at the time. Trying to reconcile that, I found my way out of it fortunately and let that fear go and the source of that fear go. I eventually crossed over to side two of that period of my life and the freedom to love me and love your self. The freedom to experience what love might be. It’s fear that we’re born into and fear we inherit from our parents and it’s fear we learn on our own from our mistakes. I’ve learned that if you let your life linger in that for a long period of time it traps you.”
The son of a Marine Corps band director, Clemons grew up in a sheltered household where he was raised on a heavy dose of discipline, religion and limited exposure to the arts.
“My father had a very strict and different mind set,” recalls Clemons. “We came from two different places and we didn’t connect super easily. It was the same way in Clarence’s family he was the outlier if you will. So Clarence was a really important figure for me early on. As I got older that became more significant. We became friends and we became brothers. He was my first phone call for anything exciting and anything hard. Clarence and I were deeply close. He was and continues to be a cornerstone and a very spiritual figure in my life.”
“When I grew up, I didn’t have a lot of variety of music to listen to,” adds Clemons. “I basically listened to a lot of gospel, marching band and classical music as a kid. As I got older I got exposed to a little bit of rock and roll. Because what I was listening to as a young child I didn’t have a natural inclination to appreciate, I had to learn how to. So even when I first started listening to rock and roll, I didn’t understand it and that lead me into trying to understand everything that I didn’t naturally connect to. I fell in love with it.”
Splitting time between his own solo career and work with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Clemons remains passionate, humble and driven.
“I hope my music speaks for itself,” says Clemons. “I’m ecstatic and I’m extremely grateful and thrilled. I don’t know if I’m satisfied, but I’m intensely grateful ‘cause it’s been amazing. For me I realize the gift is where I am right now. I’m interested in where I’ve been and where there is still to go.”
An outspoken advocate against domestic violence Clemons has launched The Janine Project (JanineProject.com,). Created with the intention of helping and healing those affected by domestic violence, Clemons is striving to draw attention to this growing problem globally.