How To Be The Boss of Storytelling

I was never a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. That’s why I hesitated to read his biography. That’s why I hesitated to spend over eighteen hours listening to him tell his story in audiobook format. But we have history. My best friend is a massive fan. My best friend was the singer/keyboard player in one of the first bands that I ever played in during High School. That band was called Backstreets – named after a Springsteen song. We covered his music. We listened to The Boss. Whether I liked him or not, I was constantly being baptized by his rock meets folk meets Americana meets soul music trappings. For a kid like me (re: metal head) it was a stretch… but his music was real, honest and present (and, as you get older, you realize that’s about as metal as you can get). When The Boss announced he was doing a Broadway run, it felt like a Vegas residency to me. It’s a “bring the fans to me” model that smelt like a high-priced experience for the one percent, and a way for another established artist to avoid the rigors of the road. It works for the few, but is inaccessible to the many. In a way, it didn’t feel like it was part of the pedestrian blue-collar brand that is Bruce Springsteen.

Honesty. It not just about being honest in the content, but in how it is presented. The production is not slick. It’s raw. It’s stripped down. You can, literally, see the back wall of the theater. He’s wearing jeans, a t-shirt and work boots. Being raw and honest doesn’t mean casual. It means being raw and honest with who you are, what you are about and – most importantly – leaving everything else but the essential ingredients out of it. This raw and stripped down model lets the story flow, and allows the audience to focus in on what matters.

Live. So many stories (and pieces of content) don’t emote that the creator has truly lived a life of stories worth telling. Your brand (and the people who tell your stories) must have lived a life. Living means experience. Advice often comes from those who have yet to truly live a life, whose stories are light or skinny. The lines on Bruce’s face often tell a more interesting story than most brands can do with a six figure budget. Whatever story you are trying to tell, make sure the life has been lived first.

Act. Bruce Springsteen is acting. The stories are well written and well rehearsed. I know this because a bunch of the content is directly from his autobiography. He is not speaking off the cuff. Those who speak for a living or have done any kind of theatre/film/standup can quickly tell that Bruce is acting. With that, Bruce demonstrates that he’s an amazing performer, actor and storyteller. Is he being himself? Hard to tell. But he is acting a role that he knows well and it works. We all act. Acting well and being believable? That’s where the magic happens.

Write. A great story is a well-written story. Pen to paper. Fingers on keys. This was not a concert with some inter-song banter. This was a scripted performance of the highest order. What makes it not feel scripted? Read Bruce’s biography and you will quickly discover the secret. Bruce is a fantastic writer or words. He’s a master of prose. Listening to his audiobook, I would constantly find myself stopping to take notes and write something down. He knows how to weave words, drop common phrases and use unique dialect from his upbringing and generations past to make the idea stick. Anyone can hit “record”… few can write great prose that then turn into something magical on video. Write. Write well.

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