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At one point, during my call with Steven Van Zandt, he puts down the phone for a good six minutes. There was water being delivered to his house. He puts his dog in the basement. He greets the delivery person. (“How you doing, my friend?”) Later he rescues his dog from the basement. He apologizes for the chaos.

But that Van Zandt is more concerned with his dog’s comfort and thanking the delivery driver than with promoting his new memoir, “Unrequited Infatuations” (Hachette Books), probably tells you more about the guy than I could in 1,000 words.

The Watertown native is a working man’s rocker, color man, character actor, and — as Bruce Springsteen’s and Tony Soprano’s right-hand man — the ultimate underboss. (“My natural inclination is not to be the frontman, but off to the side.”)


When I reached Van Zandt, 70, at his Greenwich Village home, he opened up about his role as consigliere on and off screen, and about the struggle to find an audience for his most personal work.

Q. A lot of musicians get co-writers or ghost writers — but this book sounds like you.

A. I was determined to write every word. Because you read so many of these things, and they all sound the same. I said, “I’m gonna picture doing an audiobook and write it the way I’d speak it.” I told the editor, “This is not gonna look right. It’s not gonna be grammatically correct. But you’re gonna hear my voice.” They went along with it.

[I didn’t want it to] be a list — I did this, I did that. I wanted it to read like a detective novel, where you don’t know what’s coming next. Like a Dan Brown book.

Q. [Laughs] Did you have Springsteen read it to see if you were remembering things the same way?


A. Yeah, I didn’t want to make any Bruce news. The minute I was done, I sent it to Bruce and to Bob Dylan. And neither of them changed one word. That was nice.

Q. I was surprised Dylan sent a praise-quote — and over 200 words.

A. Very unusual. Very unusual.

Q. You must be good friends.

A. I don’t wanna be too pretentious [laughs]. We’re good acquaintances, let’s put it that way.

Steven Van Zandt joins Bruce Springsteen at the microphone during a 2012 concert at Fenway Park.
Steven Van Zandt joins Bruce Springsteen at the microphone during a 2012 concert at Fenway Park.Chin, Barry, Globe Staff Photo

Q. [Laughs] So what prompted this book?

A. I thought I’d accumulated enough information about various crafts that it could actually be useful. My narrative is the least interesting thing to me. The bigger themes come in the second half — a search for purpose, identity, spiritual enlightenment.

Q. I know you like to stay busy. Any plans to go back to acting?

A. I’d like to. It’s a matter of finding the time. I’m gonna give Bruce first priority. If he decides to go out [on tour] next year, that’s gonna be two years. I can’t really commit to a TV show. But I might get a pilot or two done in the meantime.

Q. What did you think of “The Sopranos” prequel [”The Many Saints of Newark”]?

A. I love what David Chase does. I just love the man. I liked it a lot. David Chase doesn’t make it easy, he’s a contrarian. He’s not gonna do what everybody expects.

Q. We’ve talked before about how you got the part in “The Sopranos,” and that you created the character of Silvio. But I learned in the memoir Peter Wolf played into it.


A. [I wasn’t] sure that even if I got the part, I should do it. Peter Wolf was the final part of that decision-making process. He was like, “Look, man. If it’s a loser, nobody will remember it.” He had this whole list [of bad forgotten shows]. He’s one of my most important consiglieres [laughs].

Steven Van Zandt and John Magaro arrive at a preview screening of "The Many Saints of Newark" at the Beacon Theatre in New York. Magaro plays a younger version of Van Zandt's character, Silvio Dante, in the "Sopranos" prequel.
Steven Van Zandt and John Magaro arrive at a preview screening of "The Many Saints of Newark" at the Beacon Theatre in New York. Magaro plays a younger version of Van Zandt's character, Silvio Dante, in the "Sopranos" prequel.ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Q. You write about leaving E Street in ‘84. You still have regrets?

A. That always will be a regret. On one hand, my life ended when I left the E Street Band. [But] surprisingly, everything I accomplished happened since I left — I became [a solo] artist, did “Sopranos,” “Lilyhammer,” “Sun City.” Maybe it wasn’t the biggest mistake of my life. Maybe it was destiny.

Q. What does the title [of the memoir] mean to you?

A. I’ve had some great successes, but the truth is my most personal work has never found an audience. You have to face the simple fact: Sometimes that which we love most doesn’t love us back. It’s not a matter of if you get disappointed, but when. Then what you do with it? Do you give up? Do you numb yourself with dope and alcohol? Do you commit suicide? All those thoughts will occur to you, as they occurred to me. But if you move forward, you’ll find destiny has a way of suggesting there’s more work to be done.


Q. You mean you actually thought of suicide?

A. Yeah. I’m not sure this is in the book. I got kicked out of school for having long hair. I felt bad for my mother; I wasn’t gonna graduate. I cut my hair, I went back to school — it was so depressing. [Hair] was a big part of your identity. That was how you expressed yourself, through the length of your hair [laughs]. I know it sounds ridiculous.

Q. No, I get it.

A. So I had a moment there where I thought, you know [pause]. I also had to get a straight job. That was part of the deal. I had a job in a grocery store; you slice the boxes. I had that razor-sharp cutter you cut boxes with. I remember very distinctly, my former girlfriend came into the store and saw me. It was humiliating. And uh, I went in the backroom with that cutter. And I really thought about it: It would be so easy to slash my wrists right now. I didn’t do it. But it’s one of those things, I think anybody who has any kind of sensitivity is gonna be thinking about that once in a while. It will pass.

Interview has been edited and condensed. More information about “Unrequited Infatuations” and Steven Van Zandt’s other projects at https://www.littlesteven.com.

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. She tweets @laurendaley1.