VIDEO: Bruce Springsteen's SXSW keynote speech

Springsteen at SXSW: hilarious, profane, blazingly personal and poignant
Springsteen at SXSW: hilarious, profane, blazingly personal and poignant

Above: Bruce Springsteen's SXSW keynote address. Warning: strong language - NSFW

Ever wondered how many genres and sub-genres of metal there were? Bruce Springsteen knows. Delivering the keynote address at the SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas this week, The Boss rattled them off:

"Alternative metal, avant-garde metal, black metal, black and death metal, Christian metal, heavy metal, funk metal, glam metal, Medieval metal, indie metal, melodic death metal, melodic death metal, metalcore, rap metal... "

And there was more, much more. Springsteen moved on to other styles - "hardcore, electronic hardcore, folk punk, folk rock, folk pop, pop punk, Brit-pop, grunge pop, sadcore, surf music, psychedelic pop, hip-hop, rap-rock... Nintendo-core… " Finally, he completed his list with a fist bump and said, "And folk music."

Stating that it was impossible to agree on anything musically, that "there is no unified theory of everything," Springsteen marveled at the history of contemporary music, and in a 51-minute speech that was blazingly personal, penetrating and frequently hilarious, he told the tale of his own artistic development in a way that made it possible for everybody to see a little of themselves in.

Recalling the artists who inspired him, everyone from Elvis to the Sex Pistols, he talked about hearing soul music as a teenager, stating that "these great African-American artists that I learned my craft. You learned how to write, you learned how to arrange, you learned what mattered and what didn't, learned what a great production sounds like, you learned how to lead a band, how to front a band…

"These men and women, they were and remain my masters. By the time I reached my 20s, I'd spent a thousand nights employing their lessons in local clubs and bars honing my own skills."

As to what constitutes 'pure' music, Springsteen stressed that creativity remained supreme and knew no limits. "The elements you're using don't matter. It's not confined to guitars, tubes, turntables or microchips. There's no right way, no pure way of doing it - there's just doing it."

The art and importance of live performance was a central point of Springsteen's speech. Remembering how he was signed as a singer-songwriter, he said he was a "wolf in sheep's clothing... I had nights and nights of bar playing behind me to bring my songs home. Young musicians, learn how to bring it live, and then bring it night after night after night - your audience will remember you."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.