"I don't feel the need to explain Donald Trump. He explains himself every day. It seems so obvious what's going on, that it's redundant to even talk about it, honestly."
He intends to use his music to create a refuge. "I just feel right now I'm more valuable, for people coming to see the show, if I transport you to another place for two hours, and get you out of politics for a minute.
"The main thing is to be part of a healing process. I want people to leave with more energy than they came with. I want it to be a spiritual fuel stop to enrich their lives in a way that's totally away from daily life and daily frustrations. If I can do that, I think I'm doing my job."
Van Zandt wasn't planning on making a comeback. He recorded "Soulfire" quickly after being hired out of the blue to play a festival in London last October. Musically, it connects back to "Men Without Women," with songs that Van Zandt wrote for Southside and others, along with covers of James Brown and Etta James.
"Every one of my albums before has been very conceptual, very thematic. Going into this record, I said I'm going to make the concept of this record me. I'm going to emphasize me as a songwriter, singer, and guitar player.
"So I picked the songs that I wrote for other people that meant the most to me," he says. "It became an introduction to myself, who I am. ... And it turned out to be very artistically satisfying."
Rededicated, he plans to follow it with albums of new songs and tour with the Disciples, which includes five horns and three backup singers. "It's a big sound, let me tell you," he says, and laughs. "It's a very expensive hobby."
That is, when his Boss leaves him unoccupied, as he will be through February, with the Springsteen on Broadway project. He scheduled his tour to make sure he was free on opening night, just as Springsteen was when Van Zandt debuted the Disciples in Jersey this year.
A few weeks back at Madison Square Garden, the old friends joined Paul McCartney for "I Saw Her Standing There." "As we went on stage, Bruce said to me, 'What are the odds of you and me being here?' When you think about those days when we were listening to that record and trying to learn how to play it on guitar? Those odds have to start at about one billion to one. We were just awestruck by them. They introduced us to the world we live in."
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