(Photo: Jo Lopez) E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt will release his first solo LP under the Little Steven moniker in nearly two decades when he unleashes Soulfire in May.
The 12-track album, due out May 19th and available to pre-order now, marks the rocker's first album since 1999's Born Again Savage.
Fans who pre-order will receive an instant download of "Saint Valentine's Day," a reworked version of a track Van Zandt wrote for Nancy Sinatra but ultimately recorded with the Cocktail Slippers.
Soulfire is inspired by the "soul horns-meet-rock & roll guitars" approach featured on Little Steven's work with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. A handful of Soulfire's tracks are new spins on those Southside Johnny songs, including "Love on the Wrong Side of Town," co-written byBruce Springsteen.
"I've always been very thematic with my work, very conceptual," Van Zandt said of the album. "I need a big picture. I can't just do a collection of songs; that doesn't work for me. In this case, the concept became me. Who am I? I'm kind of my own genre at this point. So I tried to pick material that when you added it all up, really represented me. So there are a couple of covers, a couple of new songs, and some of what I feel are the best songs I've written and co-written over the years. This record is me doing me."
Soulfire developed out of live performances Van Zandt staged with the Disciples of Soul in 2016. After learning 22 songs for the concerts, Little Steven and his crew entered the studio, laying down a dozen covers and originals for Soulfire, including one track ("I Saw the Light") that Van Zandt co-wrote for Richie Sambora and Orianthi.
"I have very little interest in the modern world and I'm not in any way conflicted about that. I grew up in a renaissance period, a very lucky time when the greatest music ever made was also the most commercial. We'll never see that again so for me, there's only one criteria, which is greatness," Van Zandt said of the LP in a statement. "That's all I care about. Is what I'm doing reaching for greatness? Whether I achieve it or not, that is one hundred percent of my criteria."
Little Steven will announce a North American trek in support of Soulfire in the coming weeks; the guitarist and his band will also perform April 22nd at Asbury Park's Paramount Theatre.