The War on Drugs Can’t Stop Searching for Answers in the Music

Baby Bruce (named for Springsteen) had a profound impact on “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,”

Baby Bruce (named for Springsteen) had a profound impact on “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,” logistically as well as thematically. While working on previous records, Granduciel sometimes languished in the studio into the small hours of the morning. During sessions after his son was born, he made a point of being home for 5 p.m. bath time, and tried to wrap up work by 9 or 10 to be fresh for the morning parenting shift. He grinned while describing his daily routine with Bruce: They sit together on the stoop, he drinks coffee and Bruce has his breakfast.

If that sounds like the antithesis of a rock-star lifestyle, Granduciel doesn’t mind. He feels “zero connection” to fame, and emphasized the normalcy and anonymity of his day-to-day life. Still, Granduciel’s proximity to celebrity was apparent when, in the week in between our conversations, he briefly became a tabloid item amid reports that he and Bruce’s mother, the actress Krysten Ritter, had split. (He denied these and declined to elaborate.)

Cutting back on studio time made Granduciel fear that he wasn’t “going deep” enough on the record. It helped that he could compare notes with Everett, also a new father, and a fellow workhorse whom he initially sought out after reading about the “extreme recording techniques” (Everett’s description) that he used while making “Sound & Color,” Alabama Shakes’ album from 2015.

Throughout our conversations, Granduciel — seemingly aware of his reputation as a sovereign bandleader, and perhaps eager to decenter himself — pointedly called out the contributions of his various collaborators. Robbie Bennett, who has played piano with the band since 2010, wrote the hook for “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”; Anthony LaMarca, who plays guitar in the touring lineup, was responsible for “iconic drum fills” that gave the record’s earliest demos body. Remote recording, necessitated by the pandemic, allowed Granduciel’s bandmates to work and brainstorm on their own schedules, producing what he called “spirited” results.

Though increasingly comfortable with his leadership skills, Granduciel seems uninterested in climbing past middle management. He has a record label of his own — Super High Quality Records, on which he released a live album last year — but no plans to use it for anything other than one-off side projects. “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” fulfills his two-record contract with Atlantic, and while he hasn’t re-signed with the label yet, he would if asked. “I’ve always been a good employee,” he said. “I don’t really have an interest in being the record-maker and the business all in one.”

And despite Granduciel’s musings on setting his guitar down and walking away, he said he feels called to the music: “I think I need this life to actually be content.”