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Springsteen Speaks: The Music of Pete Seeger

Bruce Springsteen first heard the music of Pete Seeger long ago, but it wasn't until the last decade or so that he truly immersed himself in it.

The more he learned about the music the American folk legend collected, performed, rewrote and transformed, the more he returned to it, Springsteen tells Melissa Block. And that got him thinking that perhaps his fans might be interested, too.

On his new album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Springsteen reinterprets 13 songs from Seeger's songbook.

Springsteen describes the act of making music as "putting on somebody else's clothes." For him, it's an act of imagination, but also one of "tremendous empathy." He explains: "Part of doing your job well is being able to slip into somebody else's shoes and to find out out what you have in common with them — and therefore bringing your audience closer to those characters and those people."

Springsteen assembled an eclectic group of 18 musicians to record the album. The new band features a new sound for Springsteen: It includes accordion, tuba, fiddle, banjo, a washboard — and even the kitchen sink, he jokes.

He sat down with Block in Asbury Park, N.J., ahead of a tour in support of We Shall Overcome. He shares his thoughts on the intricacies of recording Seeger's music, the importance of artistic freedom — and an adventurous audience.

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As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.