By Brad Lopez
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After a 22-year hiatus, David Bromberg has emerged from his Wilmington, Delaware, violin shop with a new album and a new outlook on making music. His reappearance is as sudden as his departure was: Citing burnout from touring, recording and the demands of session work — including stints backing Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia — he simply quit to find a new life. He went to violin-making school, moved to Wilmington and, at the mayor's urging in 2002, founded a twice-weekly jam session at a local coffeehouse. Those sessions ultimately reignited his dormant inclinations. Bromberg spoke with us recently about his new album and his struggles as a performing musician.
Westword: You disappeared for 22 years. Why have you suddenly made this record and returned to the national scene?
David Bromberg: For the mayor of Wilmington, I started a jam session. I found a little coffeehouse, and we had some jam sessions. Some wonderful musicians started coming, and it got me playing again. I started doing a few gigs here and there, but I knew I was never going to record again, because I didn't want to spend eighteen hours a day in a windowless room and struggle.
Yet we haveTry Me One More Time. You didn't struggle with that, I take it?
No. The whole thing was, I performed some things better than others. Some I knew I could do better, but I wasn't about to struggle with any of it. What came out good was satisfactory. They were recorded over two- or three-hour periods at a time. I just played whatever tune crossed my mind. I played it a couple times and didn't belabor anything. I figured in a few years we'd have an album, but it came pretty quick.
So was the struggle to front a band, play sessions and keep touring your reason for quitting the game?
I thought I wasn't a musician anymore because I wasn't practicing or writing or jamming when I wasn't on the stage. I was on the road for two years without being home for two weeks; it was insane not to think that wouldn't burn me out. There are guys on the circuit who go out there and perform because they don't know how to do anything else. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to find a new life, and I did. From a life standpoint, it's a pretty good thing.
You went to violin-making school.
What always fascinated me was that somebody could pick up a violin, look at it and figure out when and where it was made and by whom. So I went to school to study that. I'm neither making nor repairing violins.
Would you call the new album a comeback?
I don't know; there's no master plan here. I just started doing some gigs because I wanted to play some gigs. I made an album because it felt like it was a fun thing to do, and it was — and whatever comes next comes next. There is no road map.