David Bromberg Doesn't Want to Be "a Bitter Imitation of Something He Used to Love"

Categories: Interviews

After 40 years in the biz, David Bromberg doesn't exactly come across like a musician who's moved in the same circles as Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jerry Garcia, Carly Simon, and Willie Nelson. But those and other superstars have availed themselves of his guitar skills. In fact, with his graying bushy beard and amiable way, he could easily be mistaken for a wizened rabbi, offering a combination of age and reassurance that belies his storied past. Responding to a compliment about his latest album, he confirms that unassuming impression: "Oh thank you," he says humbly. "I'm real proud of it. I like the thing."

Given that his early career took flight on the folk circuit while backing such venerable singer/songwriters as Jerry Jeff Walker and Tom Paxton, that humility seems to come naturally, even though the series of critically acclaimed solo albums he recorded throughout the '70s made him a candidate for stardom all on his own. Still, he abruptly retreated from the spotlight in the early '90s, changing his tack and becoming a full-time violin maker.

"I stopped performing for 22 years," he explains. "I got burnt out, and I was too dumb to realize I was burnt out. At one point, I was on the road for two years without being home for two weeks. Then later, after I was home for a while, I realized that I hadn't written anything, I hadn't practiced, I hadn't played with anyone. I hadn't touched a guitar. I interpreted that as meaning I was no longer a musician. I didn't want to be one of these guys who drags himself onstage and does a bitter imitation of something he used to love. There are enough of those guys around. They're no fun." 

Bromburg then did something most guitar heroes would never consider. He started making instruments himself. "I decided I needed to find something else to do with my life that I would enjoy. The only place I found any intellectual stimulation was in a violin shop. I was fascinated with how some people can look at a violin and tell you where or when it was made. So my first step was to go to violin making school. I did that and I broke up the band. It was a sharp left turn. My career was going upwards, but one of the reasons it was, was because I was working too hard."

Bromberg's return to live performing was precipitated by a series of acoustic jam sessions he organized in his newly adopted home of Wilmington, Delaware, urged on by the city's mayor who asked his help in resuscitating the local arts scene. "Nowadays, my ideal is to go out for three or four days at a time on the weekend and that's it," he insists. "I don't do any gigs I don't think I'll enjoy and I don't go back to any place I didn't like. I don't do any late night club gigs, and to my surprise, I don't need to."

Location Info


Broward Center for the Performing Arts

201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL

Category: Music

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