More recently, you’ve been very involved with relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Being from the Jersey Shore, where so much damage has occurred, must make this a very important project for you.
Anyone who’s grown up or lived on the Jersey Shore knows the place is unique. I’ve watched Asbury Park try to get back up on its feet for 25 years. It’s hard to see any setback at all. The Jersey Shore is the kind of place where the policeman has a little cottage that might have been in the family for years and many other people call home. The destruction was unimaginable. It’s going to take years to overcome. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help my neighbors get back to some sort of normal life.
In 2012 the United States celebrated the centennial of the birth of Woody Guthrie, one of our greatest songwriters. Can you describe his influence on your music as well as your life?
I was in my late 20s, in the process of shaping my musical outlook and what I wanted it to be about, when I first encountered Woody Guthrie. I had made my way through rock music and then turned to country music. But I still hadn’t quite found something that addressed the issues I was interested in at the time. Woody was like a path to a full and active musical citizenship. With him, there was a deep awareness of the social forces at work in people’s lives. I was interested in addressing those ideas and having them become a part of the music I made.