He's worked behind both Bruce Springsteen and James Gandolfini but, after returning to the helm of his own band, Steve Van Zandt admits he underestimated how tough it is being the boss.

Accustomed to playing the supporting role as the guitarist and co-founding member of the E Street Band and, in his portrayal of the character Silvio Dante, right-hand man to New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano in the ground-breaking HBO crime drama The Sopranos, Van Zandt says being top dog takes some getting used to.

"You realise, you get a whole new respect for the boss, let me tell you that," he says from his Manhattan home ahead of Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul's show at Auckland's Town Hall tonight.

"Because it's a lot more work. The main thing you realise is there's no time. You can barely take a sip of water, you're just constantly running around and doing things.

Advertisement

"It's a lot harder work and you really do appreciate that position a lot more."

Bruce Springsteen and Van Zandt perform with the E Street Band in Christchurch during their 2017 tour. Photo / Getty Images.
Bruce Springsteen and Van Zandt perform with the E Street Band in Christchurch during their 2017 tour. Photo / Getty Images.

After wowing audiences with the E Street Band on their last visit here in 2017, Van Zandt returns to New Zealand on his own terms, creatively reborn and self-fulfilled.

After breathing life back into his old project with 2017's Soulfire, a collection of tracks he'd previously written for other artists, the release next month of Summer of Sorcery will be the Disciples' first album of new material since 1999's Born Again Savage.

"It's a very exciting time artistically for me," he said. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to be reacquainted with my own work, which I kind of abandoned 20 years ago when I started acting, and then Bruce put the E Street band back together. Suddenly 29 years just went by."

That time allowed Van Zandt to introduce himself to a whole new audience, carving out an award-winning acting career throughout six seasons on The Sopranos before starring in the 2011 Netflix show, Lillyhammer.

"You're lucky if an audience defines you once, but for me to be completely accepted in two roles as a rock person and as an actor, I've been very lucky. You don't take that for granted.

"I mean The Sopranos really did change the entire TV world, so you can't be too surprised that people still remember and still love it. So we're really fortunate in that way.

"Once you've been around for a while you really learn to appreciate the fact that people have taken these things to their heart and really, really revere them. They make them a part of their lives and that doesn't happen very often and I've been lucky enough to have it happen several times."

Steve Van Zandt as Silvio Dante in the ground-breaking HBO crime drama The Sopranos. Photo / Supplied.
Steve Van Zandt as Silvio Dante in the ground-breaking HBO crime drama The Sopranos. Photo / Supplied.

Just as Van Zandt has found a new lease on life musically, The Sopranos is also making a resurgence, with a prequel movie, titled Newark, scheduled for release next September, more than 13 years after the acclaimed series ended.

Written by the show's creator David Chase and Lawrence Konner, the film is rumoured to be set during the Newark riots of 1967, when tensions erupted between Jersey City's African-American and Italian-American communities.

Michael Gandolfini, son of the late star of the series, will play a younger version of his father's iconic character in the film.

Other familiar faces may also reappear, but Van Zandt has no part to play, although fans may get to see Tony and Silvio together as young hoods.

"It's wonderful really. [Michael] is a wonderful kid, first of all. It was really an inspired idea. It's going to be great.

"No, I'm not involved but it's going to be wonderful. I'm glad [Chase] is doing it and I've read several versions of the script and it's quite good.

"It's going to be a lot of fun for people to see a few of these characters when they were young."

The Sopranos New Jersey mob family, played by Tony Sirico, Steve Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore. Photo / Supplied.
The Sopranos New Jersey mob family, played by Tony Sirico, Steve Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore. Photo / Supplied.

The show never makes clear exactly when Tony and Silvio first met, but Van Zandt reveals he drew upon his own friendship with Springsteen to inform his character.

"I had them very much as best friends and I was able to use the dynamics of my relationship with Bruce in the show.

"It's a very similar dynamic. Obviously a different setting and different context but that dynamic of being the best friend, the consigliere, the advisor, the one guy that's not afraid of the boss and the one guy that would occasionally have to bring him the bad news. I was able to use and draw from real life."

With The Sopranos cemented as a modern classic, Van Zandt remains unconcerned the movie might fall short of supremely high expectations.

"The show will remain perfect no matter what happens with this," he laughs. "It'll either be great or it will be a curiosity but it won't diminish the legacy of one of the greatest shows ever."

Like everyone else, the 68-year-old was horrified by the Christchurch mosque attacks, and while he regrets being unable to play the Garden City on this visit, Van Zandt hopes his concert provides some release for Kiwi fans.

"Let's use the music to inspire people again and to give them a bit of a break from the stress and anxieties of life.

"Then people are leaving and going back to work refreshed and with more energy than what they came with. That's what I call success."

Steve Van Zandt and the Disciples of Soul play Auckland's Town Hall tonight (April 27)