Brian Fallon: “I Wanted To Make A Record That Makes Me Happy”
Words: Emily Carter
With The Gaslight Anthem frontman finishing up recording on his first-ever solo album, Painkillers (due out early next year), we grabbed a word with Brian Fallon in the new issue of Kerrang! to find out why he’s gone it alone this time around, and how he’s embracing his positive side on the record. Grab a copy now, and read more of our chat with the musician below…
When did you start planning this solo album?
“We knew amongst ourselves what was going on probably a year ago, but you don’t want to say anything because things can change, y’know? Something could have come up and it could have changed, so you don’t want to say anything too prematurely, but I was like, ‘I know I’m going to have some time off, so I should probably do something.’ I had a couple of songs with the Molly And The Zombies project, and I had a lot of songs around that weren’t finished. Maybe I had like 40 songs or something like that, so I decided to take the best of those and finish them, and then I wrote a bunch of new ones, too. I actually did write a bunch of new ones within the last couple of months, so most of this record is based on a lot of the stuff I did in the last couple of months, because that’s when I started to really get serious about it. I was like, ‘Okay, you’re definitely going to make a record… You better write what you want to write!’ So I got myself together in the last few months. It seemed quick, but I was making the demos while I was home, and I was only home for a very short time, so I made them, but I already knew I was going in the studio!”
How would you describe Painkillers?
“It’s tough to use words to describe music, but everything starts out with drums, bass and an acoustic guitar. That’s what everything starts out as, as we’re playing it. But then on top of that, we are putting electric instruments and guitars into it, but it’s not a lot of guitars, so it’s not a big rock record – but it’s not quite a folk record either. I would say it’s a singer-songwriter record, but it’s not acoustic by any means. There’s definitely electric instruments in there, but there are a lot of acoustic instruments. It’s still lively – there’s still a band going on, and there’s a lot of layering. It doesn’t sound quite like The Horrible Crowes record, though. I’m kind of tapping into my upbringing early on with American folk music and American rock’n’roll music from before the ‘70s – before rock became like, ‘ROCK AND ROLL!’ It’s song-based, really.”
Is it all you on the record?
“I’m not playing everything – we have a guy named Mark Stepro playing drums, I’m doing a lot of the guitars, Butch is doing a lot of the guitars, Cat Popper is coming in to play bass. And I think friends of ours are just going to pop in that are in the area! But the bulk of it is Mark playing the drums, and me and Butch doing everything else. It’s a real undertaking, because this is the first time I’ve had to ‘man’ everything on my own and be like, ‘Okay, what is the lead guitar going to do?’ because in Gaslight I don’t have to do that (laughs).”
Is there more pressure then?
“No! I’m taking it more as a fun thing more than anything – the pressure is kind of off. It’s just me – I don’t have to worry about it being like, ‘It’s the Gaslight Anthem, it’s got to be this big thing and we’re going to go and play all these big places!’ I can just relax a little bit and make a record that makes me happy. It’s cool, because I’m the only one I have to please right now, which is making me happy. It’s like, if I like something, then I do it, and if I don’t like it, then I won’t do it. It’s kind of scary sometimes because you don’t have anybody to check with. You don’t have anybody to go, ‘Do you like this? Is this good?’ But that’s why Butch is good. But when you’re used to playing with the same guys, you can get a really good opinion. Sometimes those guys have really helped shape a song, or finish a song, and that’s great. But this time it’s just me like, ‘Uh oh’ (laughs). You’re always trying to go for the best you that you can give people right then. The only thing you’ve got to live up to is you’ve got to make it as good as your previous efforts – you can’t just say, ‘Okay, that’s good enough’. With me, it doesn’t work that way. I’m the hardest person I have to please.”
Listening… Listening… Flannel… Listening… A photo posted by Brian Fallon (@thebrianfallon) on
How excited are you to tour the record once it’s out?
“I can’t wait. It’s going to be the most fun that I’ve had. I’ve waited for so long for this – the Elsie record came out in 2011, so it’s been four/five years that I’ve been waiting to play those songs. I’m like an egg that’s ready to hatch. I’m nervously excited! It’s going to be really, really fun to go out and see what we can do. I’ll have this record and the Elsie record, so that’s like 23/24 songs that I can go out and play, so I can actually do a full show. I’m not just stuck with one record. Gaslight has like 60/70 songs, and once that’s taken away and you don’t play those songs, you’re like, ‘What am I going to do?’ I have two records now, so I feel like I can put on a really good show and we can put it on for more than just an hour or so. You want to give people a good show, so I’m that’s one of the things I’m really excited about.”
And will you be coming over to the UK, too?
“How could I not?! I could never not come over and do it! I’m definitely, definitely planning to come to the UK. I would come over there as many times as I can, and there’s no way that I would say no to that! I have to. That’s one of the most important things for me to do, is to go over there. Just because it’s so much fun every time I go! We’re going to do everything. We want to do as much as we possibly can, and there’s nothing that’s off the table. Really, for the first time in my career, I have time to do anything I want, and that was really scary at first, but now it’s like, ‘Oh, this might be really cool actually because I can do a lot of stuff!’ So I’m just taking everything as a positive. I hope you don’t get sick of me, because I’ll be coming over as much as I can!”
Catch Brian Fallon live in the U.S. at the following dates next year:
7 Portland Port City Music Hall
8 Woodstock Bearsville Theater
9 Mashantucket Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino
10 Wilmington World Cafe Live
12 Pittsburgh Altar Bar
13 Columbus A&R Music Bar
15 Charlottesville Southern
16 Saxapahaw Haw River Ballroom
17 Nashville City Winery
See what else is in this week’s issue of Kerrang!:
As we’re halfway through the year, we thought we’d break down the 25 best albums of 2020 so far!
When Kurt Cobain passed away and Nirvana ceased to be, Dave Grohl was left with a choice: let his pain consume him and lead him away from music forever, or find a way of working through the darkness…