Q&A with Brian Fallon

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Courtesy of Big Hassle Media

Brian Fallon, of The Gaslight Anthem, The Horrible Crowes and Molly and the Zombies fame, is embarking on his first solo tour after The Gaslight Anthem announced a hiatus at the end of their “Get Hurt” tour last July. Fallon’s first solo album “Painkillers” will be released on March 11, and he’s getting ready to head to some West Coast destinations on Feb. 11. Fallon will be playing at The Catalyst Atrium on Feb. 13, and City on a Hill Press interviewed him over the phone to talk about the tour and his album.

City on a Hill Press: “How has the tour been so far?”

Brian Fallon: “It’s going really well. We started kind of just booking a couple shows then just tons of people came. It was really surprising how many people came, they sold out all the shows. It went really well.”

CHP: “How is writing and touring and making an album different now that you’re solo rather than in a band?”

BF: “It’s a big change in the fact that everything rests on your shoulders. But at the same time, it’s been kind of freeing because you’re just able to do whatever you want. You don’t have anyone to answer to except yourself, and I like that. It’s a nice break, and I’ve never done it this way before.”

CHP: “What was your biggest adjustment moving from The Gaslight Anthem to doing this solo work?”

BF: “You don’t have your friends to lean on. I’ve had those guys around for so long, and we have a really good relationship where we talk a lot about songs and we work them out together, and it’s really a team effort. And this time, I didn’t have [that] so it’s a pretty big adjustment. Of course it’s also an adjustment going from Gaslight playing these giant places then going back to playing these smaller places.”

CHP: “The Noisey feature you did called it a ‘reluctant’ solo career, but you seem optimistic about it. Was there any hesitation going solo?”

BF: “When they said reluctant, what they meant was that it was reluctant for a long time and people kept asking, ‘Are you ever going to do a solo record?’ and I was like, ‘Nah, I’m more of a band guy.’ I didn’t actually consider doing the solo record until the band was on a break and then I figured, ‘Well, I don’t have any other options for playing music, but I’ve got to play music, that’s what I do, I can’t just sit here. I’ve got to do this.’ I just didn’t want it to seem egotistical in any way, like I was just doing something to do it. I didn’t want anybody to feel like it was anything less than sincere.”

CHP: “How long have you been planning on doing that?”

BF:We talked about it. All the guys talked about it once we decided we were going to take a break. Maybe a month after that, I was like, ‘Guys, I think I’m going to do a solo record,’ and they were like, ‘Of course, why not? That’s what we figured you’d do.’ We decided on a break about a year ago so I probably had the idea for about a year but it came together quickly.”

CHP: “Listening to the songs that have been released so far, there is definitely some familiarity with ‘Painkillers’ but it also seems new. How would you describe the tone of ‘Painkillers’?”

BF: “It’s always going to be similar to Gaslight or anything else I’ve done because it’s me writing. So there’s always going to be that similarity in anything, not just me. But there are also different elements in the fact that it’s more of a singer-songwriter record, everything started on an acoustic guitar. So it has that more storyteller flow to it and it’s a little more at an intimate level than a rock level.”

CHP: “Was it important to you to do something different with this album and not like you’ve done before, even though it has the similarities?”

BF: “Yeah, I wanted to make it as different as possible without it sounding foreign. I wasn’t trying to shock anybody or make anybody uncomfortable, I was just like, ‘Let’s keep the things that are good,’ especially with the song ‘A Wonderful Life.’ I knew that sounded very similar to The Gaslight Anthem, but I was like, ‘Hey man, that’s where I come from. I’m not going to run from that, I’m going to embrace it.’”

CHP:What were your inspirations when you made this album?”

BF:I went back to the roots of where I started from. Out came the Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen records — that’s where I started. I was really just gunning for those early inspirations. You know, Bruce is my guy. He’s the guy who taught me everything I know and I went right back to those first few records. I actually just last night went down to the local record store in Red Bank [New Jersey], where I was born, called Jack’s Music and I went down and I bought [Bruce Springsteen’s] “The River” boxed set. I always get some juice from that guy.

CHP: “How would you describe your life at the time of writing the album? Besides just the hiatus, were there any other influences in that?”

BF: “It was funny, it coincided with the time in my life where I sort of felt like I got my life back on track. The last record [“Get Hurt”] was a really rough time for me. I started to feel like I got my feet on the ground a little bit and it allowed me to write. Both my life and my songwriting were essentially starting over. I was able to take that and say, ‘What if you’ve never written a record before? What would you say as you without any previous or preconceived notions?’ So that was a kind of cool starting point. I really enjoyed that. Much less chaotic, much calmer time too.”

CHP:How did you decide on the name ‘Painkillers?’ Was it kind of the solution to ‘Get Hurt?’”

BF:It wasn’t really an answer, it didn’t really actually have anything to do with ‘Get Hurt’ because albums aren’t really linear, they don’t really go in order. The reason for ‘Painkillers’ is because from when I first started listening to music, I always found that music was kind of a comforting thing for people, like a counselor and a therapist and a friend. You know when you’re driving your car late at night? It’s like your friend is driving with you, the songs you listen to. I always felt like music was kind of like painkillers.”

CHP:I know ‘Get Hurt’ was kind of divisive for fans, so do you think this is any sort of response to that?”

BF:Some people liked it and some people didn’t. I would say it’s kind of a mixed response. It wasn’t quite negative, but it wasn’t quite positive either. Of course it was a reaction in a certain way where I said, ‘I tried something different and I was trying to make it more different,’ and then I said, ‘let me go back to something I enjoy and never mind what everyone else thinks and let me just do what I feel is natural to me.’ That was the best thing I think I could have possibly done.”

CHP:Do you kind of feel the same way about ‘Painkillers,’ like it’s kind of a ‘for you’ thing?”

BF:Yeah, I definitely do. It’s one of those things I just had to do.”

CHP: “What has it been like touring with songs fans may not have heard before? Have you had a good response from fans?”

BF: “Yeah, actually most of the people have considered it more of a listening show. Normally, like with a Gaslight Anthem show, it’s like a sing-along party. But this has become something that people listen to and absorb in a different way, so it’s been sort of freeing. The good news is that we’ve been playing a lot of The Horrible Crowes songs and people who know those feel comforted. We throw in a couple covers but now it’s going to be a little easier on this tour because I have two songs out. It’ll be a little bit more familiar now, and as we go it’ll get more familiar.”

CHP: “Do you think people are responding well to your new material?”

BF: “Yeah, they’ve been going bananas! I’ve been shocked and so happy with it. One kid on my Twitter feed was like, ‘That was the best show I’ve ever seen, best three shows of my life,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, alright, that’s pretty cool.’ I just want to make people happy with the shows. I’m not out there entirely for myself.”

CHP: “Have a lot of fans been requesting Gaslight Anthem stuff or have they welcomed the new material?”

BF: “I actually only heard that twice on the whole tour. I just said, ‘Don’t do that,’ because if I do that, it takes away the reason for being on a break. The reason for being on a break is to get away from what you were doing. The second thing is that if I start playing those songs, it sort of takes away from the band and it’s not really that fair to the other guys if I’m just going out there playing [Gaslight Anthem album] “‘59 Sound.” I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it. There are a few songs that the Gaslight almost never played. I might rework some of those some day but the main point is to establish it as something different. If people like it, cool, if they don’t like it that’s cool too.”

CHP: “I read that at the beginning of the tour you got nervous to perform new material. Has that gone away or is it still nerve-wracking to play this new material?”

BF: “It’s a little nerve-wracking still but it will be until the album comes out, until people get familiar. Because the minute that people feel familiar with the songs, it’ll be just like old times.”

CHP: “You posted on your Instagram that you have some surprises in your upcoming California tour. Can you give any hints about what that means?”

BF: “We’re going to pull some new stuff out, some songs out. We’re working on some covers. We’re just going to have fun and see what happens — the surprise will be on all of us.” 

CHP: “What track are you most proud of or most excited for fans to hear?”

BF: “Right now I’m just excited for them to hear the whole thing. I just want them to hear, I’m so excited, I just wish I could go out and give, like ‘Here, take it!’ I think the record label would kill me if I did that! “

CHP:I know you stick around after shows to meet fans. What made you decide to do that?”

BF:Yeah, most of the time I do unless there’s something that I have to get to or I get a cold and can’t talk. Most of the time I just hang out. I just meet people who want to talk to me.”

CHP: Besides the obvious answers like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, if you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

BF: “Oh, easy, Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine.”