For more than a decade, Brian Fallon was known as the singer of The Gaslight Anthem. The Gaslight Anthem is currently on an indefinite hiatus after some reunion shows in 2018. Still, that hiatus doesn’t mean that Fallon has been inactive. He has released two solo albums, and will release his new album Local Honey on March 27. By phone, he discussed the new album, writing in the moment, and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.
Americana Highways: What was the most difficult thing for you about moving from being in a band to being a solo artist?
Brian Fallon: The undertaking of that thing in general is always a difficult thing. When we decided we were going to take this indefinite break, I didn’t have a plan. I wasn’t ready to do anything. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I think the most difficult thing is finding what do I want to do. If I’m not doing this, what am I going to do? If doing that particular thing is making us all feel like we’re in a rut, what doesn’t make you feel like you’re in a rut? It’s a search. You have to find it.
AH: How long did it take you to figure out what you wanted to do?
BF: I think I’ll be figuring that out for a while. As long as I’m still breathing, I’ll be figuring it out. One of the things that’s become clear to me recently is that I guess it’s taken me three records. I was kind of working it out on the first one, and you can hear it. You can hear how the sounds of it go in different places. I can hear where I was trying to experiment with different areas. Finally I sat down and said, “I like songs. That’s what I do.” I don’t know how they are. Sometimes, they’re loud. Sometimes they’re not. I do songs, and what does that mean?
AH: How is Local Honey different from the two previous solo albums?
BF: This one is more about the immediate things in my personal life. I’ve let out some things that I didn’t really talk about or discuss before in any of my projects: my family, how I feel about my kids, things like that. It also came to a point where I sat down and focused on what do I think without considering so heavily what do people expect from me.
AH What was the biggest challenge for you about writing in the moment?
BF: You’re always worried that you’re being too simple, and that it’s not songworthy. That was maybe conversation-worthy. It’s an interesting thing where you think, “Is this a song, or should I just call my friend about this?” There’s a songwriter I really admire – Dan Wilson. I worked with him on my first record, and we wrote a song together called “Steve McQueen”. He’s written many songs for many people, but he does an advice thing online and on social media where he’ll give his thoughts on songwriting. One time he said, “If it’s something you would talk to your friend about, that is good enough for a song. That gave me permission. Even though it seems pretty basic, it gave me permission that it doesn’t have to be something Earth-shattering. That’s not your daily life. The subject matter isn’t always Earth-shattering. Sometimes it’s just like “I’m not sure what to do in this situation, so why not write about it?”
AH: When you think about songwriting, you think about momentous things. But how often do those momentous things come along?
BF: Not often. I look at these big statement songs like “Imagine” or “We Are the Champions”. These are giant statements of life. Life is not made up of those statements. There’s also “I want to ride my bicycle.” That’s cool too. You have to find the place where you’re OK. I find that most of the struggle with that is giving yourself permission to do it. There’s always an alternate perspective of what you said. You have to shut that out. My friend one time said, “I’m writing for the lovers.” People who love what he does. That’s what he’s doing. You have to just do that.
AH: What was your reaction the first time you heard the whole album?
BF: I was incredibly relieved that we had done it. I didn’t stop the process in the process. Slowing everything down and keeping it bare when you push tempo where there’s a sound a second. When I was done with it, I was like, “I’m so glad I did this. I’ve wanted to do this forever.” I was happy.
AH: It kind of feels a bit like Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.
BF: That’s what he did too. He wrote all those songs. He thought it was going to be the follow up to one of his louder records. So he tried to do the songs with the E Street Band. They were not working. He went back to the demos he did and was like, “This is more powerful. I need to do this.” It caused a nightmare with the production factory. The quality was so bad because he did it in his bedroom. He sent it to the manufacturing company and they basically had to salvage the sound. That’s why it’s muffled, but it also gives it that warm quality and intimacy. That’s all because he had the courage to do that.
AH: That’s a really powerful record because it’s so muted and quiet.
BF: I totally agree with you.
AH: What did Peter Katis bring to the album that it wouldn’t have had otherwise?
BF: I think the entire sound of it and also the courage to break it down and make the lyrics the thing that champion the song. I would ask, “Should this song be faster or louder?” He would say “No. Don’t take the sad out of it.” That’s what he would always say. He wanted it to have this intimacy, which I think is really good. If he weren’t there, I don’t think I would have had the courage to do it. It’s a hard thing to do – especially when you come from a rock n roll world. It’s different. Fortunately for me, I’ve been quieting down everything. Being a dad and that kind of thing, and not running around on the road playing shows every minute. It has helped me focus on what matters.
AH: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
BF: Probably two things. Before I started making music, I was doing construction work. You’d start the day with nothing, and then by the end of the day, you’ve laid a floor. It would be done. You’ve completed this thing. That, or I work on guitar amplifiers. I’m really good at building them. That’s kind of my secret passion – restoring old amplifiers and making them work.
Local Honey will be available everywhere on March 27. Order your copy here (https://www.brianfallon.net/).