When Brian Fallon sat down to write his new album, Local Honey, little did he know that he’d be releasing it at a time when people needed his music the most. Just before it came out to the world, we caught up with him to find out what inspired the shift to an acoustic album and how getting older gave him the nudge to take a leap of faith.
So, Brian, how are you? How is everything on your side of the world?
Well work is actually crazy, like I’m not usually this busy. It’s weird, because I’m home. Even with the record coming out this week, I’m still doing stuff every day. I’m doing a live stream for this, or recording songs for this, or a video thing. In a way it’s really cool, because like, one thing people always say to me at the end of a show or whatever, I’ll go outside and people say, “Your music means a lot to me” and I’m like, “Cool, thank you”, but I don’t see how it means a lot to them right in front of me, you know what I mean? I don’t see them when they’re at home and appreciating it. Here, if I make one video, even a cover song – I did a Counting Crows one and put it out, it wasn’t even a good quality video, I just learned the song like an hour before and did it at the piano – and people are like, “I’m so happy you did this, thank you so much” and I’m like, woah. You see that, by me doing something that doesn’t cost me anything, is helping people. I’m seeing all these artists [doing things] and it’s really cool.
The one positive to take out of this is seeing how the music community is coming together! We’ve certainly been enjoying it.
The album is only a few days away now, despite everything, are you still feeling excited?
Yeah, because I feel like people are going to have something to look forward to over the weekend and it’ll give them something to do! I feel good that I’m contributing something. Sometimes, as a musician you feel like you’re not contributing to society as a whole. I’m not a builder, I’m not a doctor or a scientist helping people out. Sometimes, as a musician, you’re like, “Am I doing anything that matters? What am I doing? Is this just for me?”; but now it kinda shows that it’s valuable to people and entertainment, whether you’re a comedian or an artist, or whatever you’re doing, people need that. I don’t know why I didn’t see that before, but it’s opening my eyes.
It’s only taken a global pandemic for you to feel good about being a musician!
Well it’s not something I think about very often, I don’t sit around and contemplate my value of the world, I don’t sit down and go, “So what do I mean in this world?”; I just kinda get on with it. Now, I’m starting to see, like, what I’m doing is helping people and what my friends are doing, they’re helping people. That’s kinda cool and it’s an eye-opening thing to realise that you can keep people’s spirits up while they’re going through this.
It’s really nice to see! What song from your new album do you think makes the perfect isolation soundtrack?
Whew. I mean. The whole thing was done in isolation haha. I think my music generally is isolation music. Off the new record, it was surprising because I didn’t really think about that when I was doing it, but there’s a song called ‘Horses’ on there that I really feel like – I was doing it for a session, I just did a little video and sent it out there for a radio station and it dawned on me that [it has] a pretty positive message, it fits with the times, it’s so weird – these songs really fit with what’s happening and I had no idea.
This record is a lot more stripped-back when you compare it to Sleepwalkers, was that always the plan? Why did you decide to take things back to being simple?
When I first sat down to do it I thought I was going to continue on going in the same direction as Sleepwalkers and then I was working on the songs how I usually would, I was making demos and they were all up-tempo, but it started to feel like that something wasn’t really coming across and the lyrics weren’t communicating right. When that happens, I usually strip everything back and go down to just whatever instrument I wrote it on, a guitar or piano and then I started to play it by itself and it felt like all of a sudden it came to life, so I just decided that that might be the way to do it. I hadn’t done that ever before, so I figured, right, here we go!
You’ve said with these songs, that they’re very much about being in the present, being older and your life right now, rather than reflecting on the past, did you find it easier to write them that way?
It was a little bit harder in the beginning, to get it going, but once it got going it was easier, because then I started to figure out how to do it. I didn’t really understand how to do that before. Normally, I would always think, you do the living and then you reflect on that, but with this I was writing about day-to-day things. It was kinda hard to put that into context and reflect on it as a whole.
Would you say this record is the sound of you being truly comfortable as a solo artist now?
I don’t know! I feel that way. I don’t want to say it too early, but I kinda feel like I was working up to this. It was something that I wanted to do for a long time, probably even back to 2010, when I did that side project called The Horrible Crowes. It was something I was trying to get at, you can hear that there is acoustic songs on pretty much every record that I’ve ever worked on, but it’s something you sorta have to take a leap for. Especially when you’re in a rock band and people know you for that, then you’re like, “Yeah but I want to show you this other thing I want to do”. As you get older, you change and your interests shift and you have to see what you can do with that.
You spent so much of your life in a full band with The Gaslight Anthem and now, transitioning to a solo artist, what were the most difficult things? Do you ever still write a song and feel like it’s not right for your solo work and it’s more suited to Gaslight?
The hardest thing I think for me, even since I was in high school, was identity. Who am I now? Who is this person? What do I like? What do I not like? Trying to find your identity is such a hard thing, because usually that’s done in isolation and it’s done between you and yourself, and you have to figure out if you’re being true to yourself. No one can tell you that. It’s something that you have to figure out. I think the important thing, is that changes from time-to-time. When I was playing in The Gaslight Anthem, that was 100% true to myself, that’s what I was doing and that’s what I wanted to be doing then. Now that I’m on my own, I have to also be true to myself and figure out, what does that mean? It can be difficult. Do I write songs that feel like Gaslight? Not anymore. If I did then I would just be doing that. That’s kinda the real answer to that question, it’s not that I don’t like anything that I did in the band, I love it, I think it’s great! It’s just that I don’t know how to do that anymore with who I am today. It’s weird how you change. Everyone can understand that you change as you get older, you’re in a different headspace and you sort of have to follow that or else you find yourself begrudgingly doing things that you don’t want to do.
Some strong life advice there! Now, this album is the first you’ve released on your own label, why the move to being independent and how did the partnership with Thirty Tigers (Flogging Molly, Jason Isbell etc) come about?
I’d been on a major label for about 10 years, even back with The Gaslight Anthem. It worked out, we didn’t have any horror stories and they never tried to make us do anything we didn’t want to do, but as we went on, the president of the label – who was also our A&R guy – he left to do his own thing and right at that time I didn’t owe them anymore records. I said to them, “Look, I want to make these records that are more acoustic, I don’t want to worry about writing songs for the radio anymore, I don’t want to have the pressure, I don’t feel like I’m going to be a popstar at 40 years old, I don’t want to be! There are young people making incredibly interesting music that I don’t want to compete with, I want the young people to be the ones who are being innovative and changing things. I feel like, for me, my position is to do the best I can with what I feel the best about.” So, I decided to be independent. It’s completely terrifying. I have kids and a family with bills to pay, so it’s kind of a crazy move but so far it’s worked!
I toured with my friend Ryan Bingham and he was on Thirty Tigers, and I had seen a lot of their work with other artists and it’s a very artist-friendly thing. They let you have your own label and they help you get your records in the stores and things. We called them up and said, “Hey, you want to sit down and talk?” and they were like, “Yeah, we wanna do it, we’ll do anything you want, we’ll do it” and I was like, “Great!” I did not expect that at all. It worked out really well. I just think it was the right time. You can’t know when it’s the right time, but everything fell into place. The label let me go and were cool with what I wanted to do, I didn’t have to have that conversation where they say, “We don’t really want to put out your records”, which was good.
That’s nice! Glad to hear it all worked out. Despite the rescheduling of your live shows, have you started planning ideas for performing your new songs? How do you envisage playing them live?
I’ve had to get a different way of looking at it, because it’s new and different music. I’ve got a piano player and I’ve had to work out some different people in the band, so now it’s more of a thing that we’re trying to present this record – and the old songs – in a way that’s new and fits with the current music that I’m putting out. It’s really exciting, because as soon as you hear the band play – we rehearsed a little bit, but obviously, we can’t play shows – but to hear it was really exciting. We were literally in rehearsals when they told us that the shows were postponing.
Yeah! We were ready to go and I was like, “This sounds AWESOME! This is going to be great!” and then they were like, “Actually, you’re not going on tour”.
Well, now you’ve got more time to practice.
Not together though!
You can do it over a video call or something.
Thank god for FaceTime haha!
Have you got any favourite memories from touring the UK?
The crowds are always so excited. It’s one of the times when you really feel like, I mean, I’ve never been a Rockstar, I’m not in Queen or anything, but I remember playing these tiny places when we were first starting out and people would FREAK out and you’d be like, “Wait a minute, this is amazing?!”
At concerts they do the football chants and stuff and that’s so cool. We don’t have that [in the US]. We watch American football and when people do something great they just yell at the TV, there’s no songs, so when we see this thing it’s like an eruption of excitement. It’s really cool.
Well we’re glad you’ve been made to feel welcome!
I’ve got an English father and an English wife, so I’m a big fan of English people.
And we're a fan of you! To wrap things up then, how are you going to be keeping busy until you can get back on the road? Does self-isolation mean you’ll be penning some new songs?
I’m doing a lot of videos for people and I might do a live stream thing. I’ve been interacting with people a lot that way. I’m probably going to write, too. I’ve got nothing to do, so I may as well write!
Catch Brian and his band, The Howling Weather, perform his stunning new material live early next year:
O2 Institute Birmingham: Saturday 30 January 2021 Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Leeds: Monday 1 February 2021 Buy Tickets
O2 Academy Bristol: Wednesday 3 February 2021 Buy Tickets
O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire: Saturday 6 February 2021* Buy Tickets
*This show is sold out but re-sale tickets may be available through our official ticketing partner, Ticketmaster.
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