New Jersey native and singer-songwriter, Brian Fallon, has just completed his warm-up tour run on the West Coast in preparation for the release of his debut solo album. Painkillers dabbles in a bit of what we have already heard from the Gaslight Anthem vocalist, while indulging us in the outer known parts of the artist’s musical creativity. His core inspirations stem from his Jersey roots, but with influences aside, the musician has solidified his signature sound. With years of touring in a big band already under his belt, Brian Fallon has savored going back to the beginnings of the organic process and will be touring in more intimate venues this cycle.
On the latest record, his rough-around-the-edges vocal style, Americana-toned guitars take the helm, and tell the listener a story, mirroring musicians of days past. Whilst on the road, a few weeks before his New Jersey performance, the local took some time to speak to me about what is happening now. Here following is our conversation:
Having just listened to “Steve McQueen” earlier today, I have to mention that this is a bit of a departure from what we’ve heard from you in the past.
I like that song, a lot.
So did I! What prompted you to sit down and work out this whole solo record?
This kind of music is something that I have been interested in since I was very young. I guess the band deciding to take a break would be the first thing that would have conjured the idea. I was like, well, what am I going to do? Am I going to just sit here? I want to write, I am a writer, I can’t just sit around and not write anything. I guess I’ll just do a record of my own, better now than never. It’s going to be now or never, so, better do it.
Are you only a songwriter? Do you write other things aside from music?
Not generally, right now I’ve just been sticking to music, you know? I just kind of write songs, that’s what I do.
How does songwriting work for you? Does the lyric come first or the musical structure?
It always happens differently. I think you can’t tie the hands of the muse, as they say. I think you just have to be open to it. For me, I kind of do it in a more methodical way where I show up at nine o’clock, get out my guitar and try to see what comes for the day. If nothing comes, I go back to it later in the day, and if nothing comes that day, I go back to it the next day. I always feel like, if you show up, then you get the good songs sometimes. You just have to keep at it. I look at it more of like a working thing, like this is what I do, so I am going to try and get better at it. Sometimes, if you can’t think of a song, work on something that you’re not that great at, like a different guitar playing thing, or a word play thing. Start writing some words and see what comes out. I try to keep the muscles going.
How has adjusting to touring on your own been?
Oh, I mean, it’s cool because there is no real adjustment when it’s just yourself. I mean, I have a band with me, but it’s not a big adjustment really because it’s kind of on you. Everybody looks at me like what do you want to do, I want to do this today. You don’t have anybody to adjust to but yourself.
When you’re on the road playing back-to-back shows, how do you take care of your voice as well as yourself?
I just try to take care of myself and not be a maniac, you know? Just go to sleep at a normal time, drink water. I don’t make it to a lot of the after show activities, I never have, so it’s not really a big difference to me.
New Jersey has a massive music scene and presence, how has being raised in the midst of that shaped you?
I think it kind of shaped me entirely. That’s where I’m from. There is so much music here that’s important to the rest of the world, you know what I mean? New Jersey is kind of a thing that, I don’t know, it’s really strange. There’s so many actors, comedians, and musicians that come from New Jersey it’s really odd, it’s almost like a joke now between me and my friends. It’s like, oh, they’re from New Jersey too? It’s like this little hot bed of creativity. It’s always been an influence, for sure. We have one of the best examples of a musician that’s been worldwide accepted in Springsteen. That’s enough inspiration there for, I think, a hundred bands to have a hundred different careers that don’t sound anything alike. He’s like Elvis, you know?
Also, what is amazing about the state is that you can often just see these people walking down the street.
Yeah, for sure.
What factors have influenced Painkillers the most?
Truthfully, my upbringing, when I first started to get into music, that was the first thing that came to mind. That was when I started everything, I just went back to when I learned to play music from singer-songwriter records. So, I said to myself, I’m going to start over and just kind of go back to the basics of writing the songs and writing them to tell a story. So, I sat down with just my acoustic and just kind of wrote everything like that. I didn’t have a band in mind or sometimes I wouldn’t know what the song would sound like in the end. I just had to start with the guitar and figure it all out like really, really basically. When I didn’t have a band when I was a kid, there wasn’t anybody around, so you just kind of sat down with your guitar, wrote some words, made a melody and that was the song, that was it.
What are you listening to right now?
Right now? I’m listening to all kinds of stuff. Right now I listen to, I like that Ryan Bingham guy a lot. I think he’s cool. I listened to that new Adele record, I like that. I really do. It varies all of the time. I listen to the standard Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan. There is this guy Sam Outlaw, I like his record a lot. He’s cool, he’s got kind of a country vibe. I like Jason Isbell a lot. There’s a ton of stuff. I try to stick close to what’s going on and see what’s out there so I can learn from things. I don’t really shun anything. Some people are like, I only do rock music, so I’m only listening to rock music. That’s sort of limiting. I would get bored if I listened to rock music all day long. I would just be bored.
What was the last show that you’ve been to aside from your own?
Noah Gundersen, that’s the last show I saw. It was in Nashville, I went with Butch [Walker], and he was awesome. He was so cool. He’s like a singer-songwriter guy, but he covered a Deftones song. That’s the cool thing, you get this singer-songwriter guy and then he covers one of the heaviest bands in the world. That’s what I mean about not listening to the same music all of the time, you can’t limit yourself. I think bands like the Deftones, they’re a great band. There is so much music out there, you can’t cut it all off.
What are your plans for 2016?
Just to keep working. It’s basically to keep going on this record, do some touring, see how it goes and try to get out to as many places as I can, kind of enjoy the whole cycle. Really, just see what’s up and I’m kind of stretching my legs and putting on new shoes with this thing. It’s kind of fun and new. I’ve been enjoying getting to play a thing I’ve been waiting to play a long time.
On this tour, are you playing venues that you haven’t before because it’s not as big as Gaslight?
The whole purpose of the January and February tour was to play really small places to get everybody warmed up and go to places that we haven’t been to and start to do that before the record came out. We didn’t want to play giant places. You don’t want to start out big and the that’s it. Where do you go from there? In March, we’re doing some of the bigger venues, we’re playing Starland. It was cool to warm up a little and get out there and try it out. I haven’t been playing in smaller venues for a long time. To me, it’s cool, I get to hang out and see everybody, see what they look like, see their facial expressions. Sometimes, when you play those big venues, it gets a little lost.
Brian Fallon will play the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on March 8, Irving Plaza in NYC on March 9, and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on March 12. Painkillers will be released March 11 via Island Records. For more information, go to thebrianfallon.tumblr.com and facebook.com/thebrianfallon.