After an eventful summer filled with various festival appearances here and there, Garden State’s beloved singer-songwriter, Brian Fallon, is back on the road once again to begin another supporting tour to celebrate his latest studio effort, Painkillers. Since the record’s release this past spring, Painkillers received great praise from Fallon’s devoted fanbase—especially through heart-pounding singles like “Steve McQueen,” “A Wonderful Life,” and “Among Other Foolish Things.” While Fallon charms his audience with a serene arrangement that is slightly reminiscent to The Gaslight Anthem, Painkillers is a blissful testament that genuinely unveils his true colors as a solo artist.
Covering the basics before he started his North American tour, I got to chat with Brian Fallon about this month-long run of shows, the reception of Painkillers, Bruce Springsteen’s recent record-breaking gigs and his upcoming appearance at Manhattan’s Terminal 5.
This week, you’ll be staring off a month-long tour in North America before heading out to the UK and Europe later in the fall. What were some of your personal highlights of the summer?
Well, the air conditioning broke on the bus, so my highlights were hot-like. It was 90 degrees on the bus at all times if not hotter—which is amazing. It was much easier to deal with when you’re 25 than when you’re 36 (laughs). It was not a fun ride in between the summer festivals, but the shows were cool. It’s the only time I get to see other bands, and I got to see Noel Gallagher And High Flying Birds. I love that band, so it was cool see.
Wow, very nice. I’d like to add, that a friend of mine had the opportunity to catch your set at this year’s Newport Folk Festival as well.
Oh, I loved that. That place was really cool. They’ve actually been very kind to me, and they had me two years in a row. I played it last year, and I played it this year, which was uncommon—usually people don’t do that. I’m sure my manager twisted [festival producer] Jay Sweet’s arm a little bit—but Jay is a really, really kind and generous, and is just a fundamental person in the folk community. The fact that he asked me to play that festival twice is mind-blowing to me, you know? I just wish to got to see Ryan Adams play with The Stringdusters—I didn’t get to see that. I was on Sunday, and he played Saturday.
So, Painkillers has been out for quite a while. How do you think the reception of this album has changed since its release back in March?
So far so good. I was super nervous because it was the first record to come out, so I didn’t know what people were going to say, you know? Sometimes with being in Gaslight, I would know based on what kind of record we made. Like, when we went into the studio, I would go, “Alright, with this one, they’re probably going to say stuff like this,” and I would kind of be right. It’s experience—it tells you everything, really. Experience in life kind of tells you the whole thing.
But with this I had no prior experience, so I didn’t know what the reception was going to be. It was really nice, and everyone was really kind. It really means a lot to me that American Songwriter writes about my record, you know what I mean? Like, that’s not lost on me.
Based on the reception of Painkillers so far, do you feel that longtime fans of The Gaslight Anthem have been able adjust to your transition as a singer-songwriter?
I think they’ve been transitioning pretty well. It’s not like a giant departure, you know? So it’s not like the first record was too far left field. So, I think that’s why it was an easier jump, and maybe it was something that was expected for a while.
When you first started writing and crafting these songs after The Gaslight Anthem’s hiatus, were there any ideas in mind that you had from Get Hurt that you wanted to revisit on a solo album?
Yeah, I’ve written two or three songs, and I kind of had them sitting back. You know, they just didn’t fit on Get Hurt at all, and I was just like, “Well, I don’t know what to do with these. Maybe I’ll just sit on them.” And that was the first time I kind of had anything sitting on, and I don’t usually do that—I usually just scrap it and start over. But this time I just said, “Hey, maybe I’ll go look into those songs and check out what’s going on,” and I think that was it.
Then I thought, “Maybe I should do this now.” I’m a little older than I was when I started, so maybe I can learn something I can try, and we’ll see how it goes. And so far, it’s been going alright. It’s interesting to me, which is good. It’s another facet that I get to explore, and I am really interested in it.
For sure. At the time, it definitely sounded like a great opportunity to throw caution to the wind, and go with the flow of things.
Yeah, that was kind of the game plan. I always relate musical careers to baseball. Right now, I’m not trying to hit a home run, I’m just trying to get to the next base, and that’s it. Like, “Okay, this is what I am doing now—I’m not trying to have a hit single or be some kind of superstar. Leave that to the professionals.” You know, Bruce [Springsteen] and Tom Petty are doing fine in that job. I will just try to write the best thing that I could possibly write, and put that out and see where that goes. I’m much more slow, which is good.
Speaking of Bruce, did you happen to be in the area when he played those stellar record-breaking shows?
I heard about it on Twitter, but I haven’t been around for it. I can’t believe that he was playing for that long. He’s gotta be like, 67, and he looks better than most 20-year-olds—which he’s doing great! Good for him—like, he’s proving it. The guy really walks the walk, and that’s what’s cool about him.
I’ve actually heard that you’ve been working on some new material as of late. As a solo artist, would you say that you have a lot more freedom to write new music on your own terms?
Definitely. Because it doesn’t have to be any kind of style, and that’s a good thing. When you’re working in a band, you develop a sound, and people really want you to stay with that sound I think—from my experiences, maybe not for other people. But, when you’re by yourself, you can kind of shift a little bit more and shape-shift in between genres. You could sort of do what comes, and that’s okay.
At the end of the month you’re going to be returning to the Tri-State Area to play a huge gig at Manhattan’s Terminal 5. What’s it going to be like to play somewhat close to home again?
It’s awesome because it’s the hometown crowd, and you gotta love them, you know? They’re so lively, and we’re so fortunate to live where we do. The people who love music in New Jersey especially—they just really love it. They love what they love… I don’t know, they just seem so happy to see their own kind of people doing well, which is a really supportive community. I like it.
When your fall tour comes to a close, what are your plans for the new year ahead?
I am going to be going to back to the UK and Europe for a bit in November and December. Then, I am going to crack the spine on the old notebook, and see what happens, you know? I’m just going to feel what kind of songs come out.
Brian Fallon is currently on the road supporting his solo album, Painkillers. You can catch him at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on Sept. 23, and Terminal 5 in Manhattan on Sept. 26. Painkillers is now available through Island Records. For more information, go to thebrianfallon.tumblr.com.