Dashboard Confessional will be hitting the road this summer on a cross-country tour featuring The All American Rejects, The Maine, and Social Animals. We are lucky to have them hit our area for several shows, including Aug. 3 at the Central Park SummerStage. I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Chris Carrabba (vocals, guitar) of Dashboard in between rehearsals. Let me tell you this: Chris is so much more than just an amazing musician and songwriter; he is intelligent, personable, and an amazing interview. Covering everything from the upcoming tour, new music, and so much more, it’s safe to say Chris and the gang are stronger than ever. Check this out below:
Chris, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today! Where exactly are you right now?
Hey Maria! My pleasure, I am in Tennessee for rehearsals.
Ah, awesome! I know you are busy, so I really appreciate you taking the time.
Yeah of course, thank you!
So I have to start off by getting somewhat sentimental, for you at least. It’s insane to think you have been making music with this band for so many years now. I must ask, did making a career out of this ever seem attainable to you, even as a teen?
Not in this capacity, no! I had this peculiar dream that is very, very specific, to keep making music. My idea was to find a lane in which I could do that after work, basically. I figured I was on the path of becoming a teacher, and I had some different career options that I was thinking about doing, but they all kind of centered around how much vacation time I would acquire—so I could go out and lose money playing music in people’s backyards and basements for the rest of my life—and that would have been a big win for me!
I remember reading some websites about music scenes thinking about how Milo from The Descendents was a scientist, and that blew my mind, and how the lead singer of Bad Religion was a professor. Man, I thought that was so cool; they got to have insurance, a steady paycheck, and maybe their own apartment. So, to answer your question directly, no. Doing it this way didn’t even seem like an option; I didn’t even know how to have big dreams in the right way. I never thought, “Wow, I am going to make it, and this is what I am going to do!”
That’s really inspiring. I think we can all say we’ve been there at some point in our lives. Whether it’s a hobby or an interest that we wish we could do full time (like writing), but you must be realistic at the time and pay your bills because life gets in the way. I couldn’t agree more, and I am so proud of all that you have done! Working in the music industry full time, it’s crazy to think because I work in the music industry full time and watching these bands like Sum 41 and New Found Glory have anniversary tours, I am like, “Damn, and this type of music is still thriving.”
I don’t think any of us expect to get a swing at the ball in the first place! In this case, you mentioned New Found Glory, a band that I grew up with, we all started to break around the same time. I think we both shared this deep appreciation for the people that listened to our music, because they really were just like us in so many ways. As our bands grew, there were more kids that kind of looked like me. After time, it was less kids that looked like me, but felt like me. Down the line, it was a lot of people different from one another but we all felt the same thing in the same room. That’s when I realized, this is special; this is probably what doesn’t happen for most bands.
To think about that original first wave of people that listened to us, those people shared it with their brothers and sisters and friends, and they shared it, and it’s really like “fandom by invitation”. I think that’s what has given us legs throughout all of this time that we remain “current” (although that is a tricky word to use). I said that because I talk to people every day where my first record is brand new to them. They’re experiencing it now for the first time, it’s a piece of my personal history, but for them it’s something that is important to them here and now.
Well, you guys are doing something right, because even when I go to your shows I see young fans in the crowd all of the time, it’s amazing! Now of course we have to talk about what is happening here and now! You are about to embark on a tour with a pretty rad lineup including The All American Rejects, which I will be attending. How did this lineup come about?
Well, I have a handful of bands that I always hope to tour with and try my best to line up schedule wise—keep my fingers crossed—and All American Rejects have been on that list for quite some time, but we haven’t been ready at the same time in a while; we always miss them by like two months! But this time we really tried to make it work, we said let’s get it right this year, and that’s basically how it came to be!
I am so glad that worked out! Also, I want to touch on the VIP experience; as a kid I wish this was something they offered, although I would have had to work a lot of hours to pay for it. It’s such a cool experience for the fans. Does this one-on-one interaction with your diehard fans bring you back to the old days of playing to small crowds?
Yes, I get to do both kinds of shows that I love every day now! I love to do small shows with a small amount of people that I can speak to, not just shouting songs, but speak to them in between. But, I also like to play really big shows where the energy is sweeping over us all. This is a way that figured out how to marry the two!
It’s the perfect situation for you as an artist, and as a fan! Now I want to ask, because I know a lot of the venues on this tour you guys have played before, if you were told you could only play in one place for the rest of your life, could you pick a spot?
How could I pick that (laughs)? That’s the opposite of how I am wired; when I was a kid I went to 11—or more—schools between kindergarten and high school. I’ve never lived my life in one place, I didn’t know that’s what you’re supposed to do. I only know how to move, really. I only know how to be transient.
That’s great though, it’s awesome for your fans that you’re always broadening your horizons and hitting different cities. Now I have to address the fan elephant in the room; can you spill the tea on any new music? As a fan of course, we are all dying to know!
I don’t have any specifics other than we have narrowed down our song selection of what we’ve written and recorded from something like above 60 songs down to about 17 songs. I also have to see if there are any late comers! I wish I had more information I could tell you, other than I truly do believe in my heart of hearts that this is the best record we’ve ever made. My bandmates—although the lineup has changed a few times over the years—have pushed me so far as a writer, and contribute so much as writers as well. This record really made me realize that.
Is there ever a point when you know it’s the right time to release a record?
It’s usually, yesterday (laughs). Most people that are creative wish that they had already put it out, winning people over with the songs they believe in.
I love that answer, it applies to many different forms of art! Now I just have one more question for you. Knowing that people can get discovered so differently nowadays, in so many ways, what advise can you give to upcoming artists who want to experience longevity in this business?
I do, this is the advise I would give, it’s two prongs. One of the prongs is totally boring, but hear me out! The first bit of advice is, you have to be able to pull this off. What I mean by this is, yes, it’s important to wear the right jeans and haircut, because your identity needs to be shown. That will just come, and happen, but you have to keep practicing and playing. All of these things that are incredibly redundant to do, you have to do them for many hours a day. That way, when I go up in front of people, what they hope they hear from me, I think I can blow their hopes out of the water because of all of the homework I’ve done.
The second thing is this: You are an artist, learn to believe in yourself completely. Don’t let anyone tell you it would be cooler or more marketable if you were different. As you grow, on your terms, do not feel like you have to stay that person that you were if you found success along the way. Be as brave as you were when you first started resisting the change people were pushing on you.
That is great advise, and I think anyone can apply that to any situation in life, so thanks for that. It’s been a complete pleasure speaking with you Chris, I am so glad I finally got to do this!
Thank you, Maria! This was a wonderful conversation, and we’ll see you on the road!
Dashboard Confessional will be playing at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, PA on July 30, the Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on Aug. 3, and Festival Pier in Philadelphia, PA on Aug. 9. For more information visit dashboardconfessional.com.