The Gaslight Anthem singer Brian Fallon has revisited his past for a new album as a solo artist.
By Vanessa Franko
February 11, 2018
Brian Fallon, singer of the Gaslight Anthem, has a new solo album, “Painkillers,” due in March. He plays tonight at Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace. (Danny Clinch)
With the Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon sold out venues around the world and shared the stage with icons including Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen.
But by the end of 2014, he wasn’t happy about it.
“I was just mad at the world. I was mad at everything. I was mad at myself, mad at my situation. I was even mad about the band getting so big. I felt like we lost a little bit of touch with where things were going,” Fallon said in a recent telephone interview.
As the band’s members discussed a hiatus after wrapping the tour for 2014’s “Get Hurt” – a polarizing release inspired by Fallon’s divorce that broke out of the band’s Springsteen-meets-Bouncing-Souls punk shell – the singer had what he described as a “come to Jesus” with himself.
“‘You just need to start over. You need to take a break and you’re a little bit ungrateful, actually’ – that’s what I thought about myself,” he said. “‘You have all these people that come and see you and you have this successful band and you’re mad about everything. People would kill to be in your shoes.’”
Fallon resolved to embrace his good fortune, leave the anger and bitterness behind and look back to move forward.
“When you get in a wreck like that and you don’t really know where you’re at, I think the best place you can go is back to the beginning and start over,” Fallon said.
His rebirth is “Painkillers,” an intimate, honest portrait produced by Butch Walker and due March 11. Fallon starts a string of Southern California dates Friday, Feb. 12, at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pionertown, with Jonny Two Bags (the alt-country alter ego of Social Distortion guitarist Johnny Wickersham) opening.
Fallon’s next sonic step is influenced in a large part by reflecting upon his past. Growing up in New Jersey, the 36-year-old’s earliest musical memories were hymns his mother played around their home, among them redemption songs “Amazing Grace” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
As Fallon grew older, she introduced him to folk music. He learned about Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen, which led him to rock.
While Fallon has had other side projects (The Horrible Crowes, Molly and the Zombies), the solo record is a culmination of what he had wanted to do for years: craft a singer/songwriter record. Not that the concept was a radical left turn – going back to Gaslight Anthem’s debut, 2007’s “Sink or Swim,” the group’s albums included an acoustic track or two.
So between February and September 2015, Fallon went to work. He started at 9 a.m. daily, and his bedroom was his office, where he wrote about 20 songs on a Martin D-41 acoustic guitar. If a song wasn’t coming together, he would leave it for the next day.
Coming from a scenario where the members of the Gaslight Anthem bounced ideas around to mold a song into its best form, Fallon said, calling all of the shots was both liberating and nerve-wracking.
Similarly, the unknown reaction of fans to the music is one of the things that has excited him as a performer. He debuted a lot of new material during a recent run on the East Coast.
“You could tell from note one that those people came there to listen. They didn’t come there to shout along. They didn’t come there to party or throw beers. They came there to listen to some music and that was clear from the moment I stepped on the stage. This is the raddest thing,” he said.
And that energy and intimacy have given Fallon a connection he had sorely missed from the old days in an up-and-coming band.
“I feel like I’m doing it for the first time again,” he said.
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