A man needs a hobby, and for Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett it’s country music.
“I trace it back to my love of my older brothers Elvis, Stones & Beatles records,” says Shiflett. “While none of those were country, they were twangy as fuck, and I was just always drawn to those guitars. It was a natural progression as I got older. Son Volt led to Gram Parsons, but the Stones did too, and then Gram led to George Jones and Buck and Merle and it goes on and on and on.”
It’s a familiar course, but not everyone who falls in love with the genre decides to get directly involved. Shiflett did. He formed The Dead Peasants in 2010, and after two albums has struck out on his own: West Coast Town, the follow-up to 2013’s covers collection All Hat and No Cattle, hits the street on April 14. It’s full of beer and bluster, a collection of rowdy anthems with a touch of punk snarl. Recorded in Nashville with the increasingly legendary Dave Cobb, it’s an album Shiflett is eager to explain.
What’s a California punk rocker doing making a country album in Nashville?
It’s a little ironic cuz everyone says this record has a “California” feel to it, but it was important to me to get out of town and get out of my usual comfort zones. Nashville is a music town. It feels like everyone there can play circles around you, but at the same time they’re all really friendly and helpful and want to turn you on to good music. Plus recording in RCA Studio with the ghosts of all the legends that have worked there was inspiring to say the least. Don’t get me started on the vintage guitar shopping…
West Coast Town sounds like it was a lot of fun to record. How did that process work?
That’s good to hear because my main goal was to create a Saturday night type of record. Dave Cobb has a laid back approach in the studio. It never felt like we were working too hard, but we got a lot done quickly. He would listen to the demo of the song by himself for a few minutes, wrap his head around it, then call me, Adam & Chris [the rhythm section] in and we’d talk about it, listen to old records for reference, then start strumming the changes on acoustics. After that we’d move over to the gear and jam through the song, but not too much. Dave said he didn’t like to go past the good take. Before you knew it, it’d be in the can and we’d be jumping in his truck and running off to Carter Vintage to look at guitars that I couldn’t afford.
What does Dave Cobb bring to the party?
A lot! I can’t overstate how big Dave’s impact was on this record and the songs I brought in. He’s an incredible producer.
How does the new album differ from All Hat No Cattle?
Well the biggest difference is that All Hat and No Cattle was a covers record with one original. This record is all originals and in my opinion they’re by far the best tunes I’ve ever written. I put more work into this one than any other record I’ve made.
What kind of feedback have you had from Foo Fighters fans about your solo stuff?
It’s funny cuz there’s no hiding at my little solo gigs. Sometimes you’ll get the guy in a Nirvana shirt looking at me with a sad look on his face like, “What the fuck is Chris doing???” but usually if someone’s gonna come all the way out to your gig they just wanna have a good time. And hardcore Foo fans have probably figured out what I’m up to by now.
What can people expect from your upcoming tour dates?
That remains to be seen! I’m still figuring out who’s coming with me, but I’m guessing we’ll play the whole new record and then throw a few covers in there to fill it out. Fingers crossed that we make it over to the UK for some shows.
Is Dave Grohl really the nicest man in rock?
He must be, right?? I can’t think of anyone nicer.
West Coast Town will be released on April 14 on SideOneDummy Records, and can be pre-ordered now. Chris Shiflett tours the US in March and April (dates below).
West Coast Town Track List
Sticks & Stones
West Coast Town
Goodnight Little Rock
The Girl’s Already Gone
Blow Out The Candles
I’m Still Drunk
Tonight’s Not Over
Still Better Days