For anyone still reeling from the recent hiatus of New Jersey soul-punks The Gaslight Anthem, frontman Brian Fallon’s solo debut, Painkillers, is ample consolation.
Running with the baton of his former band, this is a world of blue-collar dreams and photographs on dashboards, with Springsteen-style bombast and intimate finger-picking driving some of the 36-year-old’s best songs. “I’m timidly attempting to carry on the classic tradition,” he tells us.
Which records were on your mind as you wrote Painkillers?
The ones I started with. I went back to Tom Petty, the early Dylan records, Springsteen’s first three records. Everybody always tries to pinpoint which record I’m thinking about with the Springsteen connection, but I’ll tell you the truth: it’s the first three. Because the first two are the more folk ones, a lot of words and imagery. Then Born To Run is more grandiose, almost a Broadway kinda thing. I feel more connected to those records now. Basic songwriting, y’know? This is a gimmick-free album.
You’ve always written brilliantly about the US. What’s the mood there?
I think people are confused. It’s a little bit of a nervous thing, because there’s the election coming up, and there’s certain people that we hope don’t get elected, because they’re a little loony.
Does Donald Trump have a chance?
We have to hope not. Because that’s just absurd.
Do you personally feel like you’re still at street level?
Yeah. We never got too big. I know it seems like [The Gaslight Anthem] may have been a really big band, but nobody got to the gated community. Nobody got the guitar-shaped pool or the house in LA. So street level is still easy for me. I’ve still got street level – and $30 shoes on.
What do you miss about being in The Gaslight Anthem?
Well, it’s only been five months, so nothing right now. It must be like when you paint a picture and you go: “Alright, I’m done for now.” Maybe you do paint another picture. Or maybe you just go: “That was my masterpiece. I’m done.” We got to a point where we all kinda looked at the canvas that was The Gaslight Anthem and said: “I’m pretty proud of this. I don’t want to mess this up. Do you?” And everyone else was like: “No. Let’s leave the painting alone for now.”
A lot of bands do go on too long.
Oh my goodness. And they go on terribly, too. It becomes a joke, and then everything good that they did gets erased by the last few disasters.
How prolific are you?
When I sit down to write, it comes out pretty natural. But I look at songwriting as a craft. I don’t look at it as this mystical thing, chasing songs that are in the air around a room. I do writing on a regular schedule. I don’t whimsically walk around the room and drink red wine until I see the devil and then write a song, y’know?
So musicians work quite hard?
It’s relative. There’s a lot of people who work a lot harder. But you gotta get to work. You’re not gonna have it handed to you.