The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon speaks out on the music industry's toxic pressures: "I couldn’t say, I’m having a mental breakdown”

TGA 2022
(Image credit: Kelsey Ayres)

The Gaslight Anthem's frontman Brian Fallon has spoken up about the intense pressures musicians face when the industry identifies them as a potential Next Big Thing. 

Fallon put his band on hiatus in 2015, but having reactivated the group earlier this year, the singer/songwriter is finally ready to shed light on the toxic music industry practices which he previously feared might drag him and his bandmates to the brink of breakdown.

Speaking in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, which is due for publication imminently, Fallon admits that being in the spotlight took a toll on his mental health, and that he was painfully aware that the music industry would not be receptive to hearing his concerns if it meant that to address his issues he would have to pull his band off the circuit.

After his band's debut album, 2008's The ’59 Sound, and its follow-up, 2010’s American Slang, were certified silver for sales in excess of 60,000 copies in the UK, The Gaslight Anthem began garnering plaudits as ‘The Saviours Of Rock’n’Roll’. And Brian Fallon was already suffering in the face of such pressures.

“In 2010, when we were doing American Slang, I couldn’t say: ‘Yo, I’m having a mental breakdown, and I need a break,’” he reflects. “Because then the whole industry would have been like: ‘Well, okay, then you don’t have a career.’

“If I’d said to the festival promoters: ‘Look, I can’t do this, emotionally, I need to take a break, or I’m gonna have a problem,’ people would have been like: ‘Well, okay, but you’re not gonna get booked next year.’ We were under so much pressure, all the time. No matter how much we achieved, there were always people around us who were telling us that if we didn’t do the next thing, we were done for. It sucked.

"As a young band, you feel like it’s a miracle that you’ve broken through, so of course you don’t want it all to go away. And at times I wasn’t mentally prepared for that. I was exhausted, truly exhausted.”

Fallon tells Classic Rock that he finally hit the 'pause' button on the band's career because to not do so would have had serious repercussions for his health.

Announcing their hiatus, the band’s July 2015 statement read: “We’d like to recharge and take a step back until we have something we feel excited about rather than going right back to making a record just for the sake of making the next record. We all feel this is the best decision we can make and it feels like the right one for us.”

"We needed to step back," he now admits. "I thought I’d rather the band be dead, and be happy, than keep jumping through the hoops."

A full, in-depth interview with Brian Fallon on The Gaslight Anthem's return can be read in the forthcoming edition of Classic Rock magazine.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.