Brian Fallon talks new album Sleepwalkers and The Gaslight Anthem reunion...
The Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon made a low-key start to life as a solo artist in 2016 with a considered, a largely acoustic album named Painkillers, but his follow-up is rather different.
For Sleepwalkers, his second solo LP, he’s re-teamed with Ted Hutt, producer of The Gaslight Anthem’s beloved album The ‘59 Sound for an album of rip-roaring rock and roll, with groove and Motown high in the mix.
As Sleepwalkers come to shelves, we spoke to Fallon about making it, messing around with new rhythms and why the recently announced The Gaslight Anthem reunion shows are not the start of a new chapter for the band...
How did you want this album to be different from your first solo album?
“The first record was an acoustic-based record, which I’d wanted to do. I’ve done that now, I didn't need to do it again. I’ve always been interested in R’n’B and soul music and I wanted to see what would happen if I messed around with some rhythms. There are still acoustic songs on the record, but I wanted this to show off everything I do, not just one part of it.”
How did the writing process compare?
“It was terribly slow actually. I came off tour and just started writing again, which was a mistake, I should have taken a break. My unconscious brain has a way of saying ‘No, you're not ready’. I spent a lot of time searching, trying out different rhythms I’d not used before, it was more of a puzzle this time. It took a while to reveal what it wanted to be.”
You did the album with Ted Hutt, who made The ‘59 Sound with you, was he someone you identified early on?
“Not really. We were throwing around so many names and nothing stuck with me. Then Ted called me out of the blue. We didn’t talk about records, just other things. Then he was in my head and I knew he got me and the kind of music I want to make. He pulls a lot of good stuff out of me, so I called him up and asked him and he said yes.”
Who has played with you on the record? Is it the same band from the Painkillers era?
“Totally different bunch. The drummer is Dave Hidalgo Jr, I’ve got my friend Nick Salisbury on bass, he’s a Motown session guy and then Ian Perkins, who’s been with me in Gaslight and The Horrible Crowes. It was great, a really talented band, much better than me, they pushed me to reach new levels. Only play with people who are better than you, that’s my advice.”
Does the record have a lyrical theme to it?
“Subconsciously there’s a theme, there always is if you write it at one time. It’s not a conscious thing for me, I don’t sit down and think about something, it’s just what comes out. I wanted this one to have a more positive spin. There are some heavy topics, but it’s the good and the bad mixed together with a hopeful ending.”
Where did the title of Sleepwalkers come from?
“I was looking around at the end of recording and how you are in different parts of your life, when you’re your true self. I feel like people are in different worlds, walking between worlds, it’s what you keep protected.”
How about your live plans coming together?
“We’ve got a couple of tours booked and we’re looking to do more. I like to play, I like to work, so if there are shows to play, we’ll play them.”
It’s confirmed that you’re reuniting with the boys in The Gaslight Anthem to celebrate 10 years of The ‘59 Sound. When did that get decided?
“We knew we had this year coming up and that ‘59 Sound was 10 years old. When that comes around you’ve got two choices, you can just ignore it, which says something loudly about how you feel about the record now, or you can celebrate it. So we talked about it and decided to celebrate. We all know that we wouldn’t be anything without that record, I wouldn’t be talking to you now without that record. We just decided to have a birthday party for it. That seemed natural.”
But that’s all it is? A birthday party? Not the start of the next chapter of The Gaslight Anthem?
“No way! Everybody gets straight off the train when you start talking about the future. There’s a lot to that, it’s a big machine to kick back up. We got burned out and we’re being careful about not doing that again. A band like The Gaslight Anthem doesn’t work if everyone’s heart isn’t in it. We can only do what we feel excited about and this tour is that. Adding anymore onto that, we’re not sure and we need to be.”