When I first get a hold of Brian Fallon, he is is drinking down the remains of his morning coffee from his eclectic Starbucks mug collection. “The official interview cup for today is Atlanta, Georgia” he tells me. It reminds me of Brendan O’Brien and Butch Walker.” Butch Walker, who worked on Brian’s solo album, Painkillers, becomes a talking point of our lighthearted conversation, which is doused with equal parts humor, sarcasm, and earnest answers that could only come from the mind of a singer- songwriter, as talented and sincere as Brian.
At times, The Gaslight Anthem frontman turned solo artist can be self-deprecating, but it only adds to the appeal of the 36 year-old folk punk musician. In 2014, the Gaslight Anthem released Get Hurt, a reactionary record that was inspired by Brian’s divorce to his wife of a decade. The record reached number one on the Billboard Alternative Albums chart and found critics coining Brian “The Next Bruce Springsteen”. Feeling the pressure to immediately follow up their critically acclaimed record, the Gaslight Anthem went on hiatus, leaving room for Brian to create Painkillers, his first solo record to date. The album was released on March 11th, 2016 through Island Records.
“What was it like working with Butch Walker on the new record?” I ask, curious about the versatile musician turned producer who’s put out some of the best albums in the world.
“That’s the thing about Butch. He works on Fall Out Boy and Pink and everything, and then he can work on a stripped-down record like mine. And he’s very handsome, I’ll tell you that. It’s distracting. He’s oddly good looking. There’s people you see who are good looking and then there’s really good looking people, and you know, sometimes I get dressed in the morning and think, ‘I shaved, I did my hair, I look nice’. But Butch Walker is so good looking, it’s intimidating. And then on top of that he can play every instrument there is. If you’re good looking, you shouldn’t be good at anything, right? That’s just not fair.
I am actually going to tell you a list of people I am mad at right now for being more talented than me. And when I say I’m angry at these people, I just mean I love them very, very much. This is a list of people who I’m insanely jealous of.”
“Oh I can’t wait for this one”, I tell Brian, chuckling at what’s to come.
“Bruce Springsteen. Tom Petty. Bryan Adams. David Beckham. Butch Walker. Jason Isbel. Brandon Kelly from the Lawrence Arms. Brandon is the best lyricist of punk rock, he’s the Bob Dylan of punk rock.”
That’s a great list. Look, you’ve made a lot of inspiring music with the Gaslight Anthem and the Horrible Crowes, and now you’ve done it again with your first solo record Painkillers. Would you say the album has similar themes to Gaslight Anthem’s Get Hurt or do you feel like you’ve gone in a new direction with this record?
Brian: Whenever I run the last song on the record, that’s a done deal. It’s like when the credits roll in a movie. This one and the other have nothing to do with each other, I wouldn’t want to paint the same picture over and over again.
What do you think of social media? I know you’ve taken breaks from it in the past.
Brian: I use it for fun, I use it to market stuff because you sort of have to get hands on. I never answer private messages, I don’t even check. I like to use social media to promote things, I like to Tweet the most insanely absurd thing I can say then see people answer it, I think it’s funny. I used it to recommend bands. People gave me breaks so I try to do the same. Some of the people in my life have a lot more fans than me like Butch Walker and Frank Turner. Frank Turner’s one of the best guys ever.
Frank Turner is incredible. “Photosynthesis” is one of the best songs there is.
Brian: Have you ever seen Frank Turner put on a bad show?
Of course, not. You gotta tour with him!
Brian: Tell him to take me out. That would be great. That’s another good looking person to add to my list. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] You should be a stand up comedian.
Brian: Maybe. I’m one of the least judgy people. If you told me, ‘I’m going to live on Mars to shoot plastic surgery in my face’, I’d be like, ‘That’s cool, whatever makes you happy’
Would you live on Mars?