Published Mar 10, 2016Brian Fallon says it's a relief to start from scratch as the New Jersey singer-songwriter prepares to release his debut solo album, Painkillers. And while the future of his band, the Gaslight Anthem — on indefinite hiatus since last July — remains unclear, Fallon's attitude suggests new projects could help revitalize the group's lagging inspiration.
"It's a beautiful thing, to start over," he tells Exclaim! while getting ready for a six-week tour in support of Painkillers, out March 11 on Island. "The real thing with the Gaslight Anthem is coming up with an idea that we all feel good about, not driving it into the ground and beating people over the head with it record after record. I think giving it time to breathe will help... learning to just be a band again."
Recorded in Nashville in late 2015 with producer Butch Walker (Taylor Swift, Panic! at the Disco, Weezer), Painkillers sees Fallon draw from the heroes of his early life — Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty — for an album he says was meant to reaffirm himself as a singer-songwriter, rather than the frontman for a rock band.
"I was going back to where I started with learning how to write songs, and learning the guitar, and becoming my musical self," he says.
Perhaps more importantly, Fallon says, taking the step out into solo work relieved the pressure that he felt in the Gaslight Anthem. While Painkillers' approaching street date hasn't gone unnoticed, it hasn't been nearly as hyped as the band's new records were in their time.
"I knew there weren't going to be as many eyes on it. When there's not as many people in the room, you feel more comfortable. I could breathe a little bit better, and I slowed everything down, mentally," he says. "I felt more comfortable in my own skin and at the same time I wasn't having the pressure of the Gaslight Anthem — which is a lot of pressure when we put out a record, because a lot of people are looking at it."
Painkillers features an array of vintage-sounding styles, like the classic rock vibe on singles "A Wonderful Life" and "Smoke," the gentle folk feel on "Steve McQueen" and "Honey Magnolia," the country twang on "Long Drives" or the bluesy "Mojo Hand."
Fallon says that since the Gaslight Anthem announced their hiatus, he's been using the time away to reconnect with himself as a musician — and that's what the band will have to do if and when they reunite.
"If you start paying attention to the pressure, no matter who you are, it'll make it more difficult to write your songs," he says. "You have to learn to quiet your mind and remember why you started doing music."
Fallon's tour will take him across North America and Europe this spring. His backing band features Alex Rosamilia (of the Gaslight Anthem), Ian Perkins (of the Horrible Crowes) and Catherine Popper (of Molly and the Zombies). You can see all the dates below.
03/11 Boston, MA - Royale Boston
03/12 Sayreville, NJ - Starland Ballroom
03/13 Toronto, ON - The Opera House
03/15 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
03/17 Austin, TX - SXSW
03/18 Milwaukee, WI - Tuner Hall Ballroom
03/19 Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theater
03/30 Chicago, IL - House of Blues
03/22 Kansas City, MO - The Riot Room
03/23 Denver, CO - The Summit Music Hall
03/25 San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall
03/26 San Diego, CA - House of Blues
04/05 Manchester, UK - O2 Ritz
04/06 Glasgow, UK - O2 ABC
04/07 Birmingham, UK - O2 Institute
04/08 London, UK - KOKO
04/09 Nottingham, UK - Rock City
04/10 Bristol, UK - O2 Academy
04/11 London, UK - St. Pancras Old Church
04/12 Antwerpen, Belgium - Zappa
04/13 Amsterdam, Netherlands - Melkweg the Max
04/14 Berlin, Germany - Astra Kulturhaus
04/15 Munich, Germany - Muffathalle
04/17 Bezirk-Landstrasse, Austria - Arena Wien
04/19 Köln, Germany - Gloria Theater
04/20 Hamburg, Germany - Fabrik