Interview: Brian Fallon Talks Turning a Midlife Crisis Into a New Album, ‘Local Honey’
Brian Fallon began 2020 by celebrating his 40th birthday in late January. As the milestone inched closer, the Gaslight Anthem frontman -- who spent his late 20s and early 30s earning acclaim with his rock band -- began to feel a sense of unease.
"I don't know so much if it's the number or the aging, but more like that realization that ... I have two little kids now, and they're kind of getting older, and they're in school and stuff. And that happened quickly. And then I quickly went from 27 to 40," Fallon reflects to The Boot. "I don't have enough money to buy a Porsche, so I can't have that kind of midlife crisis, so instead, I had, like, an existential one, where I'm just like, 'I'm gonna die, and everybody's gonna die, and nobody is going to exist ... and my kids are gonna date and they're going to get married and people are going to be mean to them."
"And, you know," he adds, "my head exploded."
It isn't that Fallon was necessarily afraid of getting older, he clarifies; rather, it's that life at 40 doesn't exactly look or feel as he expected it would.
"Getting older, to me, kind of always felt like I was always working up to this anyway, you know? Like, I just felt like, even when I was young, I was kind of already here," he explains, "but now that I'm here, I'm kinda like, 'Wow, I didn't see it like this.' And, you know, it forces you to just think a little bit about the things that are important to you."
For Fallon, those things are his family and the life he's built. And upon reflection, the artist realized he wasn't alone in most of his feelings.
"I think that's another big realization that you have at my age, is you realize that the world and its problems are not unique to you," he says, dryly adding, "Emotional breakdowns are super helpful for [songwriting]."
Fallon also wanted to do something for himself, and for no one else. Whether it was his bandmates, their fans or the media, "I wanted people to approve of what I was doing," he admits. "I've never been somebody who could just say, 'I don't care what you think,' and then walk away."
"There's a huge difference between saying, 'I don't care,' and, 'I'm okay if you don't like this,'" Fallon muses. "And now I feel like I'm okay if I do something that I like that not everyone likes, because I really have to do this for me because, you know, my time and my work and everything, it's finite ... I'm not going to be able to do this forever."
"Now I feel like I'm okay if I do something that I like that not everyone likes, because I really have to do this for me because, you know, my time and my work and everything, it's finite ... I'm not going to be able to do this forever."
Out of Fallon's introspection came Local Honey, an eight-track, folk-leaning solo album, his third since the Gaslight Anthem began what they've deemed an "indefinite hiatus." Going solo or embracing the singer-songwriter scene are tried-and-true paths for rockstars looking for a change, but Fallon says this option never felt like a safe one.
"I didn't even consider that that was the option," he says. "I mean, from where I'm standing, people throw a lot of money out for me to be the rocker."
Still, there's a clear path from the Gaslight Anthem's songs to Fallon's previous solo material to Local Honey, even if it wasn't obvious to him. The melodies have softened, but Fallon's trademark lyrical style hasn't changed -- it's just aged.
"The only guide I've had is where my interests are leading me ... I've never been good at plotting things out and saying, 'Okay, do this, and then I'm going to do that,'" he says. "And I think that, you know, if you go with what you really feel, then you'll be -- you know, it's always worked for me."
"Even in the happy things and even in the things that are incredibly beautiful, they kind of become more beautiful because they're not permanent."
A twinge of reflection-induced sadness runs throughout Local Honey, courtesy of producer Peter Katis, who's worked with, among others, emo rockers Death Cab for Cutie. "He doesn't say like, 'Oh, let's make this more orchestral,' or, 'Let's make it more rock,' or whatever," Fallon recounts. "He just goes, 'Let's make it more sad.'"
After all, Fallon continues, "Even in the happy things and even in the things that are incredibly beautiful, they kind of become more beautiful because they're not permanent."
A New Jersey native still living in the state, Fallon is happy to be exploring his folk influences, but he's not plotting a move South anytime soon. "I love the scene that's down in Nashville and that's in Austin and those different places," he acknowledges, "but at the same time, I have a healthy respect for what people are doing down there and [know] not to insert myself."
"I think that I'm going to stay here and hold it down, you know? I'll be the assistant manager; Bruce [Springsteen] will be the boss," jokes the Springsteen fan. "I'll be the assistant manager and I'll hold it down ... If he needs anything, they'll call me."
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