Brian Fallon is at a fork in the road as he releases his third solo LP, ‘Local Honey’. His heady days rolling with Bruce Springsteen and pummeling festival main stages every summer fronting The Gaslight Anthem are behind him, and the mainstream success that band flirted with is in the rearview mirror.
Chatting ahead of the new record’s release, Fallon is quick to draw a definitive line under Gaslight’s 2018 anniversary shows. “That was just a one-time thing,” he affirms, politely but unequivocally. “We wanted to do it just to wrap that thing up and say okay, we’re acknowledging this record and we’ll go one more time. Because the last tour we did we announced after the tour had started [that the band was going on hiatus]. So I think that  was that chance to say, we’re gonna do this tour to celebrate this record. And then also it’s your chance to come see us if you wanted to.” That chapter is closed then? “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see anything else to be done.” Oof.
That clarity may have informed the most restrained record Fallon has put his name on, ‘Local Honey’ sparse at eight tracks and resisting the louder heartland-rock sound that continued in the first two stanzas of his solo career. The album rests on carefully picked acoustic guitars, delicate piano and gently brushed drum skins, Fallon’s vocal never aiming further than the microphone. “I did not intend to do that,” he admits. “It was something I’ve been working on for a long time in my head. The idea of making a loud record right now just didn’t feel like it was working. I was making demos of some songs, and some of them were loud, the tempos were faster, and it seemed instead of like, getting more exciting, they were getting less exciting.”
Expanding on this, Brian picks two groups to illustrate how the record ended up softer, more acoustic than his past releases. “If I watch a young band, like Slaves, I really like that band. They’re wild, they’re shirtless jumping on the stage. Sometimes they’re bleeding, it’s loud. It’s awesome. To me? I get excited when I see that. But then I go and watch the Grammys, and I see Aerosmith.” Fallon pauses to stifle a chuckle. “I would rather do anything, but be in that band. And I feel like I don’t want to ever be in Aerosmith and it’s funny because when I was a kid I used to think Aerosmith was insane, these are crazy people, these are animals, playing the wildest rock and roll. And what I feel like is I’m not young enough to be like Slaves, but I’m not old enough to be Aerosmith, but I definitely don’t want to go on this Aerosmith vibe, so I’m getting out of this thing… I gotta get out of the ship. I’m doing something different completely, because I can’t fit in either world.”
And while this may have steered Fallon away from things he didn’t want to create, where the record landed is more down to fate than a grand design. “I guess that you don’t have control over what you get. You get the book you’re given. You don’t get the book you want to write.”
Writing more directly about life as he’s living it, rather than the romantic vignettes of his Gaslight days, the music naturally took a more introspective tone, with quieter arrangements and plenty of space between individual instruments. “You create a world around yourself with the music. If you have a loud sound, it wants to be a loud statement or something that’s a big statement,” Fallon elaborates. “And when I’m sitting there by myself, a piano or a guitar and it’s quiet, it lends itself to digging around in the other parts of your mind that maybe would be more contemplative and just immediate.”
The album opens with ‘When You’re Ready’, imagining his children growing up and flying the nest, with Fallon’s narrator convincing himself to allow them to make their own mistakes just as he surely did (why else all those heartbroken songs for Maria?). ‘Horses’ is a hymn of hope and resilience, moving forward past strife and into a brighter tomorrow.
“It’s talking about people’s lives in general and what they feel matters to them. And for some reason, my grandmother always liked to watch the horses run. When I see the animal, there’s something that seems otherworldly to me, like they know something more than we do. Maybe they’re connected to something that we’re not connected with. In mythology and in poetry, they represent lots of things, but they also have been used to carry people’s souls, and they seem to know something more than meets the eye.” He’s on a roll now, “You look at the animal in their face, and you can see their eyes are very black, but that’s not frightening, horses don’t seem that way. They seem inviting, like they almost care about you. It’s very odd, they’re a mystifying animal.”
Pulling back from the source of the metaphor for a moment to reflect on his own interpretation, Fallon continues, “It’s looking at your life at the moment and saying we don’t mind the weight we carry, it’s not so bad. There are things that we have to do to get by and then also in a positive way to say…” After a moment Fallon regains his train of thought, “I don’t talk about wasted years, I don’t. There’s a lot of mistakes that go on, but I don’t dwell on those. Just keep trying to move forward. It’s about living a good life and finding peace and happiness in what you have today, not some kind of undefinable future… or some regrettable past.”
‘Local Honey’ is also Brian’s first release in a decade not to be associated with a major record label, a decision that Fallon took himself. “I started to think, I’ve had a long career, but I don’t own anything that I’ve done. I own nothing.
“It’s as if I’ve written seven books, and I don’t own any of them. And I got, not upset about it, but I just started thinking, I’m not sure that’s the best way to do this, the best investment to make in my kids’ future, or in my future. And I think for me that works better because I’m not trying to be the next celebrity. I’ve got it, those days are done for me. I don’t really want to do that, it’s more about the creation. Will I sell fewer records? I don’t know. But, at the end of the day, it’s mine. So at least I can say, that’s my record.”
Not that he thinks his old major would have vetoed the album entirely for its style and substance. “Would they have let me? Sure. But I think it would have gotten completely lost, because I don’t know that there are any radio songs. They have a lot of records to put out. It’s just a different kind of machine, and when you’re a big company, you have to think about that stuff.”
If the record seems short at eight tracks, that’s because Brian, always considerate, doesn’t want to weigh the listener down with too many of these slow-burning songs. “I don’t think that’s a place you wanna stay in all day. It’s a heavy record, and some of the subject matter is really heavy. You don’t want to sit through a record like that because it’s really hard emotionally. It costs you something emotionally to listen to, to feel that and empathise.”
It’s a wise choice; these songs reveal more with every spin, and the fact the tracklisting and recordings aren’t too crowded allows the listener to pick apart the craft of the compositions with repeated listens. “And also, you know, people are running around a lot today, and they’re busy,” Brian jokes “I’m not trying to make them sit down for an hour and a half and listen to a record because I don’t think anybody has the time for that.”
It’s unlikely he could ever have put out this kind of album earlier in his career, and it’s cleverly put together, not demanding too much of the listener on first glance but rewarding them more with each revisit. ‘Local Honey’ is a fine addition to Fallon’s oeuvre that only strengthens his overflowing pile of classic songs ahead of a world tour later this year.
Taken from the April issue of Upset. Brian Fallon’s album ‘Local Honey’ is out 27th March.