Breaking up is hard to do. Owning up can be even harder.
That’s how it is for Gaslight Anthem leader Brian Fallon, anyway. Even though his band’s fifth full-length Get Hurt was informed by his divorce, the singer-guitarist is reluctant to admit he’s made a breakup album.
“Um, that depends on what day you ask me,” the 34-year-old New Jersey native hedges. “It is what happened during that period. And a lot of the stuff in there is about that. A lot of it is about my frustration and my struggle … But I’ll tell you one thing: It’s not (Bob Dylan’s) Blood on the Tracks, that’s for sure. The record is not that. But I’m, uh, developing my opinions as I go.”
It’s not the only development. The disc also showcases a few new wrinkles in Fallon’s songwriting — more metallic guitars, poppier choruses and sonic experimentation — as he continues to evolve beyond the Clash-meets-Springsteen heartland punk of previous releases like The ’59 Sound and American Slang.
With Get Hurt debuting in the top five on Billboard’s album chart, and with the band touring north of the border in September, Fallon weighed in on the Kardashians, turning tragedy into art and how much attention he pays to Robin Thicke. Some highlights:
Congrats on the new album, and condolences on what’s behind it. There’s got be an easier way to get material.
Well, the record is what I did during difficulties. But I wouldn’t say the record is directly about the difficulties — not as much as people think. I’m not writing a news column. It’s not like, here’s the details and here’s the street name. It’s not the Kardashians, it’s a band. I want to write songs people can relate to right away. But I try to write in a broader sense. So it may seem very specific, but it’s not necessarily about the things you think. It’s a funny way of trying to articulate yourself in a song, and sometimes it’s very difficult.
When it was all happening, did you think: Well, this sucks, but it’s gonna make a great record?
Nah, I don’t look at it that way. And I don’t think it works that way. That’s just a weird thing people say to musicians. I would hope people could create art out of things other than just tragedy.
Sure, but people say heartbreak and tragedy provide the best inspiration. What do you think?
I think my thoughts are changing as I go. (Laughs) I’m sitting here talking from one point of view today, but that may change in the future. I’ll tell you in three years; that’s when I usually know the meaning behind what I’ve written about. My feelings about writing change all the time, especially from record to record.
Will these songs be hard to perform because of what’s behind them?
Nah. You work through whatever you’re going through at the time you write them. Once you have something done that people are resonating to, it almost becomes more about the people that you’re singing to and what it means to them.
So you don’t have to revisit those emotions every night?
I used to think that was the only way to do it; to relive the song every day on the stage. But not any more. I think you have to mean it, and as long as you mean it, you’re all right.
Well, this album shouldn’t hurt your chances with women. You come off very sympathetic.
(Laughs) Don’t be too quick to judge who’s sympathetic, if you know what I mean. You never can tell. There’s always, like, 40 sides to every story.
I think everyone’s just glad you didn’t pull a Robin Thicke.
Why? What did he do?
He named his album Paula after his ex and spent the whole disc trying to win her back.
Really? Wow. That’s funny. I guess that’s what he needed to do. I hadn’t heard that! I really don’t pay attention to Robin Thicke. (Laughs)