A decade ago, Brian Fallon was at the helm of the hard-charging Gaslight Anthem, a band on the cusp of releasing a praised third album after 2008’s The ’59 Sound won them accolades and huge audiences. Their blend of punk, blues and heartland rock drew them to a wide range of fans, with favorable comparison to classic bands being the norm.
But even with this louder success, Fallon always wanted to turn inward.
Fallon tried to make a more reserved album in 2010 as part of a side project after Gaslight Anthem finished American Slang. Though Gaslight would release two more albums before going on a semi-permanent hiatus (a 2018 tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of The ’59 Sound withstanding), he didn’t give up on doing that type of album.
It was this template that became the structure for Local Honey, a singer/songwriter album that’s powered by his stark storytelling, channeling the stresses of the modern-day.
“It was heavy for me,” Fallon says. “There were a lot of things I was trying to work out any cohesive things that were going on in my head — it just seems like a difficult, heavy time.”
Now with two young kids (7 and 3 1/2) and having turned 40, parenthood has caused Fallon’s perspective of the world to evolve.
“For one thing, I learned I don’t know anything,” he says. “A lot of the things that changed now where people have so many varied opinions and they want to be respected…they want to feel dignified, and I’ve found that I have to listen so much more intently since I’ve been a parent. It’s helped me in the world too.”
All of these perspectives were harnessed on Local Honey — particularly on “21 Days.” Here, Fallon traces what it’s like to be going through withdrawals after quitting smoking. Ultimately, the song went into other things that took on a greater meaning. But getting to that point was all part of the journey.
“I was writing that just as I stopped — within the first couple of months,” he says of the song. “I actually had to go to a therapist for this, as I tried to quit a few times and it didn’t work. There was this hypnosis thing I went to, which was weird. I fell asleep the whole time. Then I went to a real legit therapist and they went into why I smoke and how it’s self-destructive and controlling you. I started thinking about all these things and, I took a deep dive into my own head. There was this thing they said that it takes 21 days to break a habit. If you can set yourself a goal that’s manageable — once you can achieve that goal, it instills this tiny spark of courage that you can do that again.”
Having more time to craft his ideas allowed Fallon to produce something that he envisioned back in 2010. Having 10 years or so to fully flesh out what he wanted to do with the record didn’t hurt either.
“You always feel a little bit uncomfortable when you do a record, but I feel pretty good about where I’m at,” he says. “Meaning like I think I’m on some kind of the right path. I was talking to a friend of mine who said ‘It feels like this is your first one on your own even though it’s not. It feels like you’re starting something that you can grow on.’ I said ‘I hope so, because it took me long enough to do.'”
As for the Gaslight Anthem, don’t expect activity from them anytime soon. Fallon enjoyed the band’s 2018 tour to celebrate The ’59 Sound‘s 10th anniversary, but their hiatus remains in place.
“It’s a complex thing,” he says. “No one has any ideas to offer more musically, and that’s the biggest rub. I’m a big fan of The Replacements and The Clash. There were a couple of last-minute bursts at the end there where even they said themselves that they rather wish they didn’t do. I really don’t want to add anything that’s not 100% to it. We all feel that way — at least from the talks we’ve had. The other hard thing that makes it complex is that if you go out a lot and do the ‘Hey, we got these records and now we’re going to tour,’ it feels like you’re playing a jukebox tour.”
Having a family has put things in perspective for Fallon, and it’s also tempered the desire to play huge shows with the band as opposed to what he’s doing now.
“I don’t feel like a rock ‘n’ roll person right now,” Fallon says. “I don’t feel like with what I do every day that I can be like ‘C’mon Cleveland! Clap your hands.’ If you would’ve asked me around 2011, I would’ve been like ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do — play arenas.’ Now? I don’t want any of that. There’s too much that comes with it, and I don’t feel like I can do that genuinely. I can’t go up there and lie to people.”
But for now, Fallon is excited that he’s managed to persevere and boldly carve out a solo career that wouldn’t have seemed plausible a decade ago.
“In the position that I’ve been in now, I realize where it’s fortunate,” he says. “I’m 40 years old and I have a 12, 13-year career of people who followed these ups and downs and turns. And they’re still going and I can feed my kids because I can play a show in a theater, which is really cool for me. Sometimes I go, ‘I’m glad I stuck with it.’ I’m glad I finally got the snapshot of my current moment in life and that feels good to have gotten that done.”