“I feel that in my career, everything I’ve hinted at, from Sink Or Swim to The ’59 Sound to playing with Bruce and all that stuff, everything has been a hint and a partial viewing to what I truly hear in my heart and I’m trying to do. And I’ve never achieved it, and I’m demanding of myself that it will happen.” Brian Fallon told us that just over a year ago. So today, as we read those words back to him when we meet in the cafe of London’s Rough Trade East record shop to discuss his new solo album Local Honey, we have to ask him – did it happen?
“I feel that this is step one,” he smiles. “The door is now opened, walked through. I have no choice but to walk forwards. I honestly feel that when I’m done making records this will have been day one. And it felt good though to get there, personally. Even if the record didn’t do well, I feel like I’ve achieved something already.”
If this is a new start for the Gaslight Anthem chief, it’s quite a statement to begin with. Local Honey is eight songs but feels complete because its writer makes every moment of them count; in place of the punk rock fire of old there’s a restraint and striking honesty that feels just as powerful. But it could only have come from a sea-change in Fallon’s approach as a player and a person.
“If I hadn’t done all those lessons I would not have been able to play or write the songs,” Fallon admits to us. Last time TG met the New Jersey songwriter, he told us he was deep into a quest to improve and learn more as a guitarist – aside from mainstay influences like Dylan and Tom Waits, he was absorbing knowledge from diverse sources including Mark Knopfler’s fingerstyle and YouTuber John Tuggle’s blues technique. But Fallon had also began playing piano live, too, reworking Gaslight favourite The ’59 Sound alongside his varied solo work to spine-tingling effect. Local Honey now sees all that time paying off. Big time. The album is a detailed but moving work that mixes acoustic fingerpicking with layers of electric and keys to sidestep genre pigeon-holing. Somehow he’s managed to carve out something unique and contemporary for himself alongside The National and The War On Drugs producer Peter Katis. This isn’t Brian Fallon’s rootsy Americana album. “If you left me to my own devices it would probably be more traditional,” he admits. “There would have been fiddles on it. I think that’s why I went to Peter. I think people make traditional Americana records better than I could. I didn’t want to compete. Because I’m the kind of person where if I can’t at least do well, I don’t want to compete. I’m not going to run you in a race because I can’t run.”
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