Three years ago, Brian Fallon truly believed the world was his oyster. His scruffy, Bruce Springsteen-inspired New Jersey outfit The Gaslight Anthem had received so much praise for its sophomore masterpiece “The ’59 Sound,” it caught the attention of The Boss himself, who joined the group onstage during shared English-festival bills. The band was picked to click, and the singer relocated to New York in anticpation of superstardom. But when a musically adventurous 2010 follow-up “American Slang” fizzled, Fallon was dumbfounded. After soul-searching, he returned to the Jersey shore and his punk-rock roots with the barnstorming new “Handwritten.”
Last year, The Horrible Crowes, your acoustic duo with Gaslight guitar tech Ian Perkins, issued its debut recording, “Elsie.” Did that help you decompress?
Yeah. We were off tour and I was like, “What am I going to do? I still have all this stuff to say and nowhere to put it out. So I’ll do this music that I was inspired by, like The Afghan Whigs or Lyle Lovett — a more slow, moody, brooding kind of thing.” That really helped me regain my focus. Like, it doesn’t matter whether we’re the next big thing or not — who cares? I did this to get stuff off my chest and relate to a community of people who could understand me. So The Crowes pushed me forward to get to this record.
But penning the song “45” got “Handwritten” up and running with producer Brendan O’Brien?
Totally. That was the metaphor for everything that had happened, and it was kind of a dual story — it was about this really gnarly breakup I had when I was 17, and also a metaphor for what was going on at the time. Like, “There’s no other way to get past this other than to flip it all over,” and it seemed like the most simple, basic way to say it.
How did you wind up on a Jones Soda bottle, posing beside Phil Lynott’s statue in Dublin?
Jones asked us and said, “Hey, we’re doing this package of punk bands, with Bad Religion and some others.” And all these guys were sending in their press photos, so we were in Ireland that day and thought, “Let’s send the worst photo we can find of the coolest thing,” so we took a picture of us next to our favorite thing — Thin Lizzy. That’s a punk thing that’ll never go away with us — just not taking yourself too seriously, because this is all candy. I get to play guitar for a living, and I used to be a roofer, and roofing sucks.