Everything Brian Fallon does comes from an authentic place. The former Gaslight Anthem frontman, whose third solo album “Local Honey” came out March 27, has long been praised for his storytelling through brutally honest and raw lyrics, as well as his musicianship. That said, it should come as no surprise that the New Jersey native, who is covered from head-to-toe in tattoos, doesn’t have a weak bit of ink on his body. Each piece of art is well thought out, so don’t expect to see any Super Mario coins on his shin or a dated reference to some random movie that he and his drinking buddies thought was cool back in the day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. “I was probably the last of the generation where tattoos were still edgy,” Fallon jokes. “That used to be a thing. Guys were scary if they had tattoos all over. Like, if you saw me coming it was, ‘I better not go near him.’ It’s not what it used to be.”
Before we break into an all out tattoo conversation, let’s focus on the music, which is always front-and-center for the prolific Fallon. “Local Honey” comes out just two years after his previous effort “Sleepwalkers,” but the vibe is quite different. Whereas that album featured an uptempo Motown throwback vibe, this record is stripped down and finds the singer/songwriter at his most vulnerable. The single “You Have Stolen My Heart” is probably the best ballad Fallon ever wrote, while “21 Days” is a hauntingly emotional tale of kicking the habit. The entire album, Fallon explains, is about living in the present. It’s his most reflective record ever. “A lot of time I missed my mark. I go back and I say ‘I wish I talked about this.’ This is the current state,” he explains.
We caught up with Fallon and covered all the bases, from the aforementioned ink to the new album, and where Gaslight Anthem stands at the moment. We even started the convo about his beloved New York Yankees, specifically his all-time favorite Derek Jeter, who, yes, he has immortalized on his skin.
Before we start, I have to ask you, what would you like to say to the Baseball Writers' Association of America voter who didn’t cast his ballot for your beloved Derek Jeter?
It’s a ridiculous thing not to do it. That’s sour grapes. I think there’s a responsibility to take your personal preference and leave it aside or define the reason why. I mean you can’t do that to Derek Jeter. I mean, not Derek Jeter. Everybody loves pizza, right?
Getting to the music…This is your second album in three years. How did you know it was time to record again?
[Typically,] I get a feeling that I want to create something. It’s usually a telling thing like “OK, it’s time to write a record.” I mean the thing is, it’s my job. It’s sort of how I pay my bills. I don’t think people think it is but even with my band, I don’t think people even realize it but we were never as successful financially as [other bands], not by a long shot. So, there’s this element that I have to keep working, too. But, mainly I get that desire to create.
You have an extensive tour you’ve put together not just in the states but in Europe as well. When you’re putting the music together can you see that far ahead? [Editor's Note: This interview was conducted before the world shut down from the pandemic, but the answer is still relevant even if the tour was canceled.]
Performing is the bread and butter. The whole thing is performing. Even while recording it’s about how we’re going to do this live, that’s the overarching theme. Music is always about playing it live.
The last record had such a strong Motown feel to it. This record is so raw and vulnerable. Was that a conscious decision to switch it up?
You sort of try to find a plan of what you want it to sound like and try to achieve that. And it takes its own turn, and you go, “OK.” When you find that balance and it comes together, it’s easier to get your footing. I didn’t plan to make the record like this. I thought I’d just continue doing what the last record did but as I went on, I realized I’ve been wanting to make this record. And I was like maybe I should just do it. It’s now or never. That’s how it worked.
The world is kind of a mess right now. Did it influence the record at all even on a subconscious level?
It’s such a wide thing. Some people attack it directly like, “this is a political song about right now” and it’s appropriate. There are times not to do it. Both sides are valid. I’ve never been a political writer. I’ve never been “and this is this thing I’m doing politically.” I’m also not good at it. Any attempts I would do would sound like third grade. It’s an odd thing. Not enough people give credit that everyone has a thought. You’re lost in your phone. You think a certain way because of how the people you follow on Twitter and the people they follow feel. A small bubble seems so wide. We’re inundated with opinions. It’s a microcosm of humanity. It’s not how everyone thinks.
Obviously, I have to segue to your tattoos. You’re pretty much covered from head to toe. What was your first one?
It was a Bouncing Souls logo. I was probably younger than I should’ve been, 16. I got it on my upper arm so I could hide it. It just meant a lot because it was the first real band that I’d heard on the radio that was local from Jersey. They were this small band that affected me. There were so many local bands that were terrible, but these guys were as good as anybody else and they were right up the road. They showed me anybody could do anything with music and they didn’t have to be from England.
Was there a break between your next couple tattoos?
Yeah. A bunch of years. I loved Social Distortion and Mike Ness was always covered. He was the breaking point for me. He was really into punk. He loved the Germs but also loved Willie Nelson. I thought it was so cool he liked all kinds of [music.] He had tattoos everywhere. I got covered. I’ve had my hands done, my arms, neck, feet, chest, side, ribs… I have above my knees, too. Most people don’t go above the knee.
Is there a theme with your tattoos? Are they mostly music related? Family? Any you regret?
Most of it is music-related. There are a lot to do with family. I grew up down by the shore so there’s ocean stuff. I have tattoos for each of my kids.
I’m sure they’re all personal but what are your most personal ones?
I got the last one a few years ago. I got Tinker Bell for my kid. I’ve got tattoos for each of my kids, so that’s probably the most personal. I don’t have any regrets. I never got anything weird. I’ve got some friends who have some and I’m like “oh boy…” Like a friend who’s like, “I got this tattoo of 311….”
Who does your tattoos and I’m assuming you have one for your hero Jeter?
Yes! I have a Jeter tattoo. A “#2” on my shin for the captain. And I have tattoos done by friends of mine. I’ve had a checks and balances system.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you where Gaslight Anthem stands right now…
We’re doing nothing. If I relate it to tattoos, it’s like you did a good job why mess with it and ruin it? You don’t know if you want to add to it. Even The Clash’s last record wasn’t that good. Joe Strummer’s solo records were, but I mean that last record, I’m not trying to be mean, but maybe we’d be better off without it.