Brian Fallon returned to Reading Festival this weekend under very different circumstances. He was here last year as The Gaslight Anthem played their final show and now, twelve months later, he’s headlining the Festival Republic tent under his own steam. “It was a happy ending,” he starts. “It wasn’t sad. I felt good about that. That was one of the easiest shows we had in a long time because I felt like, I’m just going to do what I’m going to do. I don’t care. I’m not trying to sell the brand or make the thing. I’m going to play songs with my boys and I don’t care if anyone pays attention. It’s just about us.”
That focus on the music and devil-may-care attitude is something Brian has carried over into his solo career. “I’ve learnt how fortunate this is to be doing it the second time, a lot of people only get one chance. A lot of people get no chances. I’m getting a second chance and I’m trying to do what makes me feel good. I do care about what my fans think,” he continues before asking, “Does it make sense to say I want to include them but I don’t do it for them? I do care what they think but everyday, I just try and do what makes me happy onstage. If I don’t and I chase some giant hit, then I might as well work as a mechanic, I could be a lawyer, I’m pretty smart. The way I look at it now, I’m about to work on another record and the way I’m going at it is realising I don’t need to be famous. I don’t need to write a hit song. If I write a song and it becomes a hit song by itself, I’m going to say ok but I’m just going to write what I like. I think I could have a very long career just being honest, writing good songs, putting a lot of effort into it and working hard. I think that’s what I can do. I don’t need to be anybody’s darling.”
His solo work is “so much easier,” than anything he’s done before because there’s absolutely no pressure attached to it. With one song written for his next album (a co-write with Chris Farren) and the rest set to take shape over the next few months, “I love writing records over the fall, its got a moody vibe to it,” Brian has an idea of where he wants to take his music. Not that he’s giving anything away.
“I can’t say yet because it’s too early. I’ve learnt from Gaslight that if I say something too early, everyone moans when it comes out. ‘He said it was going to sound like this and it doesn’t sound anything like that, blah blah blah, it still sounds like Bruce Springsteen.’”
“My goal used to be Bruce Springsteen’s career, being that famous and playing arenas. I don’t care about writing for that now. I’m just writing for me and having a good time. Now my goal is I just want to live a long time and I want to be like Wilco. I don’t know if Wilco’s ever had a top 40 hit, but they play to a lot of people and they do whatever they want. They change and they develop, I love that band’s career so God bless Jeff Tweedy.”
With plans to spend the rest of the day hanging out and sucking in every moment of the festival, Brian now has the chance to appreciate everything that’s going on around him. “It’s a beautiful feeling. With Gaslight, it happened so fast. We did Gaslight, ‘Sink or Swim’, on tour, Señor and the Queen’ , ‘59 Sound’, sign to SideOneDummy, Bruce Springsteen, ‘American Slang’, best band in the world, not the best band in the world, ‘Handwritten’, big huge record, ‘45’ big huge single all over the place, ‘Get Hurt’, everyone hates it. Ok, what do we do? It all happened so fast, that I didn’t get to enjoy one single thing. Nothing, It was so fast and there was so much pressure. Now, I just sit around. I read books, I walk around the festival, I meet people. I don’t know who these people are but I don’t care, maybe they’re great.” Brian then looks over and sees Neil Fallon from Clutch sat on the next sofa. “I like this guy, he’s got the same name as me and what I’m trying to do is stalk him. He plays his guitar with only his fingers and some of the guitar lessons I’ve been doing, I’m trying to learn how to finger pick. I figure if I’m playing folk music, I want to do it right. I want to be good enough. I have a real strong work ethic. If I’m a car mechanic, I’m going to fix that car, man. I’m going to do it right. No shortcuts with me, so I’m going to speak to him about how he does his finger picking and maybe get some knowledge from him.”
Despite a celebrated decade long career, Brian Fallon is still striving to improve. “Dude, if you stop learning you might as well start dying,” he offers. “There’s everything to be learnt, everyday. People in bands, they don’t know. Sometimes you’ll be walking through a venue and you’ll see a guy changing the garbage. Sometimes I’ll stop him and ask him ‘What do you do? What are you into? What records did you grow up on? Where do you live?’ Sometimes the heaviest knowledge has been dropped on me by the people you’d never expect. You’ve got to learn there’s always something to be learned. Not in a selfish way but the reason is, if I learn I can inspire someone else with the knowledge I’ve gained from someone else. You pass it on. I love that tile of Neil Young’s book ‘Waging Heavy Peace’. My whole life changed about three years ago. I got really into Martin Luther King and got heavy, heavy into his philosophy of absolute non-violence. I’m just into it. No reaction, no malice, none of that stuff. Just being a peaceful person, encouraging and bringing inspiration to the world and trying to inject some positivity. That’s not to say I don’t have bad days and I don’t act like a jerk sometimes. I do but I try.”