Musician Brian Fallon: Happy With “the Bruce Thing”

We chat with Gaslight Anthem front man Brian Fallon about his Jersey roots, his band's upcoming European tour, and "the Bruce thing" he has no desire to shake.

Nigel Treblin/AP Photo.

Bruce Springsteen is so enamored of the New Brunswick-bred band Gaslight Anthem that he joined them onstage at the 2009 Glastonbury Festival in England and later offered them an opening slot on his tour. The band, whose musical debt to Springsteen is no secret, has since released three albums (a fourth is in the works) and earned enough musical credibility to escape Bruce’s shadow.

As front man Brian Fallon, of Fair Haven, says, they can now “wear their own shoes.” In September, Fallon, 31, set out on a month-long Gaslight Anthem tour of Europe with fellow Jersey guys Benny Horowitz (drums), Alex Levine (bass) and Alex Rosamilia (guitars). Fallon also released Elsie, the debut album by his spinoff band, Horrible Crowes.

Would you like to get away from the Springsteen references?

No, I wouldn’t try to get away from that. That’s my M.O., the Bruce thing. Why wouldn’t I like it? I’m from New Jersey, the Shore and Asbury Park and all that goes with that. I wouldn’t want to mess around with that. I like New Jersey. There are nice people here.

Is Elsie, with the Horrible Crowes, a less Jersey kind of album than your GA projects? It’s rumored to be darker.

It’s kind of all over the place, actually. It’s just different. When you write a lot of songs, sometimes you don’t have a place for them and you need an outlet for them. I had a desire to do this other kind of music.

You are back in New Jersey after more than a year of living in Brooklyn. How does it feel?

It’s good. Fair Haven is right next to Red Bank, which is where I grew up. It’s my town. I came back home.

What brought you back?

New York was not so cool, actually. It’s not my scene. I actually never picked [Brooklyn] as a place to live. My wife is from the Bronx, and she found it without me—I was on tour or something. You can’t staple me to the Brooklyn hipster. I don’t buy skinny jeans and $50 T-shirts. I wear the same clothes I’ve always worn, from Target. I spend my money on cars. That’s why I have a Challenger. It’s a muscle car, like a Mustang. It’s big and rumbly.

You’re also a fisherman.

I’m not like a real fisherman, but I do it as much as I can. I catch fish and bring them home and we eat them. Mostly fluke or bluefish. Sometimes bass.

What did you listen to growing up?

I listened to the radio, and I guess around 1987 probably The Joshua Tree [by U2] was on the radio a lot. My mom listened to the ’50s station, so I got a lot of that stuff. And there was some Billy Joel.

Did all that influence you?

No. You listen to things, but not everything influences you. It’s like with paintings—not everything an artist sees is an influence. You put a fence around certain things. You let some things in, but not others.

What do your parents think of your career choice—and all those tattoos?

They love what I do. They live maybe 45 minutes from me, in Edison. My mom was a musician [in a folk band]. I never really got that much grief from my parents about anything—they let me experiment, so I wasn’t that rebellious. I could stay out as long as I wanted, as long as I got up for school the next morning. That way you learn that if you did something bad, something bad would happen. And I wasn’t really yanking the leash. I started getting tattoos when I was 17, 18, and my parents’ quote was, “At least you’re not doing drugs.” They said, “You look weird, but that’s okay.”

Do you have a bigger following in Europe with GA than you do at home?

If you’re talking about Minneapolis or Denver or Toledo, then yeah; but not New York or L.A. or Chicago. We do better in the big cities. In Europe, we definitely got big in England first, and I don’t know why. We’re not that handsome.

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