By Chris Rotolo |
RED BANK – It all started a decade ago, one story beneath the pavement.
With 250 entranced fanatics shoehorned into a New Brunswick basement lawfully fit for less than half that, Brian Fallon stood eye to eye with a reeling heat wave of humanity not even the frigid Hub City winds could pierce.
Fallon and his band the Gaslight Anthem were just weeks removed from the release of “The ’59 Sound,” an impassioned intersection of soul, grit and heartland balladry that by summer’s end would launch the Red Bank native and his counterparts toward international reverence.
Today the 38-year old Fallon is your not-so-average family man, wearing a prideful smile at his daughter’s swim practice.
“It’s weird, because I walk around every day at the Home Depot, or at my kids’ soccer practice; and people will be really excited to see me. And It’s like, ‘I’m just looking for a refrigerator filter,’” Fallon said with a laugh. “It hasn’t infiltrated my brain yet that there’s an outside influence of this music that carries on after the show is over. It’s a special thing, and I don’t take that for granted.”
On Friday, Oct. 5, Fallon will kick off a solo tour, a jaunt around the states he will share with lauded Hold Steady leader Craig Finn, at his hometown haunt The Count Basie Center for the Arts.
For the first time Fallon will take the stage not as a frontman, but as the only man: a single voice under a white-hot spotlight with his heart laid bare for all to see.
“The nerves are never totally gone, because there’s always something in you being tested every time you go out. But after a while, you get used to certain things, and you sort of know what to expect,” Fallon said.
Though the anniversary of “The ’59 Sound” is still looming, Fallon said The Gaslight Anthem’s coinciding celebratory mini-tour, which wrapped in August with a weekend run at the Stone Pony Summer Stage, closed that chapter of his musical career, while Friday evening at The Basie will be the first blank page in a brand new one.
“After all the dust has settled in my life, and as I’m getting older, I’m seeing that you go through phases, and this feels like the next phase for me. It’s something I’ve never really done before and I’m thrilled and afraid at the same time.”
“I feel like I can ground myself again,” Fallon said of the solo run. These shows are important for me. I’ve always said that when I play a show it’s 50/50. It’s half for me and half for the audience. But I feel like that might not be the case here. I hope everyone enjoys the performance, but I gotta to do these shows for myself, to feel comfortable again.”
Following a critically panned but commercially successful 2014 full-length effort, “Get Hurt,” composed of material inspired by the divorce of Fallon and his wife of 10-years, The Gaslight Anthem announced a hiatus in 2015, one that briefly ended earlier this summer.
In the wake of that break, Fallon cut a pair of well-received solo records – “Painkillers” (2015) and “Sleepwalkers” (2018) – on which he explored his roots as a Central Jersey songwriter brought up on a mix of Motown staples, classic-rock royalty and ‘90s grunge-punk.
It was during this stint Fallon said his solo path became clear.
“I came to a place in my life where there wasn’t another choice, because any other option won’t let you feel like yourself. It would be disingenuous,” Fallon said of an internal emotional struggle that led to the band’s separation, and his current individual endeavor.
“The only option is to follow this unknown path. And I have no idea if this is gonna work out, but that’s OK. Because that’s where you were when you first started.”
Fallon said he jumped in with both feet back in January, when he delivered a poorly kept secret solo performance at The Basie, a trial run of sorts, before returning to the scene on Friday.
He said he feels a special connection to the theater, a bond rooted in both musical and familial history.
“When I was a kid living in Red Bank, my grandmother would tell me stories about shows she saw there, big band stuff and of course Count Basie. It’s a place that’s been in my life forever, and somewhere I always wanted to play.”
Fallon also expanded on personal experiences he’s had at the venue, including a haunting showcase in November 2013, when the late Soundgarden founder Chris Cornell delivered a career-spanning performance in a similar solo setting, a display he said influenced him to make his own stand at The Basie.
“I’ve been a Soundgarden fan for a long time, and that was a different animal,” Fallon said. “To see him up there by himself doing all these songs I’ve known forever; for me it added another layer to his personality and capability as a songwriter.”
“That was a very special moment, and it made me realize that one day I wanted to do something like that. Just go up there and sit down with nothing to hide behind, and tell the stories of the songs and your life. You can share your soul with an audience, and without all the lights and sound it comes through much clearer.”
Limited tickets for the event are still available at thebasie.org or by visiting The Count Basie Center for the Arts box office at 99 Monmouth St.
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