When Brian Fallon was young, he sounded like an old soul. “In my head there’s all these classic cars and outlaw cowboy bands / I always kinda sorta wished I was someone else,” Fallon sings wistfully in “High Lonesome,” a rousing highlight from his 2008 breakthrough LP with the Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound. While he was only in his late twenties at the time, Fallon’s voice was already weathered and roomy, like an old Cadillac that’s rough around the edges. Inevitably, the New Jersey native came to the attention of Bruce Springsteen, to whom Fallon was endlessly compared, and the Boss offered his implicit endorsement by appearing several times with the Gaslight Anthem on stage.
“Where do you put that in your life?” Fallon wondered aloud when I phoned him earlier this month. “What are you supposed to do after that? How can you live up to that?”
For Fallon, now 37, life after The ’59 Sound has occasionally been fraught with self-doubt and crises over his artistic identity. While The Gaslight Anthem went on to have a successful career, eventually signing with Mercury Records in the early 2010s and releasing three top 20 albums (including two LPs, 2012’s Handwritten and 2014’s Get Hurt, that debuted in the top five), the band was eventually ground down by an endless album-tour cycle that necessitated an indefinite hiatus in 2015. The following year, Fallon released a solo debut, Painkillers, rebooting himself as Americana-style singer-songwriter and dramatically dialing down the arena-punk bombast of the late-period Gaslight Anthem albums.
Judging by his sophomore solo LP Sleepwalkers, out Feb. 9, Fallon seems to have finally found his groove outside of the Gaslight Anthem. Retaining the rootsiness of Painkillers and adding a heavy dose of R&B and heartland rock — both of which were latent influences on his writing for the Gaslight Anthem but largely obscured by the band’s punk posturing — Fallon manages to both evoke the charming classic-rock worship of The ’59 Sound while also seeming more assured in the guise of the “mature solo artist.”
In conversation, Fallon is refreshingly candid about the peaks and valleys of his carer, as well as his (mostly positive) feelings about The ’59 Sound, which The Gaslight Anthem will celebrate with a 10th anniversary show at Governors Ball in New York City in June, the band’s first gig in three years. (Other anniversary shows will also be announced soon.) At this point, he’s grateful to have survived a bumpy, sometimes tumultuous decade in the spotlight.