Ian Perkins and Brian Fallon, The Horrible Crowes
Photo credit Danny Clinch
31 year-old Brian Fallon isn’t the first person who comes to mind when you think “Christian musician.” The fast talking New Jerseyan has been catapulted into the spotlight with the success of his classic-rock inspired indie band The Gaslight Anthem. He started out in the music business in 1997, but didn’t find success until the Gaslight Anthem formed in 2007. The band has been most compared to Bruce Springsteen, but remnants of ‘80s punk and even grunge fill their sound. What you will notice about his music though, is that the lyrics shine with a kind of positivity and depth that isn’t found in much modern rock music. You definitely won’t hear any profanity, a rarity in the genre he is a part of.
For Brian, the reason for that is simple, he is an absolutely devout Christian. His faith permeates all parts of his life, and though he made the decision to play secular music he is committed to his beliefs. He recently released a compelling side-project with his touring guitarist Ian Perkins, called The Horrible Crowes. Together they have produced an album that pulls jointly from the darkness of soul music and the depth of his spiritual insight. The whole project is an engaging listen, taking you through the turns of a broken relationship while bringing to light Fallon’s abilities as a lyricist and a vocalist. The contrast of dark and light is evident throughout, and it is that rare album that tells a story and tells it well.
I was fortunate to catch up with Brian following his appearance on Chuck Ragan’s Revival tour in Europe. We discussed Christianity, the Horrible Crowes, the tour, and more. Interviewing Brian was much like listening to his music – at first take it is a brash and overwhelming experience. But after delving in, there is so much more to hear, from deep spiritual movements to joyous reminders. He is truly a fascinating person to talk to, and I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!
So tell me a little about the tour, it sounded interesting.
Sure, it was a tour that was called the Revival tour, a tour that Chuck Ragan started. He brings a bunch of guys from different bands and they all play acoustic. So, the guys all come out and you learn each other’s songs and you play each other’s songs, and some of the guys have sets by themselves and together. So it’s kind of this big family band kind of thing, and it’s pretty interesting, there’s nothing I’ve ever seen that’s like it before. So it’s kind of cool, it’s a real throwback to the folk festivals of the ‘60s and the traveling families when America was being settled and how people would share songs with each other and things like that. It was a folk revival of things that were past and not done anymore.
When I was a kid it was just me and my mom, and my mom took me to a very small church in New Jersey, in I think it’s Belmont, which is kind of a dumpy town. It was a small wooden church with maybe thirty people. They would play all the really, really old hymns. You would go in there and there wasn’t anything contemporary or modern about it. There were no drums, just a big ole organ and that’s it. Actually it wasn’t a big organ, it was just a ratty old tiny organ. You know, it almost looked like an AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] center, you know what I mean? Like something that someone had rented out rather than something someone had established. It was pretty, and that’s kind of where I grew up, and that’s the first memory I have from being raised in a church. Then all throughout my life that was what we did on Sunday, we just went to church. You know when you do your 15 or 16 year old soul searching, all the infinite wisdom that you have at 16 and 15, you question things and you wonder. I just ended up believing it, but I couldn’t just take my parent’s word, I had to figure it out for myself. But rather than go and shoot a bunch of drugs or anything like that, I was like this is something that I actually want to know about, whether it is or it’s not true. I found it to be true, and I’ve followed it the rest of my life.
How do you go about practicing that now with the extremely busy schedule that the band has?
I think it’s about making time. That’s something that to me is more important than everything that I have to do. My band is my job, and it just happens to be that my job got to be my passion, but it’s like if you’re with your family and have a child, that’s your most important priority. It’s all about your priorities, and I can’t say I always do this, but my priority is definitely with my faith and God. I don’t think that all of this other stuff would have happened had it not been for God, because honestly I don’t understand what makes my songs better than anyone else’s and I don’t know why people like them, and I don’t even know why they come to me. It’s that whole verse “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things be added unto you,” I just really took that to heart and that’s what I believe. So when I go about my day on tour, the guys leave me alone, they don’t bother me about it. I’ve got my Bible and usually I start out the day like that, cup of coffee and read a little Scripture and then go to sound check or an interview or whatever. The other guys, in the beginning when we first started they looked at me like “what are you doing?” you know, “what are you doing with that?” and I’m like “nothing just reading my Bible” and they’re like “alright” (laughing) and now they just think it’s funny. Not in like a making fun of way, they are like “oh there’s old preacher Fallon in the corner” you know?