Brian Fallon rose to fame as the front man for The Gaslight Anthem, a New Jersey-based rock band that earned international recognition (and praise from one of Fallon's heroes, Bruce Springsteen) with their critically-acclaimed 2008 album The 59 Sound, a rowdy collection of soulful punk tunes. Fallon's latest album, Local Honey (out March 27 via Lesser Known Records), is quieter and calmer -- though no less captivating -- than the album that changed everything for the now 40-year-old father of two. But it's also a return to the music that shaped him as a songwriter.
"I grew up on the hymns in church that my mom would sing and folk music, like Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. That was my first introduction to any kind of music because it was what my mom would play on the guitar at home and she would sing," Fallon tells Wide Open Country. "So when I got into [Gaslight Anthem], I said 'I don't know how to do anything other than this...These are just, like, folk and country songs that I'm writing.' The guys said, 'Well, cool. You just bring them like that and we'll make them louder songs.'"
Though he's recorded stripped-down songs with The Gaslight Anthem (the hushed, gorgeous "Here's Looking At You, Kid") and previous solo albums, 2016's Painkillers and 2018's Sleepwalkers, Fallon says the transition from those "louder songs" to the intimate songs of Local Honey was daunting.
"It's something that I've always wanted to do, but I don't know if I had the courage to do it, to be honest with you -- just to just lay everything bare and say 'These are my songs. Here's the stories' and they're not propelled by yelling or loud drums or guitars or anything," Fallon says.
For Local Honey, Fallon worked with producer Peter Katis (The National, Death Cab for Cutie) to create an album unlike anything he's recorded.
"Everything was just like as if I was playing it in my bedroom, just me and a guitar or me and a piano," Fallon says. "Then we started building everything around it so that the heart of the song never got lost."
He says wanted to capture the sound of Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball and Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind, two albums helmed by visionary producer Daniel Lanois. ("That was a huge key," Fallon says. "Those two records -- that's what it should sound like.")
The singer-songwriter also gives a nod to Dolly Parton on the story song and album standout "Vincent," which begins with the lyric "My name is Jolene, but I hate that song."
Fallon says the line was inspired by his daughter, Layla, who's named after another iconic '70s song.
"I was listening to the radio and I heard somebody telling that really great story about how Dolly Parton sat down and wrote 'I Will Always Love You' and 'Jolene' in one day," Fallon says. "I started thinking, 'Oh man, 'Jolene.' What a beautiful song.' Then it came into my head -- the whole line. Like, what if there was a kid who was named after the song, but she didn't like the song? Then what would happen?"
Despite the main character's aversion, Fallon stresses that he's a huge fan of the Parton hit.
"I didn't want people to think I don't like that song, because I love it," Fallon says, laughing.
From album-opener "When You're Ready," a tender song written for his daughter, to the love song "You Have Stolen My Heart," Local Honey is rooted in stories of home and family. The feeling of coming home is even reflected in the album title, taken from road signs near the local farms around Fallon's New Jersey home.
"I kept seeing ["Local Honey"] over and over again...I started talking to people and they were like, 'Well, you know, people use it as a medicine'...If you take honey from where you're from, it can help you with allergies and other ailments," Fallon says. "It was just when I was coming home off a really long tour and every time I come home from a tour, I'm like 'This is the best.' I feel awesome. I [started thinking] maybe your home is like your medicine."
Local Honey is available on March 27. The album is available for pre-order here.