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A minute with Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba

December 7, 2011

The News-Letter's Caroline DeLuca spends some time with the lead singer of Dashboard Confessional, Chris Carrabba.

N-L: So, you recently released some free downloads for Covered in the Flood, your new album of covers – what are the other songs on the album going to be? CC: I released four and I did a 10-song record. So in addition to the free downloads, I also did “Weathered Front,” “Tall Green Grass,” “End of the World As We Know It,” “We Used to Be Friends,” “The Commander Thinks Aloud,” uh . . . I can’t think of the tenth right now.N-L: What made you choose these particular songs to cover and release? CC: They’re different songs that have stuck with me for a long time, like “Cape” from my childhood which I’ve been listening to forever. I was always intrigued by the first stanza about a kid thinking he had the ability to fly, but then the rest is about a grown-up, so looking back on that as a grown-up, I relate differently. But I’m not sure I believe in any less than I did as a kid. I just do songs that have been really powerful for me,  that I think I can give a spin on. Like the “Weathered Front” is [from] a really great band, and I think Cory Branan – he wrote “Tall Green Grass,” I think he’s one of the best songwriters out there today.

N-L: What have you learned from other bands and artists that you’ve toured with? CC: There’s so many different things. How they do certain chords, to how or why they aren’t connecting with the crowd.  I almost always choose to go out with people that I think are incredible songwriters, and I think being close to it inspires you. Other things like opening for U2, which was like a whole different education; making grand gestures and inspiring all those people through rock & roll.

N-L: Do you have a favorite tour that you’ve gone on, or a favorite city to play in? CC: I have a lot of favorite tours and a lot of favorite cities. I think the last tour was my favorite. I was out completely by myself which was invigorating. I didn’t expect it to be that fun.

N-L: How is going on acoustic solo tours a different experience for you than going on tours with the band? CC: I think for one it’s like there’s a social aspect that’s taken away, so I end up hanging out more with fans or people I know around the country than I would otherwise, instead of hanging out with your buddies all night long.  The other thing is you have to find everything that the song needs when you’re by yourself, which is a tall order, so it’s a lot more exciting when you get it right.

N-L: When can fans expect a new album of original songs? What are you seeing for the future of Dashboard? CC: I don’t know. I started playing some new songs, on this tour. I’m just not sure that they’re new album songs. I’ll probably come home from this tour, have my Christmas holiday, and get to work on something.

N-L: You studied English and education in college. Do you read a lot? What are your favorite books? CC: I read a lot. Lately I’ve been on a historical, nonfiction kick.  I’ve read The Destiny of the Republic, a pretty grand book. If you don’t read a lot of nonfiction – I fall more under the category – this is pretty well-written. For a guy like me, who likes reading for turn of phrase, it was great.

N-L: Do you think that loving books influences how you approach songwriting? CC: Yeah, definitely, I mean, if I haven’t written a song in a while, it’s usually true I haven’t read a book in a while either. If you start reading, all the sort of words and phrasings are floating in your head and waiting to be fit together in a new way when you sit down to write a song.

N-L: Can you talk about your approach to songwriting? CC: More often than not, messing around with the guitar, just playing gibberish, when I lay into the dictaphone, it’s kind of a surprise, but there’s a song there. You’ve said what you needed to say to make the song. It could be a whole phrase or an entire chorus. Sometimes the whole song is there, fully cooked and you realize you’ve been working on it in the recesses of the mind. And I think you’re really lucky then, like you’re the vessel for the song if you’re open to the song gods or whatever, it just comes through you. I’ve had that experience more than once.

N-L: You’ve talked about [how] when you started writing songs for Dashboard, it was kind of like writing in a journal. Would you say that’s still true? CC: I’d say it can be true. It isn’t always as easy to deduce like that. My first two records were like that; I knew what I was writing about. Now I’m not really sure; it takes months or years to figure out what event in my life led to the song.

N-L: Do you have favorite songs you’ve written, or songs that you’re reluctant to play? CC: Yeah there’s songs I’m reluctant to play, that could have been more meaningful, but I don’t always know that other people see that. But then there’s other songs I haven’t given the proper consideration in a long time. There are a few songs I can’t connect with them the way I’d like to. If no one requests it, and I don’t want to play it, then it works out.  But on occasion a whole city wants to hear it and I can’t find it. That stuff happens. I feel pretty connected still to the moment I wrote “Vindicated.” “Remember to Breathe” turns into something different every time I play it, so it’s interesting to let the song happen on its own. “The Places You Have Come to Feel the Most” I feel connected to every night. If I play a song that night it’s cause I feel connected to it. and if I don’t, I don’t.

N-L: You know, I remember at one concert several years ago, you told this story about “Thick As Thieves,” how it was about an old girlfriend who had stolen a car and ditched it, but then left her handbag in the car or something, and needed you to pick her up – and then . . . John [Lefler] asked you when that happened, and you laughed and said it wasn’t true, you’d just made it up. What are your feelings on sharing the personal stories behind songs with the audience? Do you prefer to leave your meanings relatively open to interpretation? CC: (laughs) It’s usually funnier to lie about it. I’d rather it be up to you, it should be your interpretation of it. I think we share some opinion about it, the listener and the writer. But it shouldn’t be so shaped about what you know about my experience, more by your own.

N-L: Could you share with us an interesting story behind one of your songs that you maybe haven’t told before, true or false? CC: Oh, I don’t know. I gotta practice the lies. It just feels uncomfortable. I know that I change experience of the song for the listener when they know more about what’s behind it. I don’t know.

N-L: And finally, what is the weirdest experience you’ve had as a result of being in a famous band? CC: I don’t understand how people get keys to your hotel rooms! I’ve expected to come to empty hotel rooms . . . and they haven’t been empty.


- Caroline DeLuca, for The News-Letter

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