He’s been coined as the Godfather of modern day emo music, and whether you enjoy the pure emotion, intimate and honest music made by Dashboard Confessional, their success made it possible for much of the music we know and love today to break the surface. Now only a stone’s throw away from Soundwave 2012, I was fortunate enough to gain an audience with the Godfather himself, Chris Carrabba.
“To be totally honest, it’s still a shock to me” Chris began after I asked if 10 years ago he knew where he would be today. “I started doing all this so I could play music at night after work! And now I play music every night; it’s still shocking!”
Chris is obviously still coming to terms with his international success; Dashboard continues to grow every day. I found this very interesting as with albums such as Places You’ve Come To Fear The Most and Swiss Army Romance being released almost 15 years ago. However, what makes Dashboard Confessional, and indeed those two particular albums, so amazing is that as the years go on, the songs not only make more sense, but also take on new meanings. I asked Chris what he suspected caused this sense of timelessness and longevity in his music.
“Oh, wow, I wish I could answer that! Maybe I’m glad that I can’t expose my secrets haha. But you know, it’s hard to do an autopsy on these albums. I didn’t really receive any radio play off those songs like some of my peers did, I think in a way I was very fortunate for that as it resulted in fans finding my music in a much more organic way, and I think that produced high quality fans who really enjoyed the music”
I began to steer the conversation towards his most recent catalogue, namely A Mark, A Mission A Brand A Scar. I explained to Chris how much I listened to this album as I was growing up, and had in fact given my favorite track ‘Hands Down’ to more than one girlfriend as a unique song that sums up our relationship (Sorry girls it wasn’t unique at all). Surely Chris hears many instances similar to this.
“I do, I really do. I mean the thing about that, I wrote these songs about my own experiences that I was certain were 100% unique, in a way a young person feels about these sorts of things, you know? No one has ever loved before! How could anyone understand this other than my girlfriend and me? Haha, and then you find out that everyone learns to deal with love deeply and you realize that what you have that’s lucky is the ability to articulate it, an ability some people may not have, you know? And that gives you a connection to people you don’t know, because of something you’ve clicked on that they’ve at some point clicked on also. I have to admit, I do get nervous about the people who are embracing songs that maybe I thought were heartbreaking or mean, but they don’t sound that way to them, they sound liberating. There are some of my songs I would hate to have played at my wedding. But I have to say, one of the greatest things you can hear is that someone danced to one of your songs at their wedding; what an honor.”
Though the institute of marriage isn’t held in the same regards these days in terms of permanency, I did note to Chris how important Dashboard Confessional clearly is to some people. Regardless of the outcome, you never forget your first wedding.
He burst into laugher, “I like that, I like that line, I’m actually going to use it.”
Now that his career has reached a comfortable cruising altitude, I threw a potential hard ball at Chris. Has international success changed his perspectives and priorities? If so, then is it becoming a challenge to write music in the Dashboard Confessional voice and maintain their message?
“Hmmm, how do I answer this correctly? It’s a really good question. I think that as a whole, when I think of writing songs today, I’d say no, it doesn’t affect it, I’ve learned through trial and error to banish those realities, I guess, from my mind during the songwriting process. I think the thing that has hampered my songwriting ability in the past after so many records, is what I’ve come to identify as what Dashboard Confessional songs are. And that, I realized after my last record, was finally becoming something that was keeping me from growing, even though it had given me so much success – to tell you the truth, just knowing that is enough to be free from it, that doesn’t mean that the songs will sound any different though. Just knowing that they don’t have to all sound the same is enough to fill the pool again, you know?”
Chris explained that he himself had grown tremendously in the time he’d spent on Dashboard Confessional. “To be honest, when I look back at those songs, they feel somewhat foreign.”
Playing his most intimate moments on stage had taken somewhat of a toll, “for most people these songs bring alive a memory for them, I play them every night, you know? So it was alive for me just last night, you know, I wouldn’t say we’re putting magic on display or anything. But yeah, these are still songs for me haha.”
This interview had been illuminating as many of Chris’s songs were on the soundtrack for much of my teenage years, Chris explained, however, that it isn’t even nearly over.
“You can expect things. I have a lot of energy all of a sudden. During the making of Alter, there was a lot of trouble happening around me. My sister was in a terrible accident; people in my family having hardships etcetera, etcetera…it kind of grounded me. It really turned me from a vagabond to a much more domesticated person. Now I’m finally in a place where I can hit the road. I was stuck at home for so long, now I’m ready to go and free to write! I can’t stop writing, haha, but no, I feel good and I feel as though big things are coming”
It was great to see how humble Chris really is as a person. Rather than gloating in his ability to impact people’s lives through his music, he seemed more respectful of the responsibility. Keeping his fans at the forefront of his mind, one can only imagine where Dashboard will take us next and which moments in our lives Chris will capture perfectly through his songs.