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Chris Carrabba

From his hardcore roots to writing huge hits on acoustic guitar, Chris Carrabba has forged an unlikely and enduring career. In this episode we speak to the Dashboard Confessional frontman about the process of writing impactful lyrics, how to win over tough crowds, the moment he realized his music was really gaining traction, and much more.

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Speaker 1:
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Speaker 2:
Welcome to an Ernie [inaudible 00:00:42] broadcast. It starts now.

Evan Ball:
Hello, this is Evan Ball. Welcome to Striking A Chord, an Ernie Ball Podcast. Today, we have Chris Carrabba from Further Seems Forever, Twin Forks and most famously, Dashboard Confessional. From skateboarding to the South Florida punk scene to writing hit songs on his acoustic guitar, Chris Carrabba has had quite the journey. So in this episode, we'll look at how he developed as a lyricist and how, stylistically, he's a fairly straight shooter when it comes to writing his lyrics. And we talk about one of his first realizations that his music was breaking through the big, new audiences. But I'd definitely say the centerpiece of this conversation is a story that serves as a sort of masterclass in courage and winning over tough crowds. You'll see what I mean.

Evan Ball:
So regardless of your preferred genre of music, I think if you're a musician or an artist or a music lover, you'll appreciate how real and thoughtful and reflective Chris is in this interview. So given that, I hope you have some time to sit with this episode and really digest what Chris is saying. But enough out of me, ladies and gentlemen, Chris Carrabba. Chris Carrabba, welcome to the podcast.

Chris Carrabba:
Thanks for having me. This is great.

Evan Ball:
So let's go back in time just for some context, what were you into growing up? Was it a singular focus on music or did you have other interests, sports?

Chris Carrabba:
The thing that I was obsessed with growing up was skateboarding but skateboarding was this great gateway into discovery of music, discovery of punk rock and hardcore bands and alternative bands. Basically all the stuff that spoke to me because I've never been a fan of pop radio and that's all I've been really exposed to. And it was just this huge eureka moment watching these skate videos and hearing the music and the vibrance and the energy and the unrestrained ferocity that coupled so well with the skateboarding video parts. It really rocked me. It was a dynamic shift where I was diehard skateboarder but that would slowly become secondary to music.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, that takes me back because I think we're about the same age. You look younger but I was really into skateboarding. Were you like 10, 11, 12? Are we talking later?

Chris Carrabba:
I didn't get a skateboard until I was 13.

Evan Ball:
Oh okay.

Chris Carrabba:
But I got good pretty fast and I got sponsored by a bunch of companies and that's where I had the best stroke of luck was a store that I was sponsored by. When it would rain in Florida, which is every day at about 2 o'clock in the summertime, the owner of the shop had a room set up in the back where we could watch videos. The skate team could sit back there and watched videos and you had to be on the skate team or the surf team to be back there. And he could sense that we were getting more and more into this music and so he started figuring out what bands were on there just so we could listen to just the CDs back there in that room that was part of what we were doing, then he threw a guitar back there, bass. Eventually there was a whole drums, PA, everything back there and now that skate team was also a band.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Chris Carrabba:
And it's amazing how hand and glove that worked, the skate culture and my musical rearing.

Evan Ball:
Do you ever skateboard now?

Chris Carrabba:
Yeah, I skate.

Evan Ball:
You still do?

Chris Carrabba:
Oh yeah.

Evan Ball:
Oh cool, okay.

Chris Carrabba:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Nice. You still got it?

Chris Carrabba:
Well, I still skate.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, nice. All right, so when did guitar come into play?

Chris Carrabba:
I think I was 16 when I got a guitar and it was a guitar that was found in my uncle's basement. Somebody said maybe Chris can play this, ended up in my hands and I started trying to make sense of the thing. Couldn't afford lessons or anything like that. And I kind of value that now, because the path that led me down was that of a songwriter as opposed to some of my friends were getting lessons and becoming like riff masters, learning all the intros to all the Metallica songs or whatever.

Chris Carrabba:
My thinking process was they're able to do that because they're taking lessons. I'm not taking lessons. I'll never be able to do that but I can play these chords. What if I could sing on top of it? And I never wanted to be the singer but I thought if I could sing on top of it, I could write a song. If I could write a song, I'd have a song to play because I couldn't learn other people's songs, but if I could write one, I could probably remember it.

Chris Carrabba:
So where other people would spend their ubiquitous 10,000 hours that people spend learning guitar, which I've spent since trying to become a guitar player with prowess, I spent those 10,000 hours learning the craft of songwriting.

Evan Ball:
So I was wondering what came first singing or a guitar playing but guitar playing came first.

Chris Carrabba:
Singing came very late. I would sing in order to write the songs and then immediately teach the singer of the band, whichever the band was, whoever the singer was, the song. And it was all I could do to like sing it, so just over a whisper to them. In the first place, I was never a singer and I really wanted to be a guitar player. I really wanted to be a songwriter. I never really wanted to be a singer but I wanted to express myself.

Chris Carrabba:
In my first real band, the bass player saw something in my singing voice that I didn't see. He heard potential there but in the period that I was in the band, was the period where I was forced handily by a very tough guy of a friend to become a singer. And it took that kind of prodding. It took a heavy hand to get me over the hump.

Evan Ball:
That's interesting. So before you became a singer and a frontman, you seem so lyrical, did you write in other capacities before, whether it's a journal or English class or?

Chris Carrabba:
That was the area of school that I excelled in. I was in the advanced classes for English and history because you could write essays, whereas in math for example, my math class was called math. I found language itself to be really interesting to me but it was strictly for school. It didn't occur to me that you could sit and write a short story say, which is something I love to do now. That endeavor is a challenge in a kind of a beautiful reward when you've got something show for it.

Chris Carrabba:
I did start writing a journal as an assignment in our English class to start keeping a journal. I didn't care for it, but I understood after a little while, oh, wait a minute, so I can say whatever I want and it doesn't have to be good or bad. So just kind of let things kind of happen freeform. In doing so, I would accidentally stumble on things that almost seemed like, they weren't, but they almost seemed like poetry on occasion. And I remember underlining a few things in that journal.

Chris Carrabba:
And later when I would go and say, "Okay, I've been writing these songs," the lyrics were sophomoric, everything was sophomoric about it in the early stages but after that experience with the journaling for class and I started thinking about how could I possibly become a good song writer as it pertains to lyrics, I thought, well I accidentally would stumble on these poignant thoughts while just trying to get through this assignment. Well, let me do that. Let me just write. Let me just write as much as I can and see if eventually I can cherry pick something.

Chris Carrabba:
And that's how it started for me. I was able to write these just pages and pages and pages of I guess kind of like an aimless free association. And then go back and read it and say, "Oh, it's not quite aimless. There's a through line here." If I can underline the bits that are not obscured by the nonsense that are telling a story here, and so I'd underline it, then it's okay, this is the story. Now write that story. And then I would try to write it. I'll just write the story whatever it was. It's just subject matter now.

Chris Carrabba:
Then I would look at the story and say, "Great." Now I go back and I look at the things I'd underlined and say, "Why were those so much more poetic than just writing the story?" And realizing that they were just snippets of description as opposed to total exposition. And it was just I realized if you find a balance in telling story where you're giving as much as you can to tell your story but leaving enough that somebody can superimpose their story on to it, you might have written a song.

Evan Ball:
That's great. It's funny. I was just going to ask you a very similar question that you kind of answered there but I'm curious how you think about lyrics as far as being explicit versus being more cloaked. And if there's times you lean one way or the other way or if it's always sort of a balance.

Chris Carrabba:
Certainly the pendulum swings both ways and there are times that can be very unguarded and incisive and revealing. And then there's times where it's only slightly less so but it's less-

Evan Ball:
Sure, sometimes it's yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
That's the part where I feel like where being incisive for me is it's quite a bit more interesting than say trying to write cool lyrics. My lyrics are not cool. There's not a lot about my shit that's cool.

Evan Ball:
Says who?

Chris Carrabba:
When I say cool, I don't mean it in a derogatory way. I'm very envious of cool. Beck is cool. I think Kings of Leon are cool. They're also super honest but I think my lyrics are too unguarded to be cool. The Strokes, they have great lyrics and they're deep.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
But they're super cool.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, I got you.

Chris Carrabba:
I love that as a music fan. Those aren't the cards I was dealt.

Evan Ball:
Right, right.

Chris Carrabba:
And I don't care.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
I'd rather be impactful in a different way, powerful and cool can be ... Cool songs can be powerful. Uncool songs can be powerful. Songs are powerful.

Evan Ball:
Yes.

Chris Carrabba:
That's what I'm looking for.

Evan Ball:
No, I personally think you've found a sweet spot there. I think it's great. You're known for having come from a more hardcore punk scene. What was the motivation to move in a more acoustic direction?

Chris Carrabba:
I would either play guitar or scream or eventually kind of sing like in Further Seems Forever but the songs were always super complex in Further Seems Forever. I was yearning for a little like simplicity in such a way that I would find it challenging because hardcore scene and punk rock scene, post hardcore scene, vibrant music, vibrant lyrics, vibrant musical community but how do you be punk within punk? Because there's all these rules. There's not supposed to be rules but just like anything else, there's rules within punk rock.

Chris Carrabba:
When I say this, I don't mean like, "Oh, how can I stab forward and plant my flag and show how punk I am by being different than regular punk?" But just like that natural kind of lesson you learn it by being in the hardcore scene, being in the punk scene. That it's defied convention and for me, it meant like playing an acoustic guitar with no distortion pedal.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. You've played with some hardcore bands. You're comfortable in that scene, but there have been times when the hardcore fans have been less than embracing. Would you mind telling that story when you played with H20?

Chris Carrabba:
Let me lead with this, because I can't sell this scene short.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Chris Carrabba:
It's the scene that made me. The hardcore scene made me. It defined me as a person in a lot of ways. It educated me in how to be a better person. It's a community. It supported what I did when I said I'm going to sing instead of scream and I'm going to play acoustic guitar with no band, instead of heavy guitar with a whole band. It didn't scoff at it. It invited it, but like any scene, you can't please everybody all the time.

Chris Carrabba:
Well, I start I'm in Further Seems Forever, which is like a post hardcore band. It's pretty heavy. It's very complicated music. And I leave the band, I'd already started Dashboard but it really was just a side project but I left the band and I thought I'm going to go on a tour for Dashboard then I'll come back and decide what kind of band I'm going to start next. And that tour just never ended.

Chris Carrabba:
The wind blew my way, caught me in the sails and that was it. So you've got an acoustic guitar and your voice and that's it. So like modern convention would say, so which coffee shops did you play? But it wouldn't have occurred to me that that was a place you could play. I've never seen a show at a coffee shop. That's just not what my scene was. I was genuinely unaware that that was a way to do things. And a lot of my music is still kind of belting out at people. It's not gentle just because it's acoustic.

Chris Carrabba:
So the bands I would play with, the network I was part of was post-hardcore, hardcore, pop punk and punk rock. There's the bands that I would book shows with, there's the bands that would put me on their shows and I was very comfortable playing with hardcore bands.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
So when H2O asked me to go out, it was Face To Face, H2O ,and Snapcase. When these bands asked me to ... So you've got one of the biggest most important punk bands, two of the biggest most important hardcore bands of an era and beyond that era, but specifically H2O is the one, whereas Face To Face has a lot of melody and is unquestionably one of my favorite bands of all time, the reason I felt comfortable about ... Well it was an immediate yes but the thing I was most excited about was like, "Oh, it's H2O, they're like me." Their music's not on either side but the people are and so I knew like I'd be with my people. It wouldn't be totally-

Evan Ball:
It's where you cut your teeth.

Chris Carrabba:
Absolutely, and the crowd would be resistant. I'd walk up there with an acoustic guitar and visually this is an unpleasant thing if you're there to see all these hardcore bands in that era. I think it's become less so now. Maybe you're out in that audience and you were angry because that doesn't belong here perhaps. Maybe not. Some nights it was just open arms. Some nights it was angry scowls. But I did my thing. I played my songs and I would win as many people as I could over. And I knew I'd won at least someone over every night. It felt great.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
It felt great and I started to feel really good about how this was going. And I thought, "Man, this is happening and the scene I am part of and want to stay a part of is embracing me and everything's going to be great." And then, movie edit. I'm in Buffalo and I walk onstage before I play a note, a quarter pelts me right below the eye. My eye is immediately turning black. Okay, Chris play the song. So I play the song and there are quarters coming. It was like mob mentality and they're dinging up my guitar, pelting me, covering the stage.

Chris Carrabba:
On that tour I think I played five or six songs and I think I got about halfway through three and felt myself give up. And I thought maybe no one will notice, maybe other bands won't notice that I thought I cut the set short. I got through that last song and I start to walk offstage and Toby from H2O is standing side-stage with all of Snapcase and all of H2O and all of Face To Face. But that's not totally unusual, but Toby had his arms crossed and was standing in front of them and they were all like standing behind him. It was a confrontational thing and Toby just ... All he did was point back out at that microphone. I mean I got it. He was saying like, "You didn't finish. You didn't win them over and you have three more songs that you could try to get them." It gave me just this absolute enormous confidence that the people that they all came to see just told me to go out there and remember that I'm a hardcore kid.

Chris Carrabba:
Hardcore kids don't slink off or run away. I was retreating. So I sang and I sang. Man, I sang from a deep place, deep inside and I got pelted with more quarters. I tell you I promise you on the last song that I didn't get hit with another coin. Now, the obvious thing is that people were out of money but in my mind, I was like I got them, I got them. And I looked over the stage, looked and Toby's kind of nodding his head like, "Yep, kid yep."

Chris Carrabba:
And I walked back over to him and I'm ready to say to him, "Man, thanks, thanks." And he just points back out there and I'm thinking I'm not playing another song. I say, "Oh, no, no." And he goes, "Quarters." "Huh?" He said, "You earned every one of those, go get them." And I went I picked up every one of them. I had laundry money for probably months.

Chris Carrabba:
And then Toby ran back to this ... Man, it's such a badass move. He ran back to my merch table, grabbed a t-shirt, put it on and played his whole set with that shirt on. He held up this shirt kind of off his chest and said, "See, this is a Dashboard Confessional shirt." And that's the most hardcore thing you're going to see tonight. And we sold more merch that night than any other night.

Evan Ball:
I love that.

Chris Carrabba:
Me too.

Evan Ball:
I love how quickly the paradigm can shift too, how he sort of just instantly turned that mob mentality on its head.

Chris Carrabba:
He did. He did because he is a purist. He's a purist. Not a purist in such that the music has to be this box, has to fit in this box. A purist in the way that like, "No, no. If you have the same convictions as me, you hold on to them and you stand up for them. And not as me. If you have the convictions of this scene that we're all part of, we shared this conviction so don't back out now kid."

Evan Ball:
Yeah, that's great. It still feels like a scene in a movie to me.

Chris Carrabba:
It's funny you should say that because to retell it, takes longer than it took to happen. It's all like moments that just flew by, just seconds of nonverbal communication but the length of the effectiveness of this life lesson, that life lesson is life long for me.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
I mean I go out there, now I'm playing to a willing audience. They've invited me themselves and I'm playing like I'm trying to win over every quarter I can.

Evan Ball:
That's awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. It still confuses me why certain people need to belligerently voice their dislike of music when they could just not listen to it.

Chris Carrabba:
I think that people get territorial. I think people get territorial and they believe in their scene and their scene is important to them. And if they perceive it, in this case I think misperceive it, but if they perceive it, I have to defend them here, if they perceive that somebody's there making a mockery of their scene or being an interloper and appropriating their scene in some fashion, I kind of think they have a right to be angry. But that's not what I was doing. And I think that's ...

Evan Ball:
What became clear.

Chris Carrabba:
I think that became clear.

Evan Ball:
So let's talk about your bands. So Dashboard and Further Seems Forever, the album's came out around the same time but Further Seems Forever was in place first.

Chris Carrabba:
If memory serves, Further started in '98.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Chris Carrabba:
And so with Further, we write at this glacial pace, sounds are complex. The commitment to the schedule it takes to make records, maybe a little loose. We love each other, we have a great time together. We really come up with something unique and special together. It didn't always feel like priority one to get in there. And I was living and dying music at that time so that was something I always had a little trouble with.

Chris Carrabba:
And as an adult, I can understand, like who am I to dictate how they enjoy and when they enjoy and when they feel music and when they feel ready and compelled to make something. Just because I was so on fire all the time doesn't mean that's how everybody is. So we made an EP, Further made an EP and had plans for a record but the record kept getting pushed back. And in this time, I was writing this music that I would always give Further first crack at, every song I'd written. All the songs that are now Dashboard songs were once presented that this could be a Further song.

Evan Ball:
Wow.

Chris Carrabba:
And they said no and they were right but they also said like, "These are really good. This is special, like just keep at this man and if you bring one that works for us, awesome but just keep on this." They could sense that I was in a place that was ... Whether these songs were going to be Further songs, what I was doing was going to be important to Further. I was going to be able to take something from that and take it to the writing process of Further. And they're just really supportive friends in addition to that.

Chris Carrabba:
And since it was taking so long to get a record made, I had finished writing my Dashboard record. Now, I didn't think Dashboard was going to be a focus but I thought it would be like this is a project I did that I'm proud of. And my intention was to record it. If I got really lucky do one tour one time outside of Further and that would be it. It would be just like this little companion piece. It was a little bit reactionary to how complex Further was. It was a little more simplicity, straightforwardness maybe.

Chris Carrabba:
So I recorded the Swiss Army Romance before the first Further full-length The Moon Is Down. And it came out before The Moon Is Down. If memory serves, it came out before we even recorded The Moon Is Down. And the Further guys were supportive of that too. We'd play a Further show, they say, "Do you want to play a song beforehand?" A couple songs? Sure I guess so. I mean I didn't. It just took a long time of them like really hammering me, you're going to do this, until I finally would do it. It wasn't like, "Do you want to ..." It's like, "How about trying it tonight? How about trying it tonight Chris? Tonight? How about trying it?" Until finally I buckled.

Chris Carrabba:
So Swiss Army's out, Further started to do kind of ... I'm sad about this still but even before we recorded The Moon Is Down, Further started to crumble.

Evan Ball:
Just where you guys-

Chris Carrabba:
I promise you as I sit here, I promise I'm being honest when I say that we started to crumble for reasons I can't even remember.

Evan Ball:
Really?

Chris Carrabba:
They seemed important.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
And I decided it was really hard decision because finally I was in the exact kind of band I wanted to be in with the exact kind of people I wanted to play with, with an actual shot. It was happening. The band was actually kind of taking off. And I decided to leave. I'd already quit the band before we recorded The Moon Is Down. I wasn't even in the band anymore when we recorded The Moon Is Down but we're friends so we kept hanging out.

Chris Carrabba:
And at some point somebody said, it's really foolish of us not to make this record that we've worked so hard on.

Evan Ball:
Great record.

Chris Carrabba:
Thank you, and they were right, they were right. And so we made the record. So yeah, it all ended up being out of order but Further came before Dashboard. The Further songs came before Dashboard but the Dashboard recordings came before Further's full-length came out.

Evan Ball:
I've always been curious about Further Seems Forever, how the musical chemistry came together because those guys already played in a heavier band, brought you in as lead singer to start Further Seems Forever. And to me, these styles seemed to dovetail so well where you have really interesting time signatures and guitar parts, drum parts coupled with your sense of feeling and melody. So I wonder, did that happen very naturally or did you guys have to work to find that sweet spot?

Chris Carrabba:
Well, I think it happened naturally but that doesn't mean it was easy because we weren't like Rush, we didn't know what we were doing. When we wrote in odd time signatures it's just because the part that we wrote was one beat longer in that bar to complete the melodic guitar line and so that's what it was. Eventually, we kind of understood that we were utilizing these tools but in the beginning, this sounds right and a lot of it's really not "right." It's really weird and we had no adherence to a key center or time signature.

Chris Carrabba:
That also meant like if you had a part for song B and needed it for song A, you could just take it.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
And we did that all the time. We were just cherry-picking from our own songs and so then it really kind of came up to me to give this song some anchor in the melody that made it, that masked the complexity just enough that the complexity wasn't the focus because we wanted the songs to be songs not to be math.

Evan Ball:
And that's partly I think what I mean by that synergy of the combination because someone listening to us who hasn't heard the CD might assume it's very proggy but it doesn't come off that way. It comes off very raw still.

Chris Carrabba:
Yeah, I don't think if we did our job, you don't notice the weirdness, the unconventional nature of this until you've listened a few times.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
But then it's more interesting because after you listen a few times, you're, "Okay, what is going on here? This is kind of bizarre."

Evan Ball:
Yeah, yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
I'll be quite frank, those guys have the highest kinds of musical minds. None of us come from any kind of music schooling. We're not learned musicians but they just interpret music through that as the people they are in a really complex way but it's also steeped with intense melody as players. And so I enjoyed that and when they carried on with Jason without me, it was really, oh what a eureka moment was to be able to enjoy without having to be the guy to tie it together, to just sit back and listen to this orchestral music that they did.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
Oh, it's beautiful.

Evan Ball:
I feel like there's something about, and I think this would apply to Dashboard too and a lot of music, heavier bands playing mellower music ,where you kind of get the best of both worlds where you retain this sort of intensity while also enjoying this melodic aspect. And I don't know if you listen to Deftones at all-

Chris Carrabba:
Oh, I love Deftones.

Evan Ball:
For me, I feel like their mellow or melodic stuff just gets me because it still got that heaviness to it but it's beautiful at the same time. Anyway just a thought.

Chris Carrabba:
I agree with you and I think that it was a time in the music scene where you could just be weird and get away with it. And I'm lucky I got to be in that band.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, great band. Well, so let's talk about Dashboard Confessional real quick. You got big pretty quick, did you not?

Chris Carrabba:
No.

Evan Ball:
No? I mean-

Chris Carrabba:
But I think my watershed moment happened quickly in the public eye.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Chris Carrabba:
Because I would say I know that I did two straight years, 300 days, probably 280 dates of shows, 300 days on the road. In the third year of that people started paying attention on a smaller scale. That's about when I started getting on tour with H2O and things like that. From the moment where it started to become like, "Hey, have you heard about this?" to like everybody hearing about it was relatively quick but that period to get to that first step of like, "Have you heard about this?" took a long time.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, did you see that coming at all, the success of Screaming Infidelities? And what was that period like for you?

Chris Carrabba:
I didn't see it coming. I didn't see it coming. And it was surreal enough as it happened that I couldn't get swept up in it. There was no egotistical ... There was no overblown ego. There was no sense of deserving the moment. There was a kind of a pervading sense of disbelief.

Evan Ball:
Are there any moments that stand out where it hit you what was happening or that there was a shift happening?

Chris Carrabba:
I played at VFW Hall in Virginia and when I got there, they told me I was going to be playing last, which is always like a drag because everybody's leaving. The band they wanted to see has played and they're leaving. And I'm watching the bands that are playing and I don't know them because they're local to the area and I'm not and they're really good bands and people are really into it. And the band before me is like striking their stuff offstage and nobody's leaving and I thought, "Oh, cool music scene that they're willing to give somebody a shot."

Chris Carrabba:
And I remembered that they took their stuff on stage and I didn't have much to put on stage, my own microphone and my guitar that was it. And I walked up with those two things and I placed them on the stage and the crowd roared. And it freaked me out, not in an exciting way, like, "What's happening? Something's going wrong here. What do they have planned for me?"

Chris Carrabba:
With some trepidation, I set my things up and I said, "Hello." And like I couldn't say anything without them ...

Evan Ball:
Celebrating?

Chris Carrabba:
I couldn't say anything without them just this roar.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
A reaction of just a wall of roar and then I played my first song and I went to sing the first line and the crowd just hit me with the lyric all at once. And I remember going through ... I remember thinking to myself having never played there before. I remember thinking to myself, "Have I played here before?" Because if I had never played there before, how is it possible that they would sing with this... Maybe they'd heard the song somehow but how could they have made it theirs if I hadn't already been here seven times to try to win them over? And that was it, that was the moment where I was like, "Hey, people are kind of taking it upon themselves to share this music with each other."

Chris Carrabba:
It's out of my hands and it was like a moment where I realized the possibility that things could happen for my career, my band. My career, I didn't know what career meant but for my giant design of wanting to be in a band, I mean I guess I was.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, that's amazing. Do you have a song or an album that you're most proud of?

Chris Carrabba:
I don't know that I have a song or an album that I'm most proud of. But I'd say The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most is a really satisfying record to me for personal reasons.

Evan Ball:
Do you have any regrets or if you could rewind the clock anything that stands out you'd do differently?

Chris Carrabba:
Yeah, I do. I think that there's probably a period where when the success of the band was getting bigger, faster than I was prepared for to, I'd to think that I handled it with grace and I don't have any real memory of this but I find it hard to believe I did all the time. I have some recollection of being just stressed out of my mind all the time. That's not a real healthy place to be in and I kind of assumed that I was short with people that deserved better and I expected too much out of myself than was fair.

Chris Carrabba:
So I had set myself up to fail and then I maybe was just angry about it and maybe it was like, I'm angry at anybody who would come into my orbit for a brief period there. As I sit here, I can't think of any specifics but I know there were ones and I know for a fact there were ones and I probably have blocked them out on purpose because I'm not probably not proud of the growing pains of that period.

Evan Ball:
You're in a unique situation that most people are not in.

Chris Carrabba:
Yeah, I didn't have a real roadmap and I didn't have a mentor or any of those things that would be helpful and then the other regret I have is that I think in my latter era records before our hiatus, I lost the plot a little bit and I really wanted to be a team player for the record label I was on. And as they would make suggestions, I would listen to them. Without pushing back my original reasoning for my original intention for the song I would instead say, "Well, hey man I'm here because I wanted to learn from these people." They're in the business of making musicians better musicians or so I thought.

Chris Carrabba:
I think I was right. I think I was right about that for that specific label but I think I had it right to begin with. And I wish I kind of trusted myself to know it.

Evan Ball:
Do you have any advice for aspiring bands navigating the landscape today?

Chris Carrabba:
Yes, I do and especially ones that are on the precipice of big success, the ones that are making a leap from clubs to theaters, the ones that are making possibly from say indie labels that are your true partner, like your family to major labels that are your business partner and not your family. And that is to assess what you're going to want years and years from now from the music you make.

Chris Carrabba:
For me I wanted the music. Meaning the masters and the artistic control over the things in the years as I have now where I own a lot of my masters. What's that worth? I don't know but it's personally worth something to me. And so what my advice would be whatever the thing is that you have to give up, if you sign away to a major label or to a contract of any kind, surely making a decision to take money is fine if that's the way it's going to help you continue to be a band, rise to the next level. But don't wave away what you might end up wishing you still had in the end, which whatever that may be for me it was the music itself. And so my advice would be, and I did this and people thought I was crazy for doing it at the time but I did it, if you want to keep things, you can find a way. It's really hard but you don't have to take all the money that they offer you. Think about how much money do you really need to keep going forward and say, "What am I trading away to have more than that?"

Evan Ball:
Great, yeah. Are there any certain interests you have apart from music that maybe people don't know about?

Chris Carrabba:
Yeah, I mean I have a lot of hobbies. I still skateboard a lot. I ride motorcycles and I like to work on motorcycles. I like to work on motors. I make hats. I make leather goods, both real leather and vegan, and I make clothes sometimes. And I like to do creative things with my hands that have nothing to do with music. And it funnels right into its further expressed purpose of being just like loosening the top of the jar of the creative jar. This is a terrible metaphor but that's what it does.

Chris Carrabba:
I'd be in there working on a hat and boom a song idea comes to me. I run to the guitar. Give up on the other thing. If it was a passion, I would never give up on ... I finish the Hat but it's not my passion, it's just art for the sake of it.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Chris Carrabba:
Run over and I grab that guitar and I don't put it down until I have a song.

Evan Ball:
Great. Chris Carrabba, thank you for being on the podcast.

Chris Carrabba:
This is wonderful. Thank you.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Ernie Ball's Striking A Chord. For the record, that was actually Chris Carrabba's third podcast interview he did that day. So big thanks to him for being so generous and accessible. Just a great guest and person. If you'd like to contact us, email [email protected]

Evan Ball:
I should probably ask you. What gauge guitar strings do you play?

Chris Carrabba:
Usually I play elevens on acoustic and electric and I'm a medium gauge guy for acoustic. I play a lot of open tunings, so it helps to have medium gauge for acoustic.

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