SANTA MONICA, California — Last fall, a year after abandoning Dashboard Confessional's would-be fourth studio LP to write something more meaningful, Chris Carrabba suddenly found himself being asked who he would be singing with on the new record.
"I thought, 'Why would I have duets on this album?' I've never done that," Carrabba recalled. "But they must have known something."
In 2003 Dashboard In October Dashboard played Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit Concert, and afterward Carrabba shared a bottle of wine with Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz. Before he knew it, Carrabba was recording his first-ever duet, a piano-driven tune called "So Long, So Long" that he had just released as a solo song secretly through his Web site.
"That was sort of a leap of faith for me, but I'm a big fan of his voice," Carrabba said. "There is something really genuine that he does."
After Duritz added his voice, Carrabba temporarily retitled the track "So Long December," after the Counting Crows hit "A Long December."
"It won't be called that, I'm sure," he said, laughing. "I can see myself getting hacked up on the message boards, 'This song sucks. "So Long December." Come on, do something original.' It did have a life before Adam, but it certainly has a different take now that I really enjoy."
Carrabba promised to return the favor on the next Crows record, although that has yet to happen. Regardless, the two heart-on-their-sleeve songwriters have remained friends.
"I knew that my voice was going to match Adam's because I sing along with him all the time, he just doesn't know it," Carrabba said. "And then when we were talking on the phone, he was like, 'I've been singing along with this, our voices are going to blend really well.' ... I have a little higher range, he has a little lower range. ... It was a nice thing."
The duet will be included on the new Dashboard album (see "Carrabba: Dashboard's Next LP Will Be Really Confessional"), coming this spring with a still-to-be-determined title.
"With the exception of the last one, all the records that I've made for any band that I've been in, the name of the record always came for some reason out of a line or a title from the last song written," Carrabba said. "That's never been the intention, but that's how I know that the record isn't done yet, 'cause if it was the last song, then it would've given me a name for the album. But I finished the last song this week, so I'll ring you up [with the title soon]."
Carrabba's also not yet sure of the first single. He lets his label and management handle those decisions, although he's crossing his fingers for "Don't Wait." "I hope that's the one, because I like playing it, and when you have a single you have to play it 25 times a day," he said.
The album was nearly finished when Carrabba wrote the song last fall while touring with U2. "We'd been playing these arena shows and getting pep talks from Bono, strange things were going on and my head was like ... 'I've just got to get away from this for a minute, I'm totally freaked out,' " he recalled. "U2 had just started playing and I was just like, 'I can't watch this show again tonight, I've got to get out of here.' So I went into our dressing room which was ... about this size of this chair and just wrote this song within a few minutes."
"Don't Wait," Carrabba said, is about making sure you don't lose yourself to your dreams.
"It's great to dream big and hope for the stars, but you gotta have action 'cause that's what I was thinking while I was watching this," he explained. "This is a realm I don't even understand, but it's what I've dreamt of, so why don't I understand it? Why does it seem so far away when I'm standing right here? So it's sort of about seizing and acting on what you dream, not just dreaming about it."
Dashboard Confessional plan to hit the road, sans U2, in the next few months.