Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba Is Back To His Old, Prolific Self

One new album is done, another half-written.

Before the release of 2006′s Dusk and Summer, Chris Carrabba made fans of his band Dashboard Confessional wait three long years for a new album. In 2003, the band had issued A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, which earned Carrabba a major label deal — but then, nothing.

It wasn’t like Chris, when you consider that emo’s poster child released two studio LPs and three EPs between 2000 and 2003. Carrabba said he didn’t mean to make his fans wait (see “Secrets? Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba Has A Few About Dusk And Summer ). He blames signing with Interscope Records for the album lag.

“I got really spooked being on a major, and it took me a long time to come to grips with that,” he told MTV News recently. “It was like, ‘How do you do this without being soul-sucking?’ ”

But Carrabba plans to make up for lost time — and make it up to his faithful followers — by doing things the way he used to, back when he first started out.

“I did take a break, and I beat myself up over it and I didn’t like it,” he said. “With Dusk and Summer, I had never been in the ‘machinery’ quite like that. I have to admit, it’s not quite as bad as people can make it out to be, but it’s certainly not as good as the way I had done it before.”

Carrabba returns to form with The Shade of Poison Trees, Dashboard’s fifth studio LP, which hits stores on October 2. And if that isn’t enough, the man said he’s already thinking about his next record.

“I’m about 16 songs into it,” he explained. “It usually takes me between seven and 10 songs before I’ll say, ‘This is going to be an album.’ I usually write somewhere between 20 and 40 songs when I’m making a record … but it’s always very clear to me that it’s only those 12 songs or whatever that’ll make the final product. Other songs become lost immediately. I think of it like stretching before you lift weights. It’s about getting back in the process and sweeping away the cobwebs.”

There are no plans yet to record the new tracks, he said. He hopes to write more and then hit the studio as soon as he returns from a fall tour with former Dashboarder John Ralston and Say Anything’s Max Beemis, which kicks off September 28 in Baltimore and runs through November 14 in New York. He wouldn’t estimate a possible release date for the LP, but is anxious to get to work on it. And yes, he’d like to work once again with producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne), who helmed The Shade of Poison Trees and Dusk and Summer.

Carrabba wrote Shade over a 10-day period, and recorded it in just three weeks. But no one knew the album was even in the works until last month, when Carrabba finally spilled the beans. The disc predominantly features Carrabba on acoustic guitar, along with the rest of his band on a handful of tracks. The singer had been trying to find a home for one of its songs, “The Rush,” for four years. So why keep Shade a secret?

“I’m not sure I was keeping it a secret,” he said. “I was making this record, and I enjoyed the autonomy. It wasn’t like this clandestine operation — the impulse hit us to work on something, and everybody was free, so, it was just, ‘Let’s go do this record, and see what becomes of it.’ … I had secretly hoped that I would kind of get to release a record [the way I used to] … to do the job and really be invested with our energy, but not have a lot of fears and thoughts.

“I think that I may have held onto it a bit longer before telling anyone I’d done it because I wanted to be able to release it in a low-key manner,” Carrabba continued. “It really did feel right, and it still feels right — holding it that close to my chest. It’s supposed to be a personal thing for my fanbase and I wanted them to know before anyone else — almost including the record label.”

Carrabba repeated the same claim he’s made about pretty much every record he’s ever crafted before: This one’s the most personal of the bunch (see “Carrabba: Dashboard’s Next LP Will Be Really Confessional” ).

“I think I thought I was being open after A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, and I thought when I was writing Dusk and Summer that I was still being open about things, but I’ve had time to reflect, and I realize I put a little guard up,” he said. “I hid behind poetry or guitar sounds or something. I wasn’t less personally invested in the album; there was just a guard I didn’t realize was up. And there was still a guard up — maybe a hair — with Shade, but I feel this is the album that brought me back to that place where I could be a little bit more clearly honest with myself, and so I took it and ran with it.”

He knows what his fans expect of him and feels he delivers on Shade.

“People dig on me for being honest,” he said “They don’t want illusion. If they want that, they can listen to some hip band with tighter pants than I wear.”