Chris Carrabba is only human: When people either criticize or hail his work with Dashboard Confessional, he takes it all in. And being human, there have been times when he's let some of that feedback influence the songs he's written and released over the years. But he won't be doing that anymore.
For Dashboard's forthcoming, yet-untitled LP, which has no official release date but is expected to drop before year's end, Carrabba said he reverted to his old creative methods by making the songs he wants to make.
"This record felt like, and still feels like, from the writing to the recording, a reclaiming of my own independence," Carrabba told MTV News' Tim Kash this week, before announcing his role on this fall's inaugural "Rock Band" Live Tour, which he's co-headlining with Panic at the Disco. "You begin to get yourself hung up on other people's expectations, and I don't think I do my best work when I think about what other people might think of the work I'm doing. When you do that, I think the process is robbed of its freedom a little bit. So I kind of found my way to an independent streak on this record. I was making the songs for the songs themselves and for me alone. I never played them for anyone else, and I didn't obsess about them too much. I'd write a song and move on, so there's a truthful feeling to the album."
Carrabba, who said he's still putting the finishing touches on the effort, said the writing and recording process has very much been a collaborative endeavor that's involved his entire band. This next record won't be, as so many DC records have been, a solo flight. And as much as his label would like to get the final product, he said he's not quite done with it yet.
"When I make a record, I finish it and I sit with it for a little while, and inevitably, I'll write a couple more songs and — it's happened just about every time — those other songs really shape the record, and almost every time, they've had the title track of the record," he said. "I don't close the door too early."
Carrabba said the new material is sounding "grandiose," which is an odd choice of words given earlier reports that the album has a more pop-centric vibe. Not so, he says — this one will be all "driving and energetic" rock.
"To me, it's a rock record in the vein of people that I've always loved like Weezer or the Pixies, but I guess those bands have great pop sensibilities. But to me, I view them as rock bands," he said. "If rock is popular at the time, it becomes pop. And I embrace pop music. But it doesn't sound poppier to me, so I just don't know if it is or it isn't. I'll take it if it is though, because I think people enjoy that."
Dashboard worked with producer Adam Schlesinger this time around, and Carrabba said it was Schlesinger's own work, as Fountain of Wayne's bassist, that inspired the band to seek him out.
"He's a fine producer in his own right, and I'd never worked with a producer who had written their own songs and had success with them," Carrabba said. "So I thought that that gave him a unique perspective on what I was doing, and I thought he might work as a good sounding board for the songs I've got. He taught me a lot, because he has a great sense of melody."
Lyrically, Carrabba said the new album focuses on his own life experiences. "I'm writing about the journey I have been on, and my life has taken me in some weird directions," he said. "Some have been great, some have been hard, and I looked to those things and to the people that surround me and have drawn stories out of those experiences. That's the one thing: When you write about what you know, as long as you keep living your life, you don't run out of creative impetus."
In addition to DC's next LP, Carrabba said he's been working on a mysterious side project, the details of which he's been asked to keep under his hat.
"I've been working with friends of mine from various bands that some people know about and some people don't — incredible musicians — and we've been doing something together," he said. "It's too soon to say how it is or what it means, but it's an eclectic and interesting group of people I'm excited about. It will be awhile before anyone hears anything, but it will be worth it when they do."