They built on that momentum (and even welcomed more of those comparisons) by jamming with the Boss himself at the Hard Rock Calling fest in the summer of 2009 and on 2010's American Slang album, which saw them shore up the rough edges but remain as tough as frontman Brian Fallon's leather jacket. From there, they made the leap to the majors, signing with Mercury Records and beginning work on a new album — coming full circle by recruiting frequent Springsteen producer Brendan O'Brien to helm the sessions.
And on Tuesday (July 24), the fruits of their labor were finally unveiled, in the form of Handwritten, an album brimming with big chords, bigger choruses and plenty of Fallon's searing, heart-on-his-sleeve lyrical missives. In a lot of ways, it's the album the band has been trying to make for their entire careers — though, interestingly enough, all it took was writing one song — first single "45" — to kick the recording process into high gear.
"The song was one of the first we wrote during the recording process, and it was kind of a breakthrough for us, as far as what was going to dictate the sound of the rest of the record," Fallon told MTV News. "We were looking for what was going to be the next phase of our career and our sound, and that song opened up the floodgates and gave a lot of dictation to the rest of it. In a lot of ways, it's a cornerstone of the record."
And though Fallon makes Handwritten sound easy, he's also quick to point out that, for the first time, the Gaslight Anthem were also forced to deal with a rather unexpected issue during recording: namely, the expectations of their fully grown fanbase and the music industry at large. And though fans might focus on the label putting it out, or compare it to the band's previous efforts, he prefers to see the new album as nothing more than the next step in their career; after all, that attitude has served them well every step of the way.
"Of course, when you release a record and you're a band no one knows about, it's a lot easier, because you don't have the pressure of expectations," he said. "When you're someone's favorite band — not necessarily everyone's favorite band, but when you're someone's favorite band — you don't want to let that person down, you know? So there's a lot of pressure, until you realize that it just has to be the next record, it can't be better or worse, it just has to be different than your prior records."