Whenever Chris Carrabba hits Dallas on tour, he knows there’s something special here. It's one of the first cities that warmly embraced his band, Dashboard Confessional, and a former member resides here, so Carrabba is not short on kind words.
Ahead of a long tour in support of the latest Dashboard release, Crooked Shadows, the memories are clear to him.
“For some reason, Dallas quickly latched onto Dashboard,” a chipper Carrabba says over the phone. “Even in the early days. Made a lot of friends there, too. Stayed on a lot of floors and still friends with a lot of people who allowed me to do that.
“You’re like a cool city, but you don’t act like, ‘We’re so cool, bro; we don’t need to care about this.’ It’s a community that does get every tour that acts like they never get the tours.”
Carrabba speaks highly of John Lefler, the longtime guitarist of the band who retired from full-time touring while Dashboard was on hiatus years ago, saying Lefler is the best musician he knows. After moving to Dallas, Lefler cut a couple of solo releases, and he can be seen locally these days as a part of Captain and Camille. But whenever Carrabba comes to town, the invitation is there for Lefler to pick up a guitar and play a song.
The friendly relationship is rooted in a passion for music. Dashboard Confessional had been on a steady path of tours and records, but after 2009’s Alter the Ending, the brakes were tapped. Lefler departed, as did drummer Mike Marsh, who later joined the Avett Brothers. Carrabba reunited with his old band, Further Seems Forever, for a one-off reunion record called Penny Black, wrote songs for other artists, and had a folk-stomp group called Twin Forks that cut an EP and an LP.
As busy as he was, Carrabba knew he would be back with another Dashboard Confessional album — eventually. After a successful co-headlining tour with Third Eye Blind in 2015, the band made its way back to being a full-time machine. The latest version features longtime bassist Scott Schoenbeck with new recruits Armon Jay on lead guitar and Chris Kamrada on drums.
Carrabba needed time to see if his songs would make for a worthy Dashboard record.
“I have to be in a certain place for them to be Dashboard songs,” Carrabba says. “It has to have had a certain amount of time between life experience and the period where you reflect on life experience. I don’t think you can do those things concurrently or sequentially. There has to be some time where you’re rediscovering.”
Carrabba has always been a prolific songwriter, so it’s easy to ask if another Dashboard Confessional LP is in the works. He says he might have one already — the band worked on 60 songs for consideration on the final Crooked Shadows track list. He believes 40 of those were good to really excellent, so he might revisit them again in the near future. He believes there’s a line between good and great.
“It’s safe to say the good ones might become great ones, too,” he says. “Who knows? I also wrote some real dogs in there, too, to be fair.”
He is happy to be on tour and playing the songs people fell in love with in the last decade along with the new songs he’s written.
“Maybe I’ll hit that stride of my writing where I’m prolific going forward,” Carrabba says. “I think it would be a mistake to plot it out at this moment. But you know that good feeling when you open yourself to every eventuality? That’s where I’m at right now.”
Dashboard Confessional plays March 21 at House of Blues with Beach Slang and Kississippi.