INTERVIEW: “I love winning people over”—Chris Carrabba on Dashboard Confessional, Third Eye Blind and Taylor Swift

Dashboard Confessional
photo: Jesse Fox

It’s been six years since DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL released an album, so when we caught up with frontman CHRIS CARRABBA for issue #46 of Substream, there was a lot to talk about. There was plenty of stuff that didn’t make it into the issue, but no need to fret: We’re bringing you the rest of our chat with Carrabba where he talks about teaming up with Third Eye Blind and that time Taylor Swift asked him to sing at her best friend’s birthday (with a little help from Paramore’s Hayley Williams).

What can fans expect to hear on tour? Are you playing a pretty good mix from all your albums?
CHRIS CARRABBA: We pretty much know every song we’ve ever played just in case. We write setlists but long ago stopped following them verbatim, because sometimes your mood can dictate where the next song is gonna go. More often somebody screams something just as you’re about to hit the chord of the song written on the page, and that kid’s idea is way better and you start playing that, and the band has to quickly understand what you’re doing. Thankfully they do. They keep up.

The response to the announcement of Dashboard’s reunion was pretty loud and very excited, especially online. How did you guys take that in?
You ever have something happen and you can’t process it by yourself? I would immediately get on our group text and be like, “So we just sold X amount of tickets in X states.” And then I could finally react because my bandmates reacted to it. When they were like, “Holy shit! What?” I was like, “Yeah, right? Kind of! What?” That’s when I realized, we’re doing this for ourselves, and we’re doing it for these fans that were there from the get go or found us along the way. To think that the number of diehards is as large as it is is the part that’s plain shocking to me.

How did you team up with Third Eye Blind for this tour?
I like event-based touring. I love that idea that it’s a show you’ll remember. We were trying to think of who to play with, but one thing I was a little wary of was, I didn’t want to—I do eventually want to play tours with the people that I played with coming up—but I didn’t want to look like we were just stacking the bill and aiming at a nostalgia package. So I was looking for a band that I thought would be exciting to the audience even if your fans didn’t know them as much and theirs didn’t know us. So that made it a little difficult to find.

Then someone suggested Third Eye Blind, and I had this memory of being in high school. I’ve seen them play three times, twice in high school. Once before they were on the radio in a small club, and once when they were suddenly huge on the radio. That seemed like a way to come back, play with a band I love, forestalling that thing of just gathering my friends again and playing right down the middle of what people would expect—which I will do. I can’t imagine not playing with Saves The Day and Jimmy Eat World as time goes on. I didn’t want to be accused of just throwing this thing together to capitalize on nostalgia. So we found a band that we thought [playing with them] is breaking new ground. There are fans of theirs that don’t know us and we can win them over. And I love that. I love winning people over.

I have to ask about Taylor Swift. Was she just like, “Will you come sing for my best friend’s birthday?”
She’s someone I’ve been friends with for a long time; and Hayley [Williams] is my friend; she lives nearby. Taylor’s come to see me play before and made mention so many times about how I’ve been an influence for her. What a thing to hear from arguably maybe the most—maybe there’s no maybe there—important songwriter of a generation, I think. Simply judging by her ability to straddle so many genres and succeed at it. And I don’t mean through records sales; I mean through quality. She just asked me, her friend, to come to a party. “Do you want to bring a guitar? Will you keep it quiet so that Abigail’s surprised?”

Because she’s Taylor, and she’s cognizant of the fact that, well, one, she likes to share her life with people, but she’s smart and generous, and I’ve got to imagine there was something kind in her decision to post what she posted knowing it would help our band’s notoriety with an audience that might not have known who we were. [Laughs.] We’re talking millions of people who had never heard us before put a song of ours that was out 10 years ago on the charts again. On the charts! It was just this glorious thing. But the truth of the matter is, she’s a lovely woman with a lovely circle of friends, and I’m proud to be a part of that circle of friends.

Want more? Pick up Substream #46 to read our entire interview with Chris Carrabba!