Chris Shiflett’s new album, Hard Lessons, proves that he’s onto something with his high-energy, kick-ass rock-country sound.
After touring with the Foo Fighters behind the band’s 2017 release, Concrete and Gold, Shiflett released Hard Lessons in June and announced a four-date record-release tour—and one of those dates is Friday, July 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
During a recent phone interview before he was scheduled to go back to Europe with the Foo Fighters, Shiflett discussed how Hard Lessons was recorded in Nashville during a hectic time.
“I made this record in the middle of a Foo Fighters tour schedule,” Shiflett said. “We toured behind Concrete and Gold for about a year and a half, and in the middle of all that, if we had a week or two off, I’d head out to Nashville. It was kind of nuts.”
Shiflett said that he enjoys heading into the studio, even in the middle of a tour.
“When I go out to Nashville to record, I tend to feel pretty single-minded about it. I jump in the studio, and I’ll be in the studio all week,” he said. “… If I’m not in the studio, I’m back where I’m staying, making little tweaks on the lyrics or working out the guitar parts.
“If I had been home during that time—home is very busy. I’m married, and I have three kids. My kids are either teenagers or about to be teenagers, so life is very busy at home. Touring and going to record records is almost a more-relaxed environment for me nowadays.”
In the past, his solo records have offered more of an Americana or Bakersfield sound, but Hard Lessons is a Telecaster-plugged-into-a-Marshall-JCM800 blast of country-rock from beginning to end.
“It’s definitely a louder record than the last one, that’s for sure,” he said. “I think on one hand, that was certainly the influence of (producer) Dave Cobb, and he was pushing me in that direction. It also lends itself to having more fun when I go out and play these songs live. It works a little better in that environment, at least for me.”
While many country music fans are at odds with Nashville’s powerful grip on mainstream country music, Shiflett he respects the people working behind the scenes.
“(East Beach Records and Tapes) put out my record, and they are based out of Nashville, and they are wonderful. As far as the mainstream Nashville stuff goes, I have no experience in that scene,” Shiflett said. “I’ve never been in a band that sounds like that, and I don’t exist within that. I have a lot of friends out there who work in that world in one capacity or another. I find that a lot of the people who work behind the scenes and the studio musicians have deep musical taste. They’re cool and hard-working musicians just trying to get by. I have a lot of respect for people just trying to make a living through their craft, because it’s not easy.”
The Foo Fighters announced a hiatus in 2016—and it turned out to be a joke. In fact, the band has been busier than ever.
“We wrapped up touring for the last record in the fall. This year was intended to be a bit of a break, and it is by Foo Fighters standards, but we’re still doing shows,” Shiflett said. “We’re leaving to Europe to do some festivals, and then we’re going back over there in August to do a bunch more festivals. It’s not crazy busy, but we’re still playing.”
When I brought up the subject of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes—a supergroup Shiflett played in with Spike Slawson of Swingin’ Utters, Joey Cape and Dave Raun of Lagwagon, and Fat Mike of NOFX—he explained he was no longer involved.
“For a really long time, it was always the same five of us when it came time to record,” he said. “But Spike and his wife, who have both taken over the band, decided to start releasing music that I wasn’t on. That was a line in the sand for me. … It was always important to me that it stayed as the original five on the recordings, and that went out the window. That’s the end of my involvement in that.”
Shiflett said he’s happy to be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s for one of his four summer shows.
“I’m viewing these dates as my record-release shows,” he said. “We haven’t officially announced them yet, but I’ll have more shows coming up. Touring is always tough, because it’s the most time-consuming part of what we do. Time is the thing I have the least amount of to spare. Pappy and Harriet’s is one of my favorite venues in the whole world. The shows there are always great.”
Chris Shiflett will perform with Jade Jackson at 9 p.m., Friday, July 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.