Chris Shiflett is a restless musician, whose brand new record, West Coast Town, comes out April 14th on Side One Dummy Records. Shiflett is best known for his role in Foo Fighters as the band’s guitarist, but has sown seeds of a solo project for some years now. His love for Bakersfield country music shines through in his work: Shiflett’s self-titled first record dropped in 2010, followed up three years later with a record of covers, and West Coast Town promises to be a rip-snorting good time.
Thrillcall: Your biweekly podcast, Walking the Floor, has nearly 80 episodes thus far, having hosted guests such as Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell, Rhett Miller, and the late, great Merle Haggard. What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned about music while recording Walking the Floor?
Chris Shiflett: It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing, but I love when the interviews become conversations and people open up. I guess the main thing I’ve learned is that no one can really articulate exactly how they write songs.
TC: Your first solo record was made with the Dead Peasants, and your second, All Hat and No Cattle, was a collection of covers. Is there also a full band throughout the new record, West Coast Town? What are you most excited for fans to hear when it comes out in April?
CS: I hired a bunch of the musicians out in Nashville who Dave Cobb works with a lot – kind of like his Wrecking Crew. They weren’t a band per se, but it’s the same folks on all the songs. I’ve been sitting on this record since the middle of last summer so I’m just anxious for it to finally be released.
TC: You are currently touring the country to support West Coast Town. These spaces are more intimate than the stadiums that Foo Fighters have played, and your solo music is quite different from the group as well. What’s your favorite aspect of playing smaller shows? What do you miss most about travelling with the rest of the Foos?
CS: These little tours are so different from the way we tour with the Foos. The shows are small, the van is small, the hotels are small, everything is small, but they’re really fun and exciting. It’s way more nerve wracking when you can see the whites of fans’ eyes in the crowd. My gigs always make me appreciate how good we have it in the Foos.
TC: In a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, you said “all bands are kinda the same. … It’s the same dynamic, it’s just a bunch of guys in a room making fun of each other’s weaknesses, trying to play music loud.” Is this dynamic at play when you write solo material? How would this dynamic change if women were in that room too?
CS: I usually write alone, so that dynamic doesn’t really apply to getting songs together, but as far as women being in the room, well they are pretty often actually – from musicians that Foos play with from time to time, to the women that work with us, to the woman that sang all the harmony vocals on my record (Kristen Rogers). It’s not quite the boys club you might expect.
TC: How does it feel to be considered a hero to fans?
CS: It’s always nice when someone comes up and gives you a nice compliment. Who doesn’t like that?? We were sitting in a rest stop yesterday on our way to Portland in the middle of nowhere, and a Highway Patrol car rolls up on us. At first I thought, “Oh shit” but then he pointed at me and said, “Don’t I know you? What are you doing here?” It took a second but I finally realized that he recognized me from the band, so of course I asked him for a police escort to Portland.