"It's probably not savvy to say this, but I've begun to admit that I like my older records better -- and I know why," he explains. "As time went on, people came along with good and different ideas, and one thing I kept hearing a lot is that lyrics don't matter -- and I think I'm not the right guy to say that to. They might be completely right, but that's why I write songs. So this (upcoming) record, to me, is very much like the first three and a half records, where it's just like -- I have something to say, not just a nice thing to sing."
Like any other 2017 artist, Carrabba -- who doesn't have a label deal at the moment -- is trying to figure out not just whe,n but also how he'll release the new music, with all modern options up in the air.
"The rules certainly have changed -- if there are any," he notes. "I would imagine if I sign to a proper record label again, they might want a traditional roll-out. But is there a traditional, tried and true way to do it anymore? It's a record where you don't necessarily need a record label. The reason I would want one would basically be for mentorship. It's kind of a special time for surprises, but I want to be effective and make sure the music gets heard."
In the meantime, Carrabba and Dashboard have followed last summer's amphitheater "comeback" run with a smaller venue tour, and it's pushing fans towards Covered + Taped, which includes gentle versions of '10s songs by Justin Bieber, The 1975, Sorority Noise and Julien Baker. "If a song strikes me, I'll do it," Carrabba says. "When I'm working on my own music, I loosely swear off listening to new music... But I've secretly been making a record for a long time, and that was a long time not to listen to any new music. So I started listening again, and that's how I found the songs I'd eventually cover."
And actually releasing them also indicates a new attitude for Carrabba. "I stopped being precious about [stuff]," he acknowledges. "I had started becoming a little obsessive at some point about, 'What's the right approach about reintroducing music to the world after an official long absence?' Then, as I often do, I recorded some covers for fun, and I was like, 'Wait? I can just do what I like? Eureka!'"