Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba on New Record: 'I Have Something To Say'

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 Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional performs at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island on June 26, 2015 in Chicago.

With its first new music in nearly eight years now out -- the Covered + Taped EP, consisting, as the title suggests, of four covers -- Dashboard Confessional is heading towards its first album of original material since 2009's Alter The Ending (DC did release a new song, "May," last year).

"If you told me I had to release (an album) today, I could. Just don't tell me to," Dashboard founder and leader Chris Carrabba tells Billboard with a laugh. "I would say we have 40 songs that I would actually pick from. Let's just say there's no shortage of songs, and I think there's a good record in there."

"On the other hand I'm still writing," he continues. "Not because I'm like, 'Oh, I've got to amass material,' but because I'm just inspired right now, and I don't want to stop writing just yet." And Carrabba's approach to the new material may be good news for longtime fans of Dashboard.

"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!'"