As part of Ford and Billboard’s “Ford Front Row”, we’re taking you closer to your favorite artists. The second event of the four-concert series will be headlined by Dashboard Confessional at the Fillmore Miami Beach on August 29. But before the night kicks off, we asked frontman Chris Carrabba to go deep with us on the music that changed his life. Where did his journey begin? Carrabba’s quite clear that the start of Dashboard Confessional can be traced to the moment when his family decided to up sticks and move from Connecticut to Boca Raton, Florida when he was just 16 years-old. That was when his entire musical world opened up.
Having already begun playing guitar, he had struggled to meet other musicians who had similar references to him. Forever feeling like an outsider, in Boca Raton he finally encountered another group of outliers just like him. Skateboarder culture out there was his avenue. The like-minded enthusiasts who became his friends also happened to be budding musicians and fanned over the same bands he did.
“If I were to try and list the albums that changed my life I would be talking to you forever,” he laughs, remembering which ones they’d obsess over. The Cure were and remain an immense source of inspiration for him. “It’s hard to pick one record by that band,” he says. “But I would say that Robert Smith’s influence on me is pretty clear to anyone who has heard me sing my songs.” Elsewhere he cites 24 Hour Revenge Therapy by Jawbreaker, and everything by R.E.M., Radiohead and The Beatles. “But while Jonny Greenwood is my single favorite guitar player,” he says of the former, “it is Fugazi that I regard as the most innovative band of all time.”
One of Carrabba’s biggest pet peeves over the years has been the insistence upon critics to sire Dashboard Confessional as one of the first emo bands. He considers that the music he listened to was ’emo.’ It inspired him to write the likes of The Swiss Army Romance (2000) and The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most (2001) — albums that have gone down in emo history as instigators of a scene that would involve other bands such as New Found Glory, Say Anything and Brand New.
Before he discovered any emo music and picked up a notepad and a guitar, however, his earliest memories of earworm songs and artists are from hearing music around the house during his childhood. “Music was a constant in our apartment,” he recalls. “My brothers and I would have one stereo blaring from our room while my mother would have another coming from the living room. That was a beautiful time. So many bands all being played at once in one house that maybe had no otherwise clear connective tissue to each other.”
The exposure to so many different genres and eras of music meant that Carrabba would be schooled in a cross section of genres, finding himself as interested in devouring rap as he was in metal, which – interestingly – he views as his gateway to what would come later. “This is before I discovered punk or any derivation of punk,” he recalls. “I think metal and rap prepared me for the non-conformist approach of modern punk. That said, I remember being completely addicted to Paul Simon‘s Graceland for a long period of my youth.” Skateboarding, on the other hand, became his gateway to punk bands, which he’d hear on the skateboarding bootleg videos he’d study.
Carrabba, of course, hasn’t limited himself to Dashboard Confessional. In recent years he’s been the lead songwriter behind Twin Forks – a folk rock band. With the emo revival in full throttle, he’s putting Twin Forks on hold to focus on a new Dashboard Confessional record – the first since 2009’s After The Ending. Recognizing that revival, he thinks that there are new artists who are taking the aesthetic of emo into the future. “The 1975 are pushing us all to the next level,” he says. Coming from one of the leaders of 2000s emo, that’s exceedingly high praise.
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Listen to Chris Carrabba’s Ford Front Row playlist with 13 of his hand-picked favorites below.