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Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett On Making Country Music Influenced By ‘The Stones, KISS & Bad Religion’

23 November 2023 | 12:08 pm | Mary Varvaris

Ahead of the Foo Fighters’ 2023 Australian tour, Chris Shiflett wonders if his own shows are filled with “people that have heard my music” or punters that are “just curious because they know me from Foo Fighters”.

Chris Shiflett

Chris Shiflett (Credit: Joey Martinez)

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Chris Shiflett – the man you know as the longtime lead guitarist of the Foo Fighters and punk rocker in Jackson United, No Use For A Name (from 1995 until 1999) and Me First And The Gimme Gimmes (1995-2019) – is coming to Australia for a run of solo shows alongside an enormous run of Foo Fighters stadium shows.

But he’s not going to be playing a show you think he is.

Shiflett is hosting a string of intimate solo headline gigs this December in support of his new album, Lost At Sea.

Part alt-country meets Americana, somewhat rockabilly, a bit chill, and packed with personality; the record is a rollicking good time that couldn’t be further away from the anthemic rock and roll of his full-time band. Shiflett offers a subtle kind of old-school charm that makes it the perfect album to play in smaller venues – far more intimidating than stadium-fare gigs.

“I will tell you – the intimate venues are way harder,” Shiflett admits over Zoom, dressed casually and speaking into a microphone. “I grew up playing loud guitar, you know, in a band. So, when you go, and it's just you and an acoustic guitar, and you're in a little bar somewhere, it's super fun; I love it.

“The give and take with the crowd is a very different kind of thing, and people are shouting stuff and heckling [laughs], and they can be really fun, wild shows, even though you're just one dude playing an acoustic guitar, but yeah, they're fun. I'm looking forward to it. I haven't done a lot of acoustic gigs lately, but I did do a couple recently, and it reminded me how much I enjoy that dynamic.”

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In between playing nine headline shows with Foo Fighters across Australia and New Zealand, Shiflett will be headlining The Worker’s Club in Melbourne (5 December), The Great Club in Sydney (7 December), and the Whammy Bar in Auckland (21 January). All three gigs are sold out.

Describing how he plans to “win over” unsuspecting punters who are curious about the Foo Fighters’ guitarist’s solo path, Shiflett continues, “I was actually just sitting down yesterday, sort of looking through my songs and thinking, now the album's out, it'd be fun to play some more of the songs – I get to work out some solo versions of some of the songs on the record.” But he can never truly predict what could happen at his solo shows.

“I never know what to expect with those shows,” Shiflett exclaims, “I don't know if it's a roomful of people that have heard my music or if they're just curious because they know me from Foo Fighters or whatever it is, you know. So, there's sort of a feeling of like, you know, you're out there trying to win them over.”

If you’re one of the lucky fans who scored tickets to Shiflett’s shows, you might hear a cover or two. Maybe Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand by Waylon Jennings and Dead Flowers by The Rolling Stones, the latter of which is hugely influential for the guitarist, singer and songwriter.

Explaining that The Rolling Stones might be “the biggest influence” in his life as a musician (“I've been listening to the Stones literally since I was in the womb”), Shiflett continues":

“Especially that era of the Stones – when they were kind of in that period where there was a lot of country rock influence in their music and, of course, always roots and blues was always a huge part of what they did. A song like Dead Flowers is kind of where those two with rock and roll and country music meet, so that's a huge plus.

“I always think, when I do classic country covers like that Waylon Jennings song that you mentioned, my mission is to try to perform them through my filter – through my hands,” he says.

Shiflett isn’t out here to perform carbon-copy, replica covers of country or rock and roll songs we know and love; he’s putting his own spin on the classics in “the way a guy who grew up listening to the Stones and Kiss and Bad Religion would play it, you know what I mean?”

In a way, that’s what Lost At Sea feels like – a kid who grew up loving and playing punk rock who’s also inspired by rock and roll and country music takes on Americana. And, it’s proof that Shiflett is a multi-faceted artist who can release his own album this year as well as contribute to Foo Fighters’ soaring, emotive new LP.

When asked if his solo music and Foo Fighters complement each other and assist in keeping creativity flowing, Shiflett offers a resounding “yes”: “big time”.

“When I think about the creative side of it all, I started writing most of the songs that wound up on Lost At Sea in 2020 when we were all stuck at home,” he says. “I really had nothing else to do but just sit there and noodle around on ideas and then recorded it throughout 2021 and kind of got wrapped up at the beginning of 2022, and then we didn't record But Here We Are until the fall of 2022.

“So, those two things actually happened with a bit of space between those two records being made. The more I play and the more I'm working on songs and working on ideas, it just makes me a stronger guitarist because it keeps my guitar-playing muscles stronger. And, if you never stop, then you're always in the groove, you know?”

In addition to always being busy with new music, Shiflett is also running the podcast Shred With Shifty, in which he sits down with renowned guitar players and asks them a deceivingly difficult, singular question: “How did you do that?”

So far, the podcast has featured Mike McCready (of Pearl Jam fame), Brad Paisley, Nile Rodgers, Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Alex Lifeson (Rush), and more.

“Doing my podcast is like going to boot camp for guitar playing,” he laughs, “because, to get ready for each episode, I gotta go sit down, figure out the guitar solo that we're gonna focus on as best I can and never get it right. But, at least it gets your mind thinking, and it gets to take somebody else's style and try to fit it into your own hands.

“I've been playing guitar for a long time, so I have these well-worn patterns and things that I go to without even thinking about it,” he says, “and that's what I love. I love being forced out of those well-worn patterns where I have to think about how somebody else did something. I walk away from every one of those interviews, having learned a lot.”

Reflecting on the previous favourite guitar for country music players – Gibson, primarily, Shiflett plays the new favourite, a “razor blade” of a guitar: the Fender Telecaster, which you can see him holding in recent press photos.

“At a certain point, the Telecaster became the thing,” he explains. “So, for me, as a guy that came up playing rock music and punk rock music and stuff and playing with a lot of gain and a lot of volume and playing with guitars with humbuckers, there was a point where I had to sit down and force myself to learn how to play a Tele, and to get comfortable playing a Tele. Having my ear adjust to it was really hard.”

Shiflett elaborates, “It's such a different sound than the guitar sound I had spent literally my whole guitar playing life doing, and then all of a sudden, I really wanted to be comfortable with that sound. I had to force myself to do it, and it took a minute, but I love it now.”

Chris Shiflett is touring in support of his latest album, Lost At Sea, which is out now via Blue Elan Records. You can also catch him on tour with the Foo Fighters.

CHRIS SHIFLETT

Special guests TBA

AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 2023

Tuesday 5 December – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC (18+) – SOLD OUT

Thursday 7 December – The Great Club | Sydney, NSW (18+) – SOLD OUT

Sunday 21 January – Whammy Bar | Auckland, NZ – SOLD OUT

FOO FIGHTERS

2023 AUSTRALIAN TOUR

ALL SHOWS ARE LICENSED ALL AGES

Wednesday 29 November – HBF Park | Perth, WA

With special guests The Chats and Teenage Jones

Saturday 2 December – Coopers Stadium | Adelaide, SA

With special guests The Chats + Body Type

Monday 4 December – AAMI Park | Melbourne, VIC

With special guests Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers + Hot Milk (UK)

Wednesday 6 December – AAMI Park | Melbourne, VIC

With special guests The Chats + Teenage Joans

Saturday 9 December – Accor Stadium | Sydney, NSW

With special guests The Chats + Hot Milk (UK)

Tuesday 12 December – Suncorp Stadium | Brisbane, QLD

With special guests The Chats + Hot Milk (UK)