Foo’s Paradise Revisited

Q&A | Santa Barbara–Grown Foo Fighter Guitarist Chris Shiflett Returns in Solo Mode for a “Holiday Hoedown” at SOhO

Chris Shiflett | Credit: Jenn Devereaux

In Chris Shiflett’s fetching 2022 single “Long, Long Year,” a loping, lonesome country-rocking number with echoes of The Band, he lays into a chorus with a mantra-like simplicity: “It’s been a long, long year / Ain’t it?” Rinse, repeat the refrain. The phrase speaks for itself, and for the time-twisted and sad-sacking era that the pandemic has made. But life and live music go on.

Shiflett’s story is well-known in these parts, Santa Barbara being the home turf and stomping grounds for the man who would become a critical member of the Foo Fighters, starting back in 1999. That cornerstone of the alt-rock scene, inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame last year, suffered a blow this year with the passing of drummer Taylor Hawkins. Meanwhile, Shiflett’s solo artist life continues its upward trajectory.

Shiflett lives in Los Angeles with his family these days, while keeping a place in the old hometown, where he will serve as master of rocking ceremonies at SOhO for the “Hometown Holiday Hoedown” on Thursday, December 15. Joining Shiflett and the band will be another local-gone-global legend, Nerf Herder, along with Logan Livermore.

Credit: Courtesy

The “hoedown” reference clocks in with Shiflett’s special brand of California-meets-Nashville-meets-Bakersfield alt-country, where rock guitar dirt and pumping drums blend with pedal steel-coated ambience. He has honed the sound on his Americana-hugged albums West Coast Town (2017), Hard Lessons, and an album-in-progress.

In “West Coast Town,” Shiflett puts a twang on his detailed ode to his 805 roots: “I grew up in a West Coast town / back before they chased the working class out / You know we DON’T fuck around where I grew up / in a West Coast town.”

We checked in with Shiflett for an interview, pre-hoedown.

Tell me about the upcoming Hometown Holiday Hoedown. Is it a chance to touch base with the hometown, and connect with bands from these parts?

Yeah, for sure. Last year was the first one, and it was a blast — one of the best S.B. shows I’ve done in a long time, at least since playing the Red Barn in the ’80s (laughs). I corralled a ton of old friends to come and play some tunes. It was fantastic but exhausting. I think I was on stage a little too much.

This year is a bit different. We’ve got my old pals Nerf Herder and Logan Livermore doing sets, then I’ll close it out with my solo band. Might still pull up a few old pals as well.

You have released two strong singles this year — “Long, Long Year” and “Born & Raised.” Are there autobiographical backdrops to these songs that we should know about?

Thanks. Well “Long, Long Year” was just a phrase and a chord progression that was rattling around my head during the lockdown, so I turned it into kind of a love song, but “Born & Raised” is totally autobiographical. 

It’s funny how I haven’t lived in Santa Barbara since ’89, but those years still influence so much of what I do. That line “Born & Raised” popped into my head when I was all grumpy one morning surfing Hammonds, and I started thinking, “Fuck this; I’ll surf anywhere I want! I was born and raised here, motherfuckers! (laughs)”

You’ve seamlessly crossed over genre borders in your musical life, from punk to the various hybrids of the Foo Fighters and your own brand of country-rock, more lately — mixing your crunchy guitar work with that delicious sound of pedal steel. Has Nashville been calling more and more in recent years — or maybe I should say Bakersfield? Or is this something that goes way back with you?

Thanks. Yeah, I’ve made my last few solo records out in Nashville. The talent pool out there is so deep. I like being the weakest link in the session. My pathway into being a country music fan kinda starts with old rockabilly records but really picked up when I was playing guitar in [the band] No Use For A Name. 

Our singer, Tony Sly (RIP), turned me on to all the alt-country stuff that was kicking off in the ’90s, and that ultimately led me to the Bakersfield sound and honky-tonk, outlaw country, bluegrass, etc. You could spend a lifetime just getting caught up.


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How did you fare during the lockdown and the disappearance of live music during the pandemic? Did you find ways to keep busy and creative while waiting to get out again? Were there positives during that period?

I wound up writing a lot of songs, podcasting a lot, spending a lot of time in my studio alone, which can only get ya so far. I definitely missed playing music with other people, and that’s what led to this lineup of my solo band. It was basically just me calling some friends like, “Hey wanna learn some old country tunes and make some noise with me?”

We didn’t have any gigs or anything on the horizon, so it was just jamming for the fun of it. Next thing you know, we get offered a couple opening slots for Social Distortion, and then I was like, “Okay boys, let’s learn some of my tunes!” and here we are….

Ultimately, the biggest positive for me was getting to be home with my wife and kids and not having a tour or any plans at all looming in the distance. I’ve never had that kind of time to just be a dad since we started our family. With my kids at the ages they were, it was wonderful —  just surfing, hiking, fishing, cooking, etc. Once the world turned back on, it was kinda hard to get back to work.

I’ve always loved your guitar playing — as hot as it needs to be, but also tasteful and melodic. Can you say which guitar players you were tuning into as influences way back?

Oh boy, there were a lot! I grew up on rock and roll, so pretty much everyone from the late ’70s into the ’80s — Ace Frehley, Randy Rhoads, Ritchie Blackmore, Eddie Van Halen, Mick Taylor, Brian Setzer, Andy McCoy, to name a few. I think the dirty little secret to a lot of ’90s punk rock is that it was heavily influenced by ’80s metal — Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer.

I was lucky to grow up during the guitar hero era, but there was also tons of great music around that I was getting exposed to even if I wasn’t necessarily buying those records — The Smiths, Madness, The Cure, Violent Femmes, whatever — just tons of great bands and guitarists. Later on, Mike Ness became a big influence on my playing and vibe. Blake [Schwarzenbach] from Jawbreaker was another one. Then there are too many country pickers to list but I’ll try — Don Rich, Brent Mason, Waylon [Jennings], James Burton.  

You have teenage sons. Is the music gene passing down?

Hmm, yes and no. They’ve all played and they all love music and they all could play if they wanted to, but as it stands right now, the jury is out on whether or not any of ‘em go that way. I think I was a little too pushy with music lessons when they were really young, and I had to check myself a little and remind myself that the draw to play music for me was because all my friends were doing it, not because my parents wanted me to.

Will the whole family be at the Hoedown, along with a posse of hometown friends?

Well, it’s a school night, so we’ll see. We might have to pick up some fake IDs for the boys. [Laughs.]

Are you liking the flexibility of juggling your solo career and life with the Foo and other things that come up?

I feel really lucky that pretty much every day of my life, I’m playing music in one capacity or another. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but a busy schedule is a good problem to have.

For more information and to purchase tickets for Chris Shiflett Band 2nd Annual Holiday Hoedown with Nerf Herder and Logan Livermore, see sohosb.com.


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