Dashboard Confessional
Chris Carrabba

Interview by: Conrad and Julia Zulia
Photo by: Conrad

Chris and Julia Zulia
The other night, after driving 16 hours back home from the Cornerstone Festival in Illinois the day before, Conrad and I drove another hour down to the Chameleon in Lancaster, PA. We arrived just in time to catch Dashboard Confessional's set. The small setting made their set even more intimate. The crowd was enjoying themselves; singing their hearts out along with Chris.

After the set, Conrad and I were fortunate enough to be able to able to interview and talk with Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional.

C: What's your name, what do you do?
DC: My name is Chris Carraba, I'm a singer/songwriter, and I do this thing called Dashboard Confessional. Dashboard is sort of my diary. I don't really keep a journal or write a diary, but I find myself writing these songs—it's just kind of my way to cope with this world I guess. So that's what I do, I sing and play guitar, and hope the kids sing back.

J: What was growing up like for you?
DC: I was pretty blessed with my mom. She was really encouraging with my interests, and she really helped me develop them. But anyway, I grew up in the northeast. I lived in Connecticut until I was 16, and then my mom, my brother and my step-dad moved to Florida. And that's where I've been ever since. The rest of my family is still in Connecticut. I don't really know what childhood was like though; it was a lot of skateboarding, and a lot of time imitating my brother and stepbrother.

J: So you were saying your mother was really supportive of you?
DC: Yes she was. She is a musician herself, not professional, but she's very talented. She recognized whatever gifts I was given and encouraged them—not only just music, but especially when it came to music. I remember when we were kids, my little brother and I would collect the popcorn buckets, and we'd have popcorn bucket drum sets. Most kids were playing "cops and robbers", but I was playing "band"—so I was kind of a geek I guess.

J: What age did you start playing any instruments, or singing?
DC: Well I was sort of singing as long as I can remember. I was in chorus growing up, mostly because I thought it would be easy and I could get a good grade. But I really didn't learn anything, which is a shame because I could have used a lot of what was there for free—an expert to learn from. I did pay attention, but I just kind of goofed off a lot I was the class idiot. My uncle gave me an acoustic guitar when I was 15, which I was pretty stoked about, but I was busy skateboarding so it was wasn't until years later that I really focused on it.

J: What was High School like for you?
DC: I suppose it was pretty cool. I went through some rough times in high school so I sort of lashed out one year. I skipped a lot, and went skateboarding. I suppose that's my big "checkered past"—skipping school to go skateboarding. That's a testament though, it was a lot better than skipping school to do drugs (not that I'm encouraging skipping school). For a while I wasn't doing that hot in school, then my family life started straightening out and I realized it was sort of silly to be doing so bad. High school wasn't that hard for me so it was silly to be failing. So I talked the guidance counselor into letting me take honor's classes. I started going to class, and I did ok, I did well

C: Did you do anything after high school?
DC: Yeah, I went to Florida Atlantic University, but I didn't finish it. It's hard to do both.

J: What were you studying?
DC: Well, I'm pretty close to my degree in education, but I've decided if I go back I'm going to get an English degree. The thing with my university is you lose your credits the longer you're not attending school.

J: Why the change in majors?
DC: Well, I worked as an administrator in an elementary school, and I don't know if it was due to working in the system or not, because I'm not really turned off by it. Maybe I'm just re-thinking my goals. I don't know. I feel like that's the kind of knowledge I could really use to help me enjoy life. I'd like to have those tools to do well.

C: So what do you want to do with your degree; teach?
DC: I wanted to, I worked at an elementary school for a few years. It's a possibility for my future, but right now, Dashboard is my job.

J: How much are you on the road?
DC: Too much. The last time I counted, from June to June it was around 285 days. This last stretch has been around 4 months give or take.

J: How hard is it on your personal life—family, friends?
DC: You know the people that I'm close with are really tolerant because there's days where I just can't call even if they need me because there's no reception, or whatever. You just want to be there so bad. But, they're forgiving. That's what real friends are.

C: Are there any other Christians on the tour?
DC: It's really hard. There hasn't been any. But, this is only a few days into this tour, and I'm just starting to get to know the guys. But you know what, that just shows me how important that is. I had never really realized that before—how much you need other Christians. I'm kind of a loner by nature, so that was a lesson I needed to learn. This past year and a half, God taught me that. I do what I can, I call the Further guys a lot. When I'm really struggling, I call Chad from Further specifically, and we talk, he's great?

J: How did you meet the Further Seems Forever guys?
DC: We all were playing music in the same area, South Florida. We had talked about it, and talked about it. I was going out on tour with the Vacant Andy's [???]. Chad from Strong Arm was at a show, a Saves the Day show, and I gave him a tape of this thing I had done, which was really the first Dashboard EP that came out this year. He called me up and said we're starting band. Then it was just good friends, spending a lot of time together and coming out with records.

J: Do any of your friends come out to see you?
DC: Yeah, a lot of them come out to see me on tour, and my brothers come out.

J: How many siblings do you have?
DC: I've got an older stepbrother who might as well be my real brother, a younger brother, and a much younger sister. We are all really close. I'm really proud of them. They're really good people.

C: So is your family Christian also?
DC: Some are--I wasn't raised that way. I'm a fairly new Christian.

C: How did you become one?
DC: I went through some personal family tragedy I started getting interested because I had some friends that were so against it. I didn't really know anybody, except for the guys in Strong Arm, but I wasn't really close to them.. With some of my friends being so against it, it made me curious about it, and it just all made so much sense to me from the beginning. Then I started to kind of fall away from it for a little bit. Then there was a family tragedy, and after it was over I realized that I hadn't killed myself, or lost my mind—and no one in my family had either. There was no gigantic backlash from this, even though to me logically, there should have been some sort of fall out. I just attributed that all to God.

C: How old are you now?
DC: I'm 26.

C: How's the song writing process for you, is it like a therapeutic thing?
DC: Yes, that's well said. It's a therapeutic process. It's like I said earlier, it's a diary. And that is different than Further, because I could write songs that weren't so literally from a feeling I had directly. But it seems like that's how all this started. I've felt better than ever since I've started all this. I think I'd be a miserable person if I didn't have all this. I think I would never be fun, or funny, or good company.

C: If there were a message that you'd want to get out to people in this general scene, what would it be?
DC: Don't let yourself down. Kids think of what's true to them last. Even if you're young at 21 or 25 or 15, you do grow out of that and you get to look back on your past and say "I knew that wasn't true to me", or "it wasn't what I should have been doing, but I did it anyway". I'm not saying to do what I'm doing, or what your mom or dad are, but I just feel you should be true to yourself. You have to face yourself. At the end of the day, you got to look in the mirror and say, "Did I succumb to this peer pressure or did I do what I believe was right?".

C: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
DC: I don't know. I hope I have a family of my own. I don't know, I don't even know where I see myself next year. It's been such a whirlwind pace with my work schedule. I'm really present minded due to that. It's really a difficult thing. I know it doesn't sound so difficult. It's just really bizarre to think that far ahead. I don't even know what day it is today…
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