Foo Fighters Guitarist Chris Shiflett to Play Top Cats This Weekend

Ahead of Saturday's Cincinnati show, we talked to Shiflett about how he works his Americana/Country solo project into his jam-packed Foos schedule

click to enlarge Chris Shiflett - Photo: Brantley Gutierrez
Photo: Brantley Gutierrez
Chris Shiflett
For the past two decades, Chris Shiflett has been Dave Grohl’s primary guitar foil in Foo Fighters. But just after joining the band, Shiflett began pursuing other opportunities to fill his admittedly small window outside of his day job’s recording/touring boundaries. During his 20-year Foo run, Shiflett has done stints with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Viva Death, while fronting solo-oriented outfits like Jackson United and Chris Shiflett & the Dead Peasants, not to mention devoting time to his six-year-old music podcast, Walking the Floor. At this point, he’s whittled it down to Foo Fighters, the podcast and his solo activities.

“Foo Fighters is obviously a time-consuming life,” Shiflett says. “Between my podcast and my music stuff, that’s about all the bandwidth I’ve got. I’m married with three boys, so I wind up getting spread a little thin.”

In 2013, Shiflett and The Dead Peasants recorded a set of interesting Country/Americana covers and a couple of originals, then released his first true solo album, West Coast Town, in 2017, shoehorning gigs with a succession of hastily assembled backing bands into his hectic schedule. Shiflett recently returned with his all-original sophomore solo set, Hard Lessons, the bulk of which was conceived during the Foo Fighters’ 2018 tour. His first album sounded like Gram Parsons influenced by The Rolling Stones, while Hard Lessons sounds like the Stones influenced by Parsons. While Shiflett recognizes the connective tissue of his band work and his solo projects, he also understands the differences that delineate them.

”Most of them were basically solo records where I was sort of leading the charge, but I never wanted to call them by my name,” he says. “I always wanted to have bands and try to keep them together and it’s just not very possible given my schedule. I finally just figured that every time I do one of these things, I’m putting together a new group to go out and play, so I’m just going to drop any pretense of this being a real functioning band and put my name on it and it’ll be what it is. There’s a freedom in that and it’s great, but I’ve always been a band guy.”

For this current tour, Shiflett is utilizing the immeasurable talents of Nashville outfit Cordovas, led by journeyman singer/songwriter Joe Firstman. Cordovas will serve as Shiflett’s support act and then return to the stage as his backing band. That set-up represents another element of Shiflett’s solo presentation that has been a necessity from the start — the financial and scheduling constraints that prevent him from employing a full-time band.

“I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of playing with different people, and each group is going to sound different and interpret the songs differently — and it’s fun,” Shiflett says. “It’s like this ever-evolving thing. The guys I was playing with sound to my ears pretty different than the last group of dudes I was playing with and I’m sure Cordovas are going to bring something totally different as well. I’m learning to be flexible. For an old man that’s set in his ways, that’s not always easy.”

Shiflett plays at Top Cats this Saturday, Sept. 7 with Cordovas and Greater Cincinnati singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell. Tickets are $12.

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