As Dustin Kensrue sips his coffee in a small Santa Ana cafe, he might not be the same young man he was over 13 years ago when his voice began to win over fans and critics alike on Thrice's second album, Illusion of Safety, but one thing's remained consistent. He's always kept his music true to his own life.
"I can really trace the different stages of my life through the music I've made."I can tell exactly where my head was at and where I was at with my faith," Kensrue says. "I let the art reflect where I'm at in my life. The music has more impact when it's coming from where you really are in life."
Though that means Kensrue's solo albums, such as the upcoming Carry the Fire, don't sound as "intense" as the old Thrice albums, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Kensrue believes that the diversity and overall feel of his latest work makes it much more appropriate for listening to on a regular basis.
"People experience the solo records differently because the music is so different," Kensrue says. "Thrice is pretty intense. It's not your everyday 'I'm going to chill to this' music. This record is something you can listen to every day. I hope a wide variety of people here it, because it has a pretty broad appeal."
While Carry the Fire isn't his first solo project, Kensrue believes that it marks a big step forward in the legitimacy of his career as a solo artist. No longer do Kensrue's individual albums feel like a side project, Carry the Fire is a full exploratory album all on his own.
"I've had kind of a strange solo career as far as consistency goes. I put a record out but didn't tour for it. I did a handful of shows here and there, but not a real tour. I had my Christmas record, but that was recorded without a full band and on a tour bus and hotel rooms," Kensrue says. "This time, I'm releasing the record and then doing a full tour. It felt like a side project before. This is a legitimate record.."
Of course, with the wide range of sounds on the new album, including blues, country, and "old school Americana" influences, Kensrue knows that every song may not appeal to everyone. For that matter, the songwriter admits that a younger version of himself might not have liked parts of Carry the Fire.
"People might be turned off by the country influence, but I think people would actually like it even if they have a low tolerance for country, even if they thought they might not initially," Kensrue says. "The only country music I knew when I was younger was pop country, and I thought it was terrible. Then I got into older country and other types of music. I've listened to diverse music ever since high school. When I was into a ton of punk rock when I was younger, I still listened to Tom Waits and Radiohead too. It's not like 'I listened to this, so I wrote this.' You build a palette to work from, and you grow as an artist."
Those angry Thrice fans can rejoice though, because although Kensrue recorded the entire album himself (with a little help from his wife) this time around, he'll have a full band backing him for the first time ever for the local dates of his upcoming tour.
"I have a full band backing me on the west coast dates of this tour, and I'm way excited for that," Kensrue says. "I've done so many solo shows around here that were totally acoustic, it'll really be a complete change."
Oh, yeah, and Thrice is back this year as well, after a three-year hiatus.
"From now on, the solo stuff will have a more legitimate place. It'll be less of a side project, because I like doing it. It's helpful to have more than one outlet. This record is two project combined into one," Kensrue says. "When it's just me working on it by myself, it makes me really excited to work with other people. It makes me excited to get back and work with Thrice again."