"This is the first time I've been off in 17 months," says Patrick Carney, the hyperkinetic drummer for the Black Keys. After years of nonstop touring and recording with his guitar-playing partner Dan Auerbach in the blues-rock duo, Carney is savoring a much-needed break at home in Nashville. "I'm just chilling, playing Battlefield One and cutting onions," Carney tells Rolling Stone, scooping up a bit of oniony tuna salad made by his live-in girlfriend, singer-songwriter Michelle Branch.
But it's not all video games and snacks for the 36-year-old. He helped produced Branch's new solo album, Hopeless Romantic, out April 7th, and the upcoming solo project by Vampire Weekend's Chris Tomson. And while he says he'll play drums behind Branch on her tour supporting the LP, he's not thinking about any business with the Black Keys, who haven't played a show in more than a year and a half.
"I love making music with Dan and I'm excited for when we do that next, and we will do it. But both of us have PTSD from being on the road constantly," says Carney. "This will be my first summer not working since I was in 7th grade. I mean, I wake up every day and I'm like, 'I can't believe the shit Dan and I accomplished.' But every day, it feels further and further away, even though it's only been a year and a half. I was talking to [Arcade Fire's] Win Butler and some other musicians, and I was, 'What the fuck, we haven't played a show in a year and a half!' and they're like, 'Dude, every time we put a record out we take a year and a half off. You need to chill out.'"
Relaxing is easier for Carney than Auerbach. The singer spent last summer writing songs with John Prine and David "Fergie" Ferguson for his upcoming solo album, eventually cutting about 60 songs, including the joyful "Waiting on a Song." Carney doesn't have such a nagging to constantly create.
"He's a different type of person than I am. He has a harder time appreciating the things he's earned," he says of Auerbach. "Do you know what people say on their death bed? They fucking regret working too much, and Dan and I have worked our asses off. I'd like to see him take a break. The reason why [the Black Keys] are taking a break is for him to take a break."
Instead, Carney is enjoying the fruits of his labor, both with Auerbach and now with Branch.
"I wake up every day and I'm like, 'How the fuck did this all work out?' I’m more in love with somebody than I ever have been, and I'm helping her make a record. I'm cool."
From his thoughts on "retro" records to his friendship with John Prine, here are some things we learned hanging out with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. Watch here.