Before the release of 2006's Dusk and Summer, Chris Carrabba made fans of his band Dashboard Confessional wait three long years for a new album. In 2003, the band had issued A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, which earned Carrabba a major label deal.  But then... nothing. It simply wasn’t Chris’s way, not when you consider that emo's poster child released two studio LPs and three EPs between 2000 and 2003. Carrabba, a fan of Les Pauls and various Gibson acoustics, said he didn't mean to make his fans wait. He blames signing with Interscope Records for the album lag.

Chris Carrabba

"I got really spooked being on a major, and it took me a long time to come to grips with that," he says. "It was like, 'How do you do this without being soul-sucking?' "

But Carrabba plans to make up for lost time-and make it up to his faithful followers-by doing things the way he used to, back when he first started out.

"I did take a break, and I beat myself up over it and I didn't like it," he admits. "With Dusk and Summer, I had never been in the 'machinery' quite like that. I have to admit, it's not quite as bad as people can make it out to be, but it's certainly not as good as the way I had done it before."

Carrabba returns to form with The Shade of Poison Trees, Dashboard's fifth studio LP, which hits stores on October 2. And if that isn't enough, the man said he's already thinking about his next record.

"I'm about 16 songs into it," he says. "It usually takes me between seven and 10 songs before I'll say, 'This is going to be an album.' I usually write somewhere between 20 and 40 songs when I'm making a record ... but it's always very clear to me that it's only those 12 songs or whatever that'll make the final product. Other songs become lost immediately. I think of it like stretching before you lift weights. It's about getting back in the process and sweeping away the cobwebs."

There are no plans yet to record the new tracks, he says. Instead, he hopes to write more and then hit the studio as soon as he returns from a fall tour with former Dashboarder John Ralston and Say Anything's Max Beemis, which kicks off September 28 in Baltimore and runs through November 14 in New York. He wouldn't estimate a possible release date for the LP, but is anxious to get to work on it. And yes, he'd like to work once again with producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne), who helmed The Shade of Poison Trees and Dusk and Summer.

Carrabba wrote Shade over a 10-day period and recorded it in just three weeks. But no one knew the album was even in the works until last month, when Carrabba finally spilled the beans. The disc predominantly features Carrabba on acoustic guitar, along with the rest of his band on a handful of tracks. The singer had been trying to find a home for one of its songs, "The Rush," for four years. So why keep Shade a secret?

"I'm not sure I was keeping it a secret," he explains. "I was making this record, and I enjoyed the autonomy. It wasn't like this clandestine operation-the impulse hit us to work on something, and everybody was free, so, it was just, 'Let's go do this record, and see what becomes of it.'”

Carrabba makes no apologies for holding the album close to his chest. “It really did feel right, and it still feels right. It's supposed to be a personal thing for my fanbase. People dig on me for being honest. They don't want illusion. If they want that, they can listen to some hip band with tighter pants than I wear."