(CNN) -- Driving across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas, Nevada, is a trip. Literally. If you're barreling down the I-15 from Los Angeles, California, one dusty town after another recedes in your rearview mirror -- outposts with names like Calico Ghost Town and Zzyzx.
The closer you get to Vegas, the more outrageous the landmarks become. About 45 minutes from the Nevada state line lies Baker, home of the world's largest thermometer and a shop called Alien Fresh Jerky. It's a crazy cross-section of Wild West culture and Las Vegas kitsch.
When you finally reach the cartoon-like "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, it all makes perfect sense. Sin City is crawling with flawed characters -- some on a quest to release their inhibitions, others struggling to keep them under control.
These are the people Brandon Flowers sings about on his debut solo album, "Flamingo." "We're caught up in the crossfire of heaven and hell," he laments on the lead single. The disc is an ode to his hometown, those who inhabit it and the life he's built there with his wife and two young sons. A third child is on the way. "We don't know the sex of the next child yet," he says.
"Flamingo," named after the road that intersects the infamous Las Vegas Strip, was recorded during his current hiatus from his day job with The Killers. "A couple of guys in The Killers want a long break, and I don't blame them. But I don't know what I would do for a year-and-a-half without performing or without singing."
Flowers plans to reunite with the band in 2011, after he completes his "Flamingo" tour. "My loyalty lies with The Killers, and so I'm already thinking about that," he says.
CNN spoke with the 29-year-old singer-songwriter the day "Flamingo" was released -- just before he took the stage in Hollywood at "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
CNN: This is kind of a love letter to Las Vegas, warts and all.
Brandon Flowers: Yup. It's in my blood, I guess. It's where I'm from, and it's where I choose to live after going places. And some people don't understand it, but I feel a real connection to it, and it's all over this album, I guess. It's not something I realize until people bring it up.
Flowers: So now it's got me wondering, "Is it TOO Las Vegas?"
CNN: What are you inspired by these days?
Flowers: It's changed my outlook when I'm writing a song now, having children. I think about what I'm going to represent for them. I definitely want to be more positive than I did when I started.
CNN: Do you think you've been misunderstood in the press sometimes?
Flowers: Definitely. In the early days, I was kind of put up there as you know -- a big mouth. Cocky, big mouth. It was a defense mechanism for me. I was very self-conscious, and so I would instantly kind of attack. Now I feel more comfortable in my own skin, and you're getting a little bit -- I don't know. I seem to be kinder.
CNN: What's wrong with having an opinion? Sometimes when you're famous, people tend to jump all over you.
Flowers: Yeah, but sometimes you're young, and you get thrown into this, and you're not prepared for the media and the internet, and how quickly something you say can spread. And I found out the hard way. (Chuckles) I didn't do anything that terrible, but yeah, I do have opinions on things, and it's difficult to always keep them in.
CNN: We want you to let them out.
Flowers: I think it all goes back to the kids again. What legacy do I want to leave?
CNN: You lost your mother in February to brain cancer. That had to have been difficult.
Flowers: You know, it's awful, but it's something that's inevitable. I really feel like I can't complain. There are lots of people who lose their parents when they're young. My mother saw me grow up, and have a family, and the joy I get from my kids outweighs the grief of losing my mother.
CNN: The album is called "Flamingo," after Flamingo Road in Las Vegas.
Flowers: A lot of my life experiences have taken place on Flamingo, and so I thought that's where these songs should live. I worked at Caesar's Palace, which is on Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard. I worked at the Gold Coast as a bellman, and that's on Flamingo. Met my wife on Flamingo Road as well, in a clothing store.
CNN: What's been the reaction to the record from the guys in The Killers?
Flowers: They've been supportive. Ronnie Vannucci Jr. plays drums on "Playing With Fire." Dave Keuning has a guitar solo in "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas." And Mark (bassist Mark Stoermer) was there in spirit, I believe. But they know what's going on and everything's just fine. In 2011, we're going to get back together, and write and go into the studio. I'm looking forward to it.
This is what I want to do, and this is what I love to do, and this is what I've worked on. It wasn't something that came easy, you know. It was difficult for me to go on stage for years. And it's still not -- I'm starting to feel like I belong there.
CNN: Like feeling like you belong in Vegas?
Flowers: There's a great Tom Waits line where he says, "I never saw my hometown 'til I stayed away too long." It took leaving for a really long time to really see it in a whole new light. Some people would have run. And for whatever reason, I'm sucked back in.