Vancover-born singer-songwriter Dan Mangan has been dominating the Canadian music scene for more than 15 years now. The two-time Juno Award winner has toured the world and will be releasing his fifth studio album in November.
He’s in Toronto to rehearse with his new band. They’re heading to Europe for a quick stint of shows before an extensive national tour in early 2019. It’s not only Mangan’s music but his articulate and passionate personality that has won the hearts of many music lovers across the nation.
Global News sat down with Mangan before an exclusive Sugar Beach Performance with Toronto’s 102.1 The Edge. He talked to us about an app he’s developing for up-and-coming musicians, how fatherhood improved his songwriting and the details of his forthcoming album, More or Less.
Global News: So the big single right now is Troubled Mind. Can you go a little bit into that?
Dan Mangan: Yeah, it’s funny. It’s pretty upbeat, but the lyrical content is not exactly sunny, shiny or lovey-dovey, so at first you never know how it’s gonna be received. But the radio support has been amazing and it’s really cool to see people gravitate towards it. We’ve been really happy with the response.
Are the counteracting lyrics and music sort of a new approach for you?
Well I’ve done a few like this before. I jokingly call them “bummer jams.” They kinda sound like big rock songs, but when you go and listen to the lyrics, it gets far more confusing, you go, “Wait a minute, what did he just say?” Being subtle can be a more timeless approach, and I think this is a way for me to sneak in my political nuances without trying to hammer them people’s heads. Kinda like The Hurricane by Bob Dylan.
WATCH BELOW: Dan Mangan’s Troubled Mind
The Just Fear video highlights the delicacy of infants and children. Is that what the song is about?
In a way. It’s about holding a newborn baby and thinking about the world you’ve brought them into. Babies are so precious and they literally rely on you in order to live. Having a baby is a chance for you to say “Hey, planet Earth, we’ve got one more shot not to screw this up.” Of course we all get screwed up anyway, because everything we do is based off of fear, whether it’s political, societal or even personal. But it’s actually the most uniting factor of all of us.
You mentioned politics a few times, that’s a common topic for you. Does More or Less follow that trend or is it a departure from your last album?
The last album was very chaotic, maybe even a little more political, but it was jarring. It was much colder, not as tender. This album is quite intentionally earnest. I feel like in this moment on Earth, I need to feel a little more tenderness. The album is two worlds colliding. There’s me, who’s been in this domestic bubble for five years, nesting with a couple of kids, and then reconciling that with being someone who still writes and feels creative. I’m wondering where my identity is now. Before I had kids I felt like I was youthful and part of the new generation. But now I’m 35, I mow the lawn and I’m the entrenched grownup who doesn’t understand all this new slang. It’s very bizarre.
Did you feel like it just hit you one day?
Yeah, I remember I went to a concert at the Fox Cabaret in Vancouver and the whole crowd was full of 20-somethings and all the people were looking at me. I thought I was just part of the crowd, but no, I felt like I was now the old dude. What a bizarre feeling.
But that just means you’re full of songwriting wisdom now, right?
So much wisdom. Well… that’s a good segue. With this album, it was me admitting at the end of the day I’m actually good at writing songs. There are amazing singers, but I’m not one of them. But I do know how to communicate ideas and thoughts with my voice. Narrowing down and focusing on that has been an integral part of producing this album.
How are you feeling about the upcoming Canadian tour in January?
I’m feeling great, actually. I’ve been in Toronto for a few days rehearsing with the new band. There’s actually a lot of newness in my life, not just the new band. I made the record with Americans, new producers and new equipment. It wasn’t what I usually do with my buds in B.C. It feels like I went through a long period of dormancy. But now I have this skip in my step, things are fresh and I’m ready.
You scored a film, Hector and the Search for Happiness. How did that opportunity come about?
The production company needed a Canadian composer. The director [Peter Chelsom] was a British expat in America. He didn’t want a typical Hollywood composer, but more of a singer-songwriter. It was actually his niece who came to one of my shows and pitched me. He contacted me and said, “I saw some of your YouTube videos. You seem like a total lunatic and it makes me want to work with you.” It came directly after seven years of non-stop touring when everything was so chaotic. Total mayhem. My wife was pregnant at the time and I told my manager “Look, I don’t wanna tour for a couple of years. I just wanna take it easy.” Then this gig just fell into my lap and I could work from home. It really worked out.
Simon Pegg was the lead, did you ever get to meet him?
When he was in town we got to hang. I actually took him to a Prince concert at the Vogue Theatre. It was super cool! He’s such a sweet guy and very funny, as anyone would imagine. It was all just a crazy ride, I mean even Dave Grohl ended up working on one of the songs. Sometimes you just end up in a situation where you feel slightly out of your league and you find yourself working with all these big-time celebrities.
That’s how you know you’re doing something right.
I’m very proud of the music in that movie. Because my first score was a big Hollywood movie, it opened all these doors for other projects. Since then I’ve worked on a Netflix show, something for AMC. If I had planned the route for my life, I never would have thought scoring for film and TV would be in it. But it’s such a happy surprise.
Finally, can you share a little about the app you’re developing?
Yeah, Side Door is in production right now. The premise matches hosts with artists, kind of like Tinder. They can match based on their preferences and you can plan shows of any kind: music, theatre, dance showcases. You can buy tickets right from the app, it’s great. There are so many barriers of entry into the entertainment industry. You always seem to have to catch the eye of someone important. How cool would it be to play small venues and put on shows to a crowd of really attentive and supportive people based off of a host just enjoying your music or art? We’re hoping to do a soft launch by December.
More or Less will be released under the Arts & Crafts label on Nov. 2. You can pre-order it on the official Dan Mangan website.
Mangan’s cross-country Canadian tour commences late January and runs through to Valentine’s Day. You can get tickets here.
Dan Mangan 2019 Canadian tour dates:
Jan. 23 — St. John’s, N.L. @ George Street United Church
Jan. 24 — Halifax, N.S. @ The Marquee Ballroom
Jan. 25 — Moncton, N.B. @ Tide and Boar
Jan. 26 — Fredericton, N.B. @ Boyce Farmer’s Market
Jan. 28 — Montreal, Que @ Theatre Fairmont
Jan. 29 — Ottawa, Ont @ Algonquin Commons Theatre
Jan. 31 — Toronto, Ont. @ Danforth Music Hall
Feb. 1 — Hamilton, Ont. @ New Vision United Church
Feb. 2 — Waterloo, Ont. @ Maxwell’s Concert and Events
Feb. 5 — St Paul, Man. @ The Turf Club
Feb. 6 — Winnipeg, Man. @ Garrick Centre
Feb. 7 — Saskatoon, Sask. @ Broadway Theatre
Feb. 8 — Edmonton, Alta. @ Winspear Centre
Feb. 9 — Calgary, Alta. @ The Palace
Feb. 12 — Vancouver, B.C. @Vogue Theatre
Feb. 13 — Kelowna, B.C. @ Kelowna Community Theatre
Feb. 14 — Victoria, B.C. @ Alix Goolden Hall
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