Photo from Wikipedia.
“To live a life that is deeply invested in arts and culture and thoughtfulness and literacy is a very fortune-based life,” rising music talent Dan Mangan tells BTR. “You think about the gold rush. All those people heading west – there was all this stuff out there for the taking. The spirit of the gold rush nearly overshadowed the spirit of actually wanting to make money.”
He continues, “I feel like you only have one shot at living – the gold rush is to experience lots of different things, and maintain a sense of compassion for the people around me. My catalyst for finding those things has been music.”
And that, for the soul-stirring rock musician, is a fortuitous existence. After rising from grimy dive bars to international tours, Mangan has learned a thing or two about the ways of the world, and he reflects such maturity in the shades of his records. Last year, the 29-year-old released Oh Fortune, his third full-length album and a take on “mortality, isolation, desperation, and accomplishment.” According to the singer, life is molded through relationships, travels, times alone – sad and thrilling – and his latest effort allows for the interpretation of those stories.
“[The album] is what culminated from a bunch of years on the road with a bunch of musicians,” Mangan, who is based in Vancouver, explains. “I stirred up enough opportunities to form a band, and we tapped into a scene over the last couple years – it was very strong, free jazz, avant-garde, improvisational.”
Though Oh Fortune does not implement the exact style he observed, Mangan’s approach and artistic sensibilities grew from those encounters, and that’s what he brought into his LP.
He adds, “There are lots of honest moments on that record. It’s very improvisational and flawed in a beautiful human way. Like, there are moments where the guitar part could have been done better, but that’s what I wanted. I wanted something that breathes in a way. Humanity is not perfect.”
Since the album’s release in 2011, Mangan and his entourage have been on the road, promoting the music, foraging additional work, and cultivating a fan base. More recently, he released a single, titled “Radicals,” on 7-inch vinyl and digital download. It’s a track that didn’t make the original cut of his album, but that shares more of the life he’s acquired on his journey. It’s also a statement on 21st century popular banter, and the proliferation of empty language that information generators have promulgated.
“All this radical fodder, I feel like it’s a lot of people calling other people radical to make themselves feel more moderate, and sort of push the middle of road,” he comments, noting the true conception of radical is hard to define. “If anybody anywhere is going to do violence for their beliefs, that’s a radical notion. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the right or the left. A lot of religious groups have radical sects.”
Regardless, his record is less about assigning connotations to the word, and more about addressing futile arguments that are sparked, and sometimes even won, by such diatribes.
Starting out, Mangan sought music as a voice to channel his own thoughts and ruminations on the world, and that, essentially, is why he became a professional artist. While he began like most everyone who gets into music, he says he knew it was his path to pursue when he found he could do more than simply mimic his idols. He had his own agenda to fulfill, his own song to sing. So he did just that.
The sonic flair of Mangan’s style certainly tinges on the side of folk – he lists artists like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Paul Simon as those who’ve inspired his career – but he feels no genre fully encompasses the sentiment of his music. Labels are merely a way to sort proclivities into a box. Sometimes it’s rock; sometimes folk; sometimes indie followed by a tag. It’s everything. Thus, Mangan aims to change the format each time, so that the years of his life shape the volumes of his work.
Similarly, he lets the physicality of his work embody past and present, which is why he’s putting out records on vinyl.
“It’s interesting when you go into record shops that have survived the record sales apocalypse, they all have big vinyl collections,” Mangan points out. “True music lovers and audiophiles are fed up with the disposable nature of music, and yearn for that tactile experience. As much as music has become consumable and disposable, I don’t think people will ever stop wanting to share something that inspires them. Giving an artifact, something that’s tactile like putting on the record – it reminds me of being a kid.”
After finishing up this year’s tour, Mangan plans to shift gears a bit, working on the score of an upcoming film and taking time off to unwind. He does say there is other music “percolating,” and that next fall, the band will likely begin work on a new album with a different voice and sound. The demand of course is high for the Juno award-winning artist, who says this latest accolade brought the “glitz and glamor” of the music industry into his life, which hopefully means more people will listen to his repertoire. He is, however, careful not to bask in the glory too long, for fear he might get burned.
“Tapping into that world of accolades is a dangerous one,” he admits. “It could encourage you to make music to win the accolade, and as soon as you do that, you change your impetus. So I appreciate it, but let it go… Nobody has a 20-year career by not giving a shit, but the smartest, most thoughtful and creative people will find a way to never let success or attention tarnish their work.”
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