Interview: Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan
The musician returns to Glasgow off the back of recent album Oh Fortune and new EP Radicals
It's quite rare for a band or artist to release standalone single - how did 'Radicals' come about?
It was a neat opportunity - we had a couple of extra songs left over from when we made Oh Fortune, particularly one with a very long title, ‘We Want to be Pleasantly Surprised, Not Expectedly Let Down’. We liked that song and we felt like it was a unique thing but it just didn't make sense in terms of the rest of the record, it wouldn't have fit on there very well. Also, I have to say that, when you make a record you’re so emotionally invested, and you put all your love into it, whereas, at this point, I kinda have enough space from it, I'm not so anxious about it. Most bands will release music and feel like, whether people like it or not but we're not really too bothered - it's a very low, low pressure release for me.
Do you believe standalone single releasing is the way forward? Is the album dead?
I don't question the album at all. I think songs can be fleeting, and my favourite albums are the ones where you change your favourite songs all the time. I feel like an album's like a person, it takes time to get to know it best. Good albums are like good people in that sense - layers of their onion become more available in time.
The Oh Fortune sound is quite a departure from earlier efforts...
That happened fairly organically. We took a longer amount of time with that record, which I really enjoyed - it gave me more time to ponder it, process and come back to it. It was much more of a collaborative thing, mostly because I started playing bands and musicians in Vancouver who were involved in a very out-of-the-box scene... so you know, just spending time with a lot of players who really come at music from a different direction than myself opened my mind to what's possible - it's just a more experimental record and I think it's actually my most mature album. It’s my favourite offering yet of what I've been able to do in a music direction.
Is collaboration a crucial part in the music-making process for you?
I feel like it's important to surround yourself with people who inspire you creatively - that's what works best for me. I think some people work well in isolation, but I enjoy the kind of unknown variables that make themselves known when you're collaborating with people.
One such collaboration was with poet Shane Koyczan on ‘Tragic Turn of Events/Move Pen Move’. How did that come about?
I met Shane on my first tour that I ever did, back in 2005, and he just happened to be at the bar where I was playing in a small town in British Columbia. We just kinda struck up a friendship, and he's a massively talented guy, truly gifted with words and a great performer. Over the years, we found a whole bunch of ways to collaborate a couple of times - less so in the last few years cos we've been busy on the road with the band, but at the beginning of my touring career, I was travelling alone most of the time, and Shane and I would be at these shows where we'd take turns performing together... His craft is so different from mine it made for a nice juxtaposition.
Dan Mangan with Jason Collett, Oran Mor, Glasgow, Sun 25 Nov.