Interview: Dan Mangan

Recently, at his wonderful sold-out show in Manchester, Dan Mangan talked to TFFT about his past work and influences, his nominations for two Juno awards, which he was justly awarded, and plans for a new album…

What age did you start writing your own songs and what inspired them?

I broke up with a girlfriend and I wrote my first song in the wake of that and it was fucking terrible! It took a long time to find something that was uniquely me. It’s not that I’m not taking on influences from lots of bands but I feel I could filter all of those influences through something that felt like mine.

Did they form the basis of what you went on to?

They did in the sense that everything you do forms the basis of everything you do. You have to do step A before you can get to J or K.

Who influenced you at the time?

At the time I was listening to a lot of acoustic music. I was always really into old stuff like The Beatles and Van Morrison. Pearl Jam and Nirvana were pretty happening for me in the early 90s. As I got older I started refining more on some of the stuff that I’d previously missed.

You released your first album Postcards And Daydreaming independently, how did you get it out there?

Basically by taking it to gigs. I was booking all my own shows, I didn’t have a band or a team and I was travelling around with my CD. I didn’t have any distribution. I didn’t have a publicist. It was much more DIY at that point. It was interesting because back then MySpace was booming. So I spent a lot of time on there trying to promote. I guess now labels are doing what they can just to get you in front of people, even if they have to spend money to make nothing.

Your next album Nice, Nice, Very Nice opened you up more to the European and US markets, how did that affect you?

Well it made me require a band. We took off a little bit in Canada. We were having songs played more on the radio and I started getting interviews. Things were starting to click. It gave me an opportunity to build up the band.

How did that album differ from your first?

I think I’d just grown a lot. There was three years between the two and I spent a lot of time on the road so there was a lot of time for reflection. I shed some of that adolescent angst and gain some ‘twenty-something’ angst.

Your latest album Oh, Fortune received notable success in Canada where you won two Juno Awards, did that change you in any way?

It didn’t change me but it changed how many people were listening to us.

How did you feel about it?

I felt great! Traditionally it’s really mainstream. Its Celine Dion, Bryan Adams and Nickleback. And in the last 10 years they’ve slowly started to recognise the more independent scene which is awesome. Creatively, you can’t really make decisions to try and win a Juno. I look at it as a pragmatic business side of things. If more people listen to us then that’s good, so if winning awards brings more attention to us then that’s amazing. The second you start to engineer what you’re actually doing intentionally so you can get that, then you’re lost. You have to choose what you’re doing creatively and then if awards come to you then that’s awesome. But you can’t aim for it.

Would you have ever imagined winning two Juno awards?

Not really. I always wanted to do this for a living and be a part of the music community. So you aim for that. I want to make thoughtful, relevant and creative music. In Canada, more so than Europe, we got really popular and started selling loads of tickets and playing bigger venues. This is awesome because I feel like we totally did it on our own terms. I feel like people came to us. We weren’t trying to latch onto any scene. We were just doing what we were doing and it came our way.

You’re currently touring the UK, is there anywhere in particular you like playing?

UK has been great to us. Glasgow is awesome. We have a lot of great friends there and there’s always an added excitement to go back and see all your buddies.

And Manchester…?

Manchester came late for us. I remember Googling Manchester music and contacting the Night And Day website to try and get gigs here!

What’s your favourite song from your repertoire?

My favourite song to play kind of changes now and then. Songs will wonder in and out of favour with me. I’ll be really excited to play one song and then over time that song will get less new or fresh and another song will take its place. I find that it’s really healthy to have space between the tours. It gives me time to come back to them and be like ‘Oh yeah this song is great!’

You’ve currently released the EP Radicals, will you be releases a new album soon?

We will be quite soon or at least in the New Year. Radicals was nice because it was very low key. The good thing about new records is you have the anticipation and excitement where as with this we just wanted to get it out there. We’ve got more stuff on the go and its getting more collaborative all the time. We’re sounding more like a band which is cool!

Where do you see Dan Mangan in the future then?

Well I think next year we’re going to take next year pretty easy. It’s going to be a creative year. We’re going to a film score in the New Year which we’re really excited about. Then take some time to write some new songs. Just take some time away from the road. We’ve been in the UK three times this year alone!

Words by Chris Murphy and Adam West