Presentation: Artist/Entrepreneur: The Many Hats Of People Who Mean It
About Dan: Heralded as a favorite among Canada’s new breed of independent musicians, Dan Mangan’s travels initially took him everywhere but home. Spending most of the last six years toting guitar and merch-sack, Dan experienced Vancouver as more of a resting place than roost. He toured nearly non-stop in support of his debut album Postcards And Daydreaming, testing his words, honing his craft, and building a dedicated following. Graciously, if un-strategically, Mangan pretty much accepted every gig that came his way. He train’d and plane’d on his own throughout North America, Europe and Australia because he couldn’t afford to bring a band along. When he cobbled together funds to get a second album made, he enlisted Toronto based producer John Critchley and spent weeks at Green Door Studios, bringing in musical collaborators from around the country. By the time that sophomore album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice (named in reference to a Kurt Vonnegut calypso) hit the airwaves across his homeland, Dan had already cut his teeth on the road.
Recently signed to Arts & Crafts, the trail-blazing indie label that brought us Broken Social Scene, Feist, and Stars, Dan Mangan is the first on their roster from the Pacific Northwest. Though Vancouverites once envied the thriving music scenes of Montreal and Toronto, Mangan’s rain-soaked hometown has since developed a potent scene of its own – in recent years, its eclectic and supportive musical community has produced the likes of The New Pornographers, Ladyhawk, You Say Party! We Say Die!, Black Mountain, and Japandroids. Mangan is yet another native son of this emergence.
The American release of Nice, Nice, Very Nice comes in the wake of its release in Canada, which saw the good natured and unassuming songwriter skyrocket to critical and fan acclaim. A tidal wave of accolades landed Dan on the covers of publications from coast to coast, and his career went into serious over-drive.
First, fan word-of-mouth and an enthusiastic blogosphere got the infectious single “Robots” onto listener- request playlists and into heavy play rotation on Canadian radio. Next, XM Satellite’s The Verge named Mangan Artist of the Year, beating out better-known acts for a $25,000 prize. Then Canada’s public broadcaster (CBC) championed “Robots” as Best Song and Best Vocals of 2009. There were showcase appearances at SXSW, more gigs across Europe and throughout the UK, a record deal in Australia, and even a performance in Dubai. Meanwhile, Nice, Nice, Very Nice sat at #1 on the iTunes Canada Singer/Songwriter chart for nearly six months straight. And to top it all off, Mangan was invited to play at England’s legendary Glastonbury Festival – on the prestigious John Peel Stage, to boot..
Coffee shops and small bars transitioned to much larger sold-out theatres. Nice, Nice, Very Nice was becoming a Canadian hit. Nobody seemed more surprised or appreciative than Mangan himself – “I set my expectations low and my hopes very high, “ he says, “and with the help of so many people, somehow, it always works out in between.”
Dan’s songs brim with subtle images and irreverent wit. He has a knack for making what is quaint seem universal and what is universal quaint, so that even his most layered lyrics feel strangely familiar. His uniquely gravelled voice conveys a rare type of honesty, a gift that seems to transcend demographics. On stage, his presence is easy and open. It could work against him, but there’s no façade; here’s a talented, hard-working and unpretentious musician with a poet’s way of seeing through absurdity.
With Nice, Nice, Very Nice, Mangan seems to be unwilling to pitch his musical flag in any single section of the record store. He dabbles and teases genre all the way from the indie-rock roar of “Road Regrets” to the string-soaked, orchestral pop of “Fair Verona”. Along the way, he visits everything from the alt-country flavour of “Et Les Mots Croisés” to the 3 a.m.-come-down chamber-folk of “Set the Sails” and the clapboard-shack bluegrass we can hear in “Some People” and “Sold”.
The diversity of Dan’s collaborators has no doubt influenced the versatility of his writing. He has shared stages with everyone from Holy F*ck, Broken Social Scene and Julian Casablancas to Sarah Harmer, Horse Feathers and The Broken Family Band. “There’s something to be said for running from pigeonholes,” says Mangan of creative process. “I love the fact that innovators like Radiohead and Wilco have never made the same album twice. Or that Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear can play a sarong-wrapped folk-fest in Northern California, or just as easily to hip kids in French bars.”
With Nice, Nice, Very Nice about to be released in America by Arts & Crafts, Dan Mangan is eager to hit the road Stateside again. This time around, he’ll have a full band with him to help refold the road maps and bring out the gritty richness of the album. This release marks Mangan’s official launch in the USA, and success at home hasn’t made him any less hungry – the guy’s got an appetite. Dan’s band is: Gord Grdina, Kenton Loewen, John Walsh.