If Dan Mangan needed a reminder that he’s no longer the up-and-coming 20-something indie rocker taking Canada’s music scene by storm, he got it at a recent performance.
“The other day at a merch table, a grown human – like, a man – came to me and said, ‘I’ve been listening to your music since I was in Grade 3.’” Mangan pauses. “It blew my mind. It was a reminder that I’m no longer a fresh face in this racket.”
Mangan’s warm baritone conveys a combination of wry humour and acceptance. It’s the tone of man who knows where he’s been and where he’s going and who feels pretty comfortable with both. (And, for a guy who’s stuck in traffic in Tacoma while he’s taking time out for a cellphone interview, he also sounds pretty chill.)
Mangan is on his way to play Pickathon in Happy Valley, Oregon. Next up is the Edmonton Folk Music Festival before he loops back for the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival on Saturday, Aug. 10.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great lineup. I’m a huge admirer of Feist, and I’ve heard good things about Lord Huron – I’ve never seen them play,” he says. And there’s no denying the location is a big plus. “There’s always a little excitement around a hometown show.”
The Deer Lake festival is about as hometown as it gets for the Vancouver-based Mangan. And it comes with the added bonus of daytime hours (Mangan’s onstage starting at 5:30 p.m.) and a family-friendly venue, so Mangan’s two children can come hear him play. His six-year-old was at his show at the Vogue in February, but it’ll be a first for his two-year-old.
Having his children as part of his life in the music industry is important for Mangan, whose view of his life and his work has undergone a profound shift over the past six years.
Partly, that shift comes from aging. At 36, Mangan has a different outlook on life now than he did when Nice, Nice, Very Nice shot him to public attention in 2009 and got him shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize in 2010.
“It never has been more clearly demonstrated that I am no longer young than by putting out this record that’s kind of about being torn between the identity of being a dad and the identity of being a musician,” he says. “The music industry is so youth-oriented and so cool-oriented. Not that this will come as a surprise, but dads are not cool.”
But the change is much more profound than that.
“Up until I had kids, I think music was my identity. That’s who I was; I was a musician. Then you start to feel, ‘I’m a person, I’m a dad, I’m a husband; I’m an individual who happens to be a musician,’” he says.
“In some ways you’re letting go of a romantic idea of what music is in your life and adopting a slightly more pragmatic one, but, weirdly, in my mind, making peace with that actually brought back some of the romance of it.”