Dan Mangan talks multi-faceted musical identity

Vancouver-based artist headlined the Grand Theatre on Nov. 25

Dan Mangan played the Grand Theatre on Nov. 25.
Norman Wong

Leading up to Dan Mangan’s Kingston show, the singer-songwriter, composer, and journalist talked about his musical journey, starting a family, and his relationship with the Limestone City.

Mangan came to Kingston to play at the Grand Theatre on Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

As a contributor to the Guardian’s Art’s section, Montecristo Magazine, and HuffPost, the two-time Juno winner had much to say on the importance of allowing writing and musical composition to intertwine.

Mangan has been on quite the musical journey, in terms of both form and style. The artist attributes part of his experimentation to the fact that he gets “stir-crazy” and doesn’t like doing the same thing for too long.

The beginning of his career saw a focus on an acoustic, troubadour genre in his 2011 record Oh Fortune.

However, his inspiration soon shifted to a more experimental arena with notes of pop influence in his acclaimed 2015 album Club Meds.  

“I’m constantly trying to challenge and push the limits of what I’m capable of,” Mangan said.

It’s this attitude that led the artist to indulge in polyrhythmic, atonal sounds in his most recent string of LPs.

Mangan got married in 2012, and has had two children since. He says these life changes mean there’s “less time for nonsense.”

“It feels like I have so little time to allocate to anything at all, so the things I do spend time on, I want to have a tangible purpose,” he said.

He believes his growing family has affected his art for the better. 

“I feel I’ve never been a better song-writer than I am now.”

Besides family life, Mangan finds inspiration for his writing through his experience as a composer. 

Having worked on feature films such as Hector and The Search for Happiness (2014), The Valley Below (2014), and the Netflix series Hilda (2018), the musician attributes his ability to experiment in music to these jobs. 

“When I’m scoring and I get to mess around with synth and a drum machine, it encourages me to be creative in a very gratuitous way.”  

In fact, much of Club Meds is a direct result of beats that hit the editing room floor during the recording of Hector

When making his music, whether for films or for solo projects, Mangan has a very specific philosophy.

“I think that all art, and particularly song-writing, is about trying to articulate a feeling that itself is hard to articulate.”

When performing, Mangan seeks out moments to break the ice with the audience.

At a gig in Paris, he walked out on stage and accidentally tripped over a microphone stand. He thought this was going to ruin the show, but it ended up making the audience laugh, and in turn, eased his nerves. He now tries to create this same feeling at all of his shows.

At The Grand Theatre, he relaxed his audience when he asked a crying baby to stay. He didn’t want the parents to miss the show or feel bad for the interruption, so he embraced the situation.

He’s played Kingston in the past, and says he always looks forward to returning.

“Throughout my entire touring life, Kingston has always been a main stay. I’ve always had a fondness for the town.”


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