I have been a fan of The Shins since the beginning. Okay, fine. Maybe not the beginning beginning, but I was certainly losing myself in James Mercer’s lyrics long before Garden State made the genius composition, New Slang a hit. The heartbreakingly honest lyrics, delicately crafted melodies and juxtaposing rhythms are intoxicating to my soul. The Shins songs have a way of burrowing into my head; they’re the bee in my bonnet at which I don’t swat. I might even dare to say they are my favorite band, though such a bold statement is tricky to make make when married to a guitarist. But I digress…
To promote their newest album, Port of Morrow, The Shins performed a private set on Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW here in Los Angeles, which aired earlier this week. I listened, engrossed by the interview given by Jason Bentley; captivated by the conversation. Mercer talked about how fatherhood shapes his songwriting and its influence on his life. Here’s an interview excerpt that I found particularly moving.
“Jason: So you are a dad now, which is a pretty big deal in anyone’s life.
James: For me it is. I’m sure you guys have gone on with your lives without even noticing.
Jason: How are you doing balancing the family life with the demands of being on the road?
James: We’re doing pretty well. We sort of capped it at about three weeks as the most I can be away, that I can stand being away. That’s helped a lot. We try and have my wife and kids come out and visit for a little bit if we’re going to be gone any longer than that. So try to put it right in the middle. We have to stay connected you know.
Jason: Do you think it’s changed your outlook and creative process at all?
James: Probably, in certain ways. I think it’s changed my outlook on life in general but I haven’t written a bunch of kids songs or anything. I’ve written a couple actually.
Jason: What kind of music do they respond to? Do they have all your albums?
James: They do. They seem to respond to catchy things. The poppier it sounds to me, the more they seem to like it. They love “Simple Song.” Right off the bat they loved that because I was working on this record with them around me all the time and stuff. If I started playing that, they would run into the room and spin around and dance. Little girls, two little girls. It’s pretty fun.
Jason: You can kind of road test ‘em.
James: Yeah really. There are songs they really gravitate to and others they’re okay with. They’ll dance to anything, but they really love certain things.
Jason: You know the album title, Port of Morrow, and also the cover imagery really, you know, you’re going to have to tell us but it seems like very wistful about life and the passage of time, the after life. I’m kind of just reading into it but is this related to becoming a father and thinking in those kinds of terms?
James: Yeah, I think a little bit. Yeah it is. You see time passing so quickly with the kids. That’s one of the reasons it’s hard to be away because Odetta is two years old and she’s just doing something new everyday and you realize, this is it. This is our time together so it’s hard to let her grow up without you there. You become more conscious of your own mortality – of everybody’s mortality – when you have kids. I didn’t expect that but you do. You kind of think more about death than you ever did, which is really strange.
Jason: And life.
James: And life; how precious it is.”
To read the full interview, please click here.