About 10 years ago, Dan Mangan was majoring in English at the University of British Columbia. Along with being a student, he would perform at campus and local bars, taking just about anything he could get.
“I remember that feeling of if you had 20 people listening or paying attention it was a miracle,” Mangan reflects.
“I think that it’s really helpful as the band progresses and the audiences get bigger to keep remembering that.”
Now in 2015, Dan Mangan + Blacksmith are preparing to embark on their latest tour, beginning in Halifax on Feb. 18 before performing here in Fredericton the next day, on Feb. 19. The tour is in support of their new album, Club Meds, which is the first to have Mangan’s band credited alongside him. Though they have been playing together for some time now, the new album and tour in many ways feel like a rebirth.
“This definitely isn’t a situation where we’re doing this new thing and if you don’t get it, ‘screw you,’ ” said Mangan. “We’re excited about this new music and we want to help shepherd people toward it.”
That means that fan favourites, such as the catchy, upbeat “Robots,” won’t be making an appearance at shows as often as they once were.
“The nice thing is that when we do play it, it will be kind of special again,” said Mangan.
As his career has grown since his university days, so has his music. The British Columbia native has won two Juno Awards, been long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize, played at festivals such as Osheaga and Glastonbury and most recently made the soundtrack for Hector and the Search for Happiness, which stars Simon Pegg. The latest album, which came out on Jan. 13, is musically and lyrically more complex than anything he has done in the past.
“I actually believe that being distracted from the darkness in life is not a healthy thing and not real happiness. What the record is really about is sort of being honest with ourselves.”
Instead of ignoring the problems of the world and everyday life, Mangan and Blacksmith have chosen to embrace it. “Finding peace, not through being distracted and sedated, but through acceptance and compassion.”
Though Mangan feels he has improved as a songwriter, the objective of his music has remained the same.
“When I was younger and making records, I was terminally trusting my gut and just trying to do the thing that made the most sense: what felt like the honest step forward. That is still totally the goal,” he said.
“I think that the music has changed but my intention is still largely the same, though perhaps a little more intensified.”
The tour is set to see the band on the road from now until the end of April, before they play a couple more shows and festivals in May and June. For Mangan, this tour will be different in the fact that he also has a new child at home.
“It makes it harder being away. There were tours back in the day when sometimes we would be gone for seven or eight weeks at a time and nine months of the year, and I just can’t really do that anymore,” he said.
Despite what he will be missing in Vancouver, Mangan is excited to perform his new music for fans.
“There are a lot of songs on this record that I am excited to be playing on the regular,” said Mangan.
From The Pit at UBC to The Playhouse in Fredericton, Mangan has gone from an artist that felt like he was always associated with having a beard and flannels (he doesn’t think he’s worn plaid in five years) to one of the premier artists in Canada. Tickets for the show, which will also feature performances by Hayden and Astral Swans, are $27.