The Ballad of Father John Misty
So here’s a true story. When I went to the checkout line to purchase the new Father John Misty release Fear Fun on compact disc, the young female cashier was mesmerized by the album’s packaging. Hard to believe, that it was some old hipster who turned her onto one of the highlight releases of the past year. The outside packaging isn’t the half of it … wait until you open it up ….
Joshua Tillman was brought up in a Christian household in Baltimore and had ambitions to be a pastor. But sometimes paths change and his journey began at age 12 when he first began playing drums then turned to the guitar. After briefly attending college in New York, Tillman headed to Seattle where he found work at a bakery, allowing him to begin his music career. In 2006, his first solo effort Minor Works was recorded followed by a two disc compilation of material I Will Return and Long May You Run. Combining his influences of Nick Drake and Pete Seeger, Tillman continued to forge ahead with the elaborate Cancer and Delirium in 2007 and was getting noticed in the area music scene.
The next big thing coming out of Seattle was Fleet Foxes and in 2008 they brought Tillman in to play drums and go out on the road to support their newly released self-titled album. Along with being a member of the band through January of 2012, two additional solo projects were released in 2009 titled Vacilando Territory Blues and Year in the Kingdom. But a period of immobilizing depression and a lost interest in being a songwriter led him on a magical mushroom journey away from Seattle until his van ended up in the famed Laurel Canyon of southern California. And so began the songwriting and transformation of Joshua Tillman. And from it all there was liberation, and a new voice with a new name was born.
Co-produced by Jonathan Wilson and mixed by Phil Ek, Fear Fun took advantage of having many talented LA musicians drop into the studio to lend a hand including Ben Peeler, Sara Watkins, Wylie Geiber, Keefus Greene, Casey Wescott, Gabriel Noel, and Jonathan Wilson just to name a few. The album is a complete work, but if you wished to sample a few of the records twelve tracks, the opening “Funtimes in Babylon” is the most radio friendly. You may hear hints of The Beatles in the ballad “I’m Writing a Novel” and “Well, You Can do it Without Me”. The whimsical old tyme toe tapper “Tee Pee 1-12” is one of the more upbeat numbers while the closing track “Everyman Needs A Companion” is a slow march awakening.
There are two huge 22×22 fold-out pages as part of the elaborate album packaging. One features lyrics and musician acknowledgements while the other 1 ½ pages has included a copy of Tillman’s novel Mostly Hypothetical Mountains. This gonzo laced story is 31 chapters long and deserves a forum of discussion onto itself. It just adds to the mystique in completing the ballad of Father John Misty.
So here’s the heads up. Something’s happening, something’s coming, and something which could be one of those performances that will literally blow you away might be coming to a town near you. I just hope the merch table folks bring lots of vinyl ’cause they might just sell out.