10 Questions with ... Colin Meloy
January 12, 2015
1. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World is the band's seventh album; how did the approach to recording this album differ from those taken for previous albums?
All of our prior records, for the most part, have been recorded in a single five to six-week chunk. I'll have a batch of songs finished and demoed, and I'll bring them all to the band and then we bang it out. The record gets mixed and mastered and that's it.
This time, we chose to work without any kind of deadline looming since we had the option. I was still working on the books; there was no thought of releasing anything or doing shows. We worked in a vacuum and let the songs come as they did. It was really refreshing!
2. But were you actively working on the new songs for the past four years?
I've never lived with a record for so long, documenting my shifts and changes as a songwriter, with a real sense of time passing. And there's something very freeing about working on music with absolutely no agenda, and just letting the songs become themselves."
3. What were some of those experiences that informed the songs on the new album?
I feel like there is four to five years' worth of experience packed into these songs. I moved to a farm and had another kid. Wrote three books. I'm sure all of that informed, in some real way, the writing on these songs.
4. You guys have worked with Tucker Martine for a while now. Do you consider him a sixth band member, so to speak?
Absolutely. I feel like Tucker and I have kind of developed together in our working relationship. He knows the band well enough that he knows when to challenge us on stuff and when to let it lie. He's like a brother to us.
5. What do you find to be the toughest part of your job?
I don't find the creative part very tough; it can be a challenge, writing songs, but it never seems totally elusive. I'm not a real fan of tour life, so the promotional stuff can be a bit hard to swallow sometimes. You know, having a family can make it tough to be on the road, but as long as the songs and the creation/recording of the songs are fun and inspiring, I can take the bummer side of things.
6. What has been your biggest career highlight?
Oh man, tough question. I feel like I've been remarkably lucky in my career. The fact that Patti Smith recorded "Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect" is pretty rad. She told me she'd wished she written it. I guess that's as close to a highlight as I'll come.
7. How did it feel to be a character on The Simpsons and how was the experience on Parks & Recreation?
That was very cool. Comedy writers/producers/actors tend to be the sweetest folks to work for. Both shows are such high caliber, it was an honor to be involved.
8. Please tell us a little about the collaboration with your wife for The Wildwood Chronicles.
The Wildwood Chronicles is a project that in many ways predates the Decemberists. I met Carson in Missoula, MT, in 1997 and we immediately struck up a kind of artistic kinship. She would do the posters for my college band, Tarkio, and we'd always talked about some sort of larger project we could collaborate on, like a story or a book. Because of our shared love for folk- and fairy tale, working on something like Wildwood seemed to scratch that itch.
9. What are the band's North American touring plans?
We're heading out in March on our first U.S. tour in four years and hitting as many places as we can. Should be a good time.
10. What is your favorite philanthropic or humanitarian cause?
I really like what ASAN is doing -- Autism Self-Advocacy Network. Unlike a lot of autism fundraising organizations who tend to focus on genetic research and helping the child/parent population, they focus a lot of their work on supporting the autistic adult community, a side of the equation that sadly gets neglected a lot.