Dan Mangan presents two shows in the Toronto area this week

When you hear “to be somewhere” Sixth and final album from Dan Mangan, you might notice something a little different in his voice.

You don’t hear a thing: The two-time Juno winner admitted that a combination of health issues and a new stylistic approach made his attractive tenor a little more restrained than usual.

“There was vocal exhaustion,” Mangan recently admitted from his Vancouver car, minutes after dropping his kids off at school. “It’s probably a combination of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) in my jaw and acid reflux and years of bad habits. And during the pandemic, man, everyone was doing Zoom meetings all the time. And I discovered that after a few meetings, I had nothing… no voice.

Mangan said he worked with speech therapists and voice coaches to remedy the condition.

“I almost had to learn to sing again,” said Mangan, 39. “Part of it is because I’m not so young anymore – I can’t moan. And it was a tool I always had in my arsenal – I could just bellow. I could stand in the middle of a huge club and my voice would carry over everyone else’s. I’m not a young man anymore. I can’t really do that.

But health was not the only problem.

“During all of this, Drew Brown – the producer of ‘Being Somewhere’ – always encouraged me to sing just above a whisper. And really, it was just a stylistic choice – he just preferred that range of my voice. and always encouraged me to use it when we were following up.

“So it’s a different approach…I’m a lot more in tune and my voice has a lot more tonality. When you’re not jamming so much information into a microphone, the microphone can do its job and extract all that richness or whatever you put into it.

“The voice is a lot stranger and whispered and all that but I have to say despite all the struggle and years of lost sleep worrying about losing my voice and being able to tour, we just got back from Europe in November and my voice held up great. It’s a lot of warm up, approach and technique.

You can judge for yourself when Mangan performs two very different shows in the Toronto area this week: a sold-out solo affair at the Great Hall’s Longboat Hall on January 19 and a free performance with his band in Stouffville at the Wintersong Festival in music on January 20 (Ombiigizi opens; Stars and Men Without Hats appear Saturday.)

The veteran singer and songwriter says the Longboat show – “An Evening with Dan Mangan” – was first road tested in small coastal towns like Squamish, British Columbia.

“Last year, by chance, I played a handful of solo shows, mostly in very small towns and they were great,” he recalls. “I did a show in Squamish and I was on stage for two and a half or three hours. I scrapped the setlist, accepted requests and told stories. It was so fun – and I thought, ‘these solo shows, I always do them in small towns – I never do them in big cities.’ So it was an opportunity to do something small, quaint and intimate in the big cities.

“At Longboat Hall it will be just me: no pretense, no big lights or smoke shows – just hang out with me for a few hours and I’ll tell stories and answer requests.

The Wintersong will be a more conventional guest appearance by Dan Mangan with band members Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Ron Sexsmith) on drums, guitarist Mike O’Brien (Zeus) on guitar and Jason Haberman (Zeus/Yukon Blonde) on vocals. low.

“I feel very lucky to have this group,” Mangan said. “We spent a month in Europe together in a van and there was not a passive-aggressive moment. Everyone was having fun and laughing the whole time.

Mangan promises a full-fledged Canadian tour will take place in the fall, as he wants to promote ‘Being Somewhere’, a project that took more than two and a half years to record – mostly in isolation – while everyone was taking pandemic precautions. But he says all nine songs that make up the album are unrelated to life as it is affected by the virus.

“You have to be careful, don’t you? Because if you write an album about being in a pandemic, when the pandemic is over, the album is already irrelevant,” Mangan explained. “When you listen to old Bob Dylan songs that are political, they’re still relevant today because the type of struggle or injustice or dynamic that was at play at the time is timeless.

“So if you’re writing a good song, you really have to try not to be too specific. I cringe every time I hear someone use a phrase like ‘hanging out on my phone,’ because that comes out of the universal, in a way.

“I was writing about things that were unmistakably related to the pandemic. “Fire Escape” was written in June 2020, as all the outrage and protests against (the police instigated killing) of George Floyd were waning. Some got into the songs, because I felt a lot of the same feelings that people felt and I wanted to express them, but I was aware all the time that I didn’t want a record that would only make sense in the context of the pandemic.

“I hope that’s what the songs do: they’re kind of fueled by some of those moments, and yet they’re about things that are a little bit more timeless.”

Due to pandemic isolation protocols, Mangan left it to producer Drew Brown – who has worked with Radiohead, Beck and Paul McCartney, among many others – to choose the musicians who contributed to “Being Somewhere”, including including ace session drummer Joey Waronker (Atoms For Peace, Roger Waters), guitarist Jason Falkner (St. Vincent, Jellyfish), keyboardist Thomas Bartlett (Taylor Swift, Florence and The Machine), Dave Okumu (Adele, Amy Winehouse ), harpist Mary Lattimore (Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten) and Toronto’s own Broken Social Scenester, Kevin Drew.

“I have to give Drew Brown a lot of credit,” Mangan said. “I gave him the car keys and said, ‘You drive here.’ He was in Chicago, I was in Vancouver.

“In a way it was an amazing experience because I really had to let go. I’m used to stepping in in a pretty dictatorial way, and in this case there were times when three weeks or months went by, and I was waiting to find out what was going on. It was this long process.

“And in truth, I wasn’t really in a rush to put out a record during the pandemic. I think everything worked out.”

And speaking of Brown’s McCartney connection, Mangan recalled meeting the famous Beatle when he was recording his album “More or Less” in Los Angeles in 2018.

“Paul McCartney walked into the studio for a second and just said, ‘Oops! Sorry,’” Mangan recalled. “And we all looked at him – it’s Paul McCartney! producer) Greg Kurstin on “Egypt Station,” and they brought him back into the studio and we chatted with him for 25 minutes.

“I had coffee an hour later and he was coming out of the studio. He was like, ‘Oh yeah…I was just thinking about your song.’ We chatted for a bit and I texted my parents – “I just met Paul McCartney!” He made some recommendations on our song “Lay Low”, which we ended up dropping. But we joked in brazenly giving her a songwriting credit on this song to get her name next to mine.

Mangan is also busy running the business he owns with entrepreneur Laura Simpson called The side door who they formed in 2017, at the same time he was recording the album.

Side Door, an innovative marketplace for shows in alternative locations, found Mangan and Simpson recently appearing on Dragon’s Den to secure $500,000 in funding from angel investor Arlene Dickinson.

“Yeah, Arlene offered us a deal,” Mangan confirmed. “Side Door is rolling out – it’s about 6,000 artists and 3,000 spaces in North America. It’s like an Airbnb network for concerts.

“The goal we have is a very noble one: if Side Door could become an important and legitimate part of the live entertainment escape, it would mean a world where there is more art in unlikely places all the time. It’s a win-win situation: artists get paid, earn a living, and build followers; hosts can curate artwork for their communities — and audiences would have access to awesome art experiences taking place in their neighborhoods.

With the controversial concept of dynamic ticket pricing By settling into large venues promoting superstar acts, does Mangan see Side Door as a solution to the trend?

“I don’t know if we are the answer, but we are definitely an alternative,” he replied. “The problem is, everybody wants to see Taylor Swift. Everybody wants to see Beyoncé. Everybody wants to see Billie Eilish. And when you have these gargantuan megastars, there’s a disproportionate supply and demand.

“Whereas if we had hundreds of thousands of artists in between, we’d be artistically satiated closer to home without people needing to spend $600 to get to a massive venue. That’s my view – and I think Side Door is a way for people to participate and engage with live entertainment in ways they never anticipated, but which could be incredibly fulfilling in their lives: not just in the public, but as a stakeholder in the industry as a tinkerer/promoter/host.


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