Photo courtesy of Brian Tamborello
For a man not used to scheduling, the Shins’ James Mercer is quickly booking up 2007.
The band’s new album, Wincing The Night Away, has hit No. 2 on Billboard’s charts, and singer/guitarist Mercer said an upcoming tour and appearances on Saturday Night Live on Jan. 13 and on the Late Show with David Letterman on Jan. 23 left him breathless.
“I was never an overachiever who would go to soccer, then violin practice,” he said. “It’s been a big change for me, being so active. I wasn’t sedentary, but lived my life without a schedule.”
This adherence to structure, however, hasn’t changed Mercer’s approach to songwriting. He still writes his melodic, 60s-pop influenced songs at home, alone. Spreading albums over time helps fill in songs, as events twinge memories and images that are applied to the music, allowing the group’s trademark flourishes to emerge. For example, after repeated listenings to Sea Legs, Mercer saw space for a flute.
Rather than allude to creative angst, the album’s title signifies Mercer’s reaction as the band grows in popularity. He said he’s had to learn a new facet of the industry: the business side.
“I haven’t felt too much pressure to write good songs, (since) I know I have them … and all they need is time and effort,” he said. “(It’s more that) suddenly I’ve become a manager in a business in which old friends have become my employees … (and) there’s a lot of stress associated with that.”
Along with shifting to a business mindset, Mercer said he dealt with several difficulties in the three-year period since Chutes Too Narrow, including a breakup and a spell living next to a crackhouse.
“Over the last two years (those things) have been figured out,” he said. “I’m in a space that’s the happiest I’ve ever been.”