How Dan Mangan Is Coping with Isolation: New Songs, 'Better Caul Saul' and the "Mental Fetal Position"

Catch his weekly online shows every Saturday
How Dan Mangan Is Coping with Isolation: New Songs, 'Better Caul Saul' and the "Mental Fetal Position"
Photo: Vanessa Heins
When coronavirus cancellations began in earnest, songwriter Dan Mangan was one of the very first to take his live show online and do a free concert stream. He's been promoting the 10th anniversary of his album Nice, Nice, Very Nice, as well as last year's new album More or Less. With touring plans on hold, he's hunkered down with his family in Vancouver, presumably answering texts from fans. He shared this update about what he's be up to in self-isolation.

What's your self-isolation setup?

I'm at home in Vancouver with my family (wife and two boys — 3 and nearly 7 years old). We are taking isolation VERY seriously, but we are lucky in that we have a back yard and the weather has been fairly good. Once a day we'll do a lengthy bike ride for some fresh air. It's been tough tending to the kids while trying to continue to work, but that first week was so emotionally intense that I could barely do anything at all. To be honest, I probably needed the forced downtime. Before I got home from Toronto on the 15th, my wife had done a large shop so we're fairly stocked for food, though eventually we'll have to resurface for supplies. Trying not to read the news after 9 p.m. otherwise sleep just doesn't happen.

Are you working on any music while on lockdown?

I've recently written a ton of new songs and had planned to go into the studio to start working on another album in June, but who knows what's going to happen there… I HAVE been fairly active with shows online… We did our #ShowToNobody at the Danforth, and I've been playing a weekly #Quarantunes show online every Saturday via Side Door. The last one was INCREDIBLE. 250 people on a Zoom meeting. You could see everyone on the screen — families, dogs, kids, robot toys. People were smiling and engaging and the chat thread was on fire. It felt like a community. I took requests for an hour and it was honestly so refreshing. Plus we raised about $1,250 for the Vancouver Food Bank. This week's show benefits Shelter Movers — this Saturday at 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. GT! Side Door is waiving all commissions for any artist who wants to do a ticketed online show, at least until the end of April: https://sidedooraccess.com/shows/ga6rjcs3mSouqU6MyzNI

What are you watching and listening to?

Trying NOT to watch Contagion or Pandemic on Netflix… hah. We just finished the new season of Better Call Saul, and some of the Oscar films. My kids are binging hard on this show called Archibald's Next Big Thing.

How do you feel about the response to coronavirus?

Well, I think our government has responded about as well as we could moderately hope for. Not as quick as some, more quickly than others. My boys seemed comforted by Trudeau's message to kids. Right now the science is coming into focus — the ONLY way we can hope to not overwhelm our medical infrastructure and avoid a huge influx of deaths is via extreme distancing. Trump fumbled this in typical fashion and now the USA is quickly spiralling into the disease's new epicentre. He will no doubt use this crisis as an opportunity to attempt to suppress constitutional rights, postpone/cancel the election, monitor his political enemies without warrant/cause, control the media with impunity and generally edge America closer toward an authoritarian military state.

Have you picked up any new hobbies or routines in isolation?

Is "mental fetal position" a hobby? Jokes aside, there have been silver linings. Long impromptu FaceTime chats with people I haven't seen in a while. Heartwarming musical interactions online. And a LOT of movies and books and cuddles with my kids. We're going to get through this.