The Shins' James Mercer Coincidentally Bought Elliott Smith's House

"I ended up buying the house that he lived in when he recorded 'Roman Candle' and those things — just randomly"

Photo: Joshua Peter Grafstein

BY Alex HudsonPublished Dec 4, 2023

We recently learned that Orville Peck lives in John Frusciante's former house, and here's another unexpected real estate crossover from the musical world: James Mercer of the Shins randomly bought the Portland house where Elliott Smith lived when he made Roman Candle.

Appearing on the podcast Life of the Record to discuss the 20th anniversary of the Shins' 2003 album Chutes Too Narrow, Mercer discussed the influence of Smith, who was similarly making melodic, '60s-influenced pop music. This led to an anecdote about the house in question.

"I ended up buying the house that he lived in when he recorded Roman Candle and those things — just randomly," Mercer said. "It was kind of a music house, but I didn't know. My drummer, Jon Sortland, he had actually lived there as well."

He continued, "It's funny — Janet [Weiss] from Sleater-Kinney found out, and she was like, 'You bought that house?! You own that house?!' It's such a strange coincidence."

It doesn't seem that this is the house where Smith actually recorded Roman Candle; rather, it's simply where he lived around that time. Smith reportedly recorded Roman Candle in the home of his then-girlfriend JJ Gonson, rather than in his own house.

"When I heard the Elliott Smith songs," Mercer recalled, "I was just blown away. I think that gave me the courage to do what I was doing."

Listen to the episode of Life of the Record below.

Latest Coverage