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Music Dan Mangan on the ‘arduous’ process of songwriting

B.C. musician Dan Mangan.

Vanessa Heins/Handout

Although the songwriting British Columbian Dan Mangan has been busy touring in support of his latest album More or Less, he still finds time to create new tunes. Good ones, apparently. “I think I might have just finished writing my best song a moment ago,” the Juno Award winner proclaimed recently on social media. Mangan spoke to The Globe and Mail about the “treacherous” process of songwriting, and the sweet spot that comes between finishing a song and recording it.


There’s something about the elation of finishing a song, especially a song you know is good. It often comes at the tail end of weeks or months of torture.

Finishing a song is the most incredibly rewarding thing. Up until that point, it is treacherous and arduous. It’s like living with a crossword puzzle for which you have seven missing squares and you can’t for the life of you figure out what they are, and you can’t cheat and Google them.

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It’s this weird thing where you live with it, and you’re thinking about the song in the shower or driving a car. It’s running through your head and you’re trying to figure out how to make all the little pieces fit together. Until they do, it’s just an ongoing pain.

The song I tweeted about is called Melody. It had been thwarting me for ages, but there comes a point where I decide I’m at the end of my ability. I can’t make it any better than it is. At this point, I know it’s done. I’ll sleep better. I can put it to bed.

This song feels like it’s personal, but universal. It’s incredibly catchy. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, though. I haven’t recorded it yet. But it just seems to be rife with potential.

When you finish recording and mixing a song, it’s exciting. But it means it’s now finite. It’s archived. It is what it is. Up until that point it’s totally infinite and mysterious – a treasure trove of possibilities. You know it’s good, but you don’t know what it’s going to be. At that point, which is where I’m at with Melody, it’s just about as exciting as it comes, in my creative world anyway.

Dan Mangan’s fall tour of Ontario begins Nov. 19, in London, Ont., and finishes Nov. 29, in Barrie.

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