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Colin Meloy of The Decemberists: ‘Music is a balm’

Colin Meloy in The Current studio, 2015. (Nate Ryan/MPR)
Colin Meloy in The Current studio, 2015. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

by Sylvia Jennings

March 27, 2020

Morning Show host, Jill Riley, has been spending a lot of time chatting on the phone with various musicians to see how they are holding up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Riley had a chance to talk with Colin Meloy of the Decemberists about how he is coping, performing virtually via social media, and how his music can be relevant to the current circumstances.

Jill Riley: Colin, you’re out in Portland, right?

Colin Meloy: Yeah, we’re just outside of Portland just south of town.

How are things in your neck of the woods this week?

Well, it kind of is surreal trying to fight the urge to continually refresh the Twitter feed; trying to establish better phone mental health hygiene standards for myself. You know, thankfully, we’re in a fortunate position compared to other people. We do live out of town. We’re on like a little five-acre farm plot. So while we’re home with our two kids and the schools are shut down we at least have a little bit of room to roam.

How have you been connecting with your fans?

I’ve occasionally just been going on Instagram live and playing little shows. It’s something that I had done a couple years ago when I was recovering from some voice issues. And it’s fun. It’s an opportunity to connect, to give people something to do. I think we’re just all of us looking ways to reach out to one another that doesn’t involve touching or being within six feet of each other, and I think performing music is a balm for me. I know that listening to music is a balm for everyone. So I feel like it’s sort of a win-win.

Do you plan on doing any more? Do you have anything else coming up or are you just kinda performing when it hits you, when you feel like doing it?

Yeah. Yeah, I think I’ll start scheduling some things weekly or bi-weekly. Thinking about maybe just teaching people songs. Maybe I’ll invite people via stream just to bring their guitars and I’ll walk through some Decemberists songs.

Oh, that would be really cool. Now where can people follow you on social media, just so they can keep an eye on when you might decide to do this?

Sure. Well, I’m mostly active on Instagram. I’m at @dullandwitlessboy, and then on Twitter I’m on @colinmeloy, and I’ll usually shout out that I’m gonna do something on either or both.

I’m wondering are there any songs of the Decemberists that have kinda floated to the top for you lately. Which ones sort of feel like they really fit the times we’re living in?

There’s plenty. I mean if you wanna go to the dark side of things we do have several songs about the end of the world, as it turns out: one called "Calamity Song" and another called "Everything Is Awful." I’m also discovering that there’s actually a lot of hopeful songs in the repertoire. "Don’t Carry It All," I think would probably strike a hopeful tone in these times, and then a song I did on the last Instagram show called "After the Bombs," which sort of imagines what a community would do in the midst of wartime once bombs have stopped falling. Everybody kind of comes out and dances, I guess, is the imagined premise, which feels in some way fitting right now.

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.