Father John Misty performs American folk rock on Grass Valley stage | TheUnion.com

Father John Misty performs American folk rock on Grass Valley stage

Submitted photo
Emma Garr |

Performing under the moniker Father John Misty, American folk artist and singer/songwriter Josh Tillman will come to the Center for the Arts stage in Grass Valley with an opening performance by Aaron Embry.

A former member of such indie rock bands as Fleet Foxes and Saxon Shore, Tillman has toured extensively with Pacific Northwest artists Damien Jurado, Jesse Sykes and David Bazan.

Tillman grew up in a Christian household and at one time considered becoming a pastor. After learning drums, Tillman picked up guitar at age 12. Tillman released the album, “Fear Fun” May 1 under the name Father John Misty, following a video release for the song “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” starring Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza several months prior.

His current album is a dramatic departure from any of Tillman’s former releases and coincides with his own self-awakening.

“I started driving down the coast with nowhere to go. After a few weeks, I was writing a novel, which is where I finally found my narrative voice … It was a while before that voice started manifesting in a musical way, but once I settled in the Laurel Canyon spider-shack where I’m living now, I spent months demoing all these weird-ass songs about weird-ass experiences almost in real-time and kind of had this musical ‘Oh-there-I-am’ moment.”

The album began gestating during what Tillman describes as an “immobilizing period of depression” in his former Seattle home.

Musically, “Fear Fun” consists of such disparate elements as Waylon Jennings, Harry Nilsson, Arthur Russell, “All Things Must Pass” and “Physical Graffiti,” often within the same song. LA producer/songwriter Jonathan Wilson helped with the recording in February 2011 at his home studio in Echo Park. Phil Ek (Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes) offered his services to mix.

Tillman’s voice at times sounds like Roy Orbison, “The Caruso of Rock,” at his most joyous, while the music maintains a dark, mysterious and yet conversely playful, almost Dionysian quality. Lyrically, his absurdist fever dreams of pain and pleasure elicit, in equal measures, the blunt descriptive power of Bukowski or Brautigan, the hedonist philosophy of Oscar Wilde and the dried-out wit of Loudon Wainwright III.

After shortly attending college in New York, Tillman moved to Seattle where he picked up a bakery job that allowed him to record at night before his 4:30 a.m. shift. A demo found its way to Seattle singer/songwriter Damien Jurado, and a year later, Tillman was opening for him. At shows, Tillman would hand out copies of songs that would later become his album, “I Will Return.” Jurado and Tillman later signed on for a U.S. tour with Richard Buckner.

In 2006, the independent Fargo Records label released Tillman’s first properly distributed solo album, “Minor Works,” and Keep Records reissued “I Will Return” and “Long May You Run” as a two-disc set the same year. In 2007, Yer Bird Records released Tillman’s fourth, more elaborately arranged album, “Cancer and Delirium.”

Tillman joined Fleet Foxes in 2008. The band’s 2011 album, “Helplessness Blues” was nominated for Best Folk Album for the 54th Grammy Awards.

After signing to independent record label Western Vinyl, Tillman released two albums in 2009 — “Vacilando Territory Blues” and “Year In The Kingdom.” The following year he released, “Singing Ax.”

After extensively touring with Fleet Foxes promoting their album, Helplessness Blues, Tillman played his final show with the band in Tokyo on Jan. 19.

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