CRIPPLED by depression and losing interest in his own music, Josh Tillman did what many writers do – he hit the road.
“I got into my van with enough mushrooms to choke a horse and started driving down the coast with nowhere to go,” he says. “I was really sick of what I had been doing musically for most of my 20s and I had no motivation to do it.”
During his hiatus, the former Fleet Foxes drummer, who has been releasing solo albums since 2003, adopted a new moniker – Father John Misty – and found salvation when he started writing a novel.
Tapping into his “narrative voice”, he wrote and recorded Fear Fun, a vibrant, often hilarious album released in May. Tillman is touring and will be in Australia for Splendour in the Grass.
The album comes packaged with two poster-sized lyric sheets and a 31-chapter treatment for a fictional video game called Bed Bug Mountain.
He says “finding my voice” was one of the revelations of his career. “The novel was just so fun to write. I realised I had this whole skill set that I’d been too vain to use before because I didn’t trust my own impulses,’’ he says.
“Once I stopped caring about whether or not my sense of humour made its way into the songs, I realised not only that they were funny but they were also more useful or profound than anything I’d written before.”
As for his songwriting, Tillman is forthright in admitting he wanted to inject personality into his lyrics. “I don’t like wound-licking music. I want to listen to someone rip their arm off and beat themselves with it,” he says.
“A lot of new music doesn’t grab me. What grabs me is interesting, vivid details or a sense of humour. The songwriters I’m into are people you want to hang out with, they have personality.”
Father John Misty plays The Corner on July 28. $38.50. Details: visit cornerhotel.com.