Skip to main content

Build and Sustain A Career Doing What You Love

Lesson 1 of 1

Build and Sustain A Career Doing What You Love with James Mercer of The Shins

James Mercer, Chase Jarvis

Build and Sustain A Career Doing What You Love

James Mercer, Chase Jarvis

Starting under

$13/month

Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

1. Build and Sustain A Career Doing What You Love with James Mercer of The Shins

Lesson Info

Build and Sustain A Career Doing What You Love with James Mercer of The Shins

Thank you very much. Thank you. Thunderous, thunderous applause. It continues under supplies. All right, that's good. Hair ready. Welcome to other sort of chase Travis Live. I'm Chase. Here is your host about every week or two. We found one of these things, and I sit down with someone who has inspired me deeply. Some of that is inspired by the world. And we said here on this stage, and I do my best to unpack actual invaluable insights with the goal of helping you all be inspired and live your most creative life. Um, my guest today is truly a rock star. But before we get to him for you folks who are out there in the Internet world all over, we have thousands of people tuning in. Feel free. If you want to ask a question of James, I will ask a couple questions from the internet. So hashtag CJ live on Facebook, Twitter, instagram, wherever you'd like on any of our posts. And maybe a couple of questions will surface their way here. You guys here in studio audience also feel free to ask a qu...

estion. We are live so like get your shit together before you go on camera, but without further do. Our guest is an absolute rock star in so many ways, not just musically, but as a human. He's insanely creative. He's got some new entrepreneurial things. We're gonna talk about a new app called Pasted on. Then we're gonna have amazing acoustic set that you will remember And you'll say, Remember that one show you get to tell your kids and your friends about it. That's gonna be tonight. So without further ado, please a massive creativelive Seattle Welcome for Mr James Mercer. Theo. There is welcome. Thanks a lot for joining us. Thank you. Get comfortable. You? Yeah. This is good. Yeah. Just got some brown water, and that's grown up juice. Um, so one of the things that is insanely inspiring about, uh, you and your career is a the start. One of the things that so many people think who are watching from afar is that this start just happens. You shot out of a cannon. But from what I know of your past on and so many other people who have made a living in life doing what they love it was you know, you've heard 10,000 hours or just, you know, years and years of toiling. I would love it if you'd start off our our conversation today with little bit of back story of what it was like in the beginning where there wasn't people lining up for you. Oh, yeah? Yeah. And when you were living in your basement or whatever, Well, I was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I had my dad is an Air Force guy, and we had he had been stationed overseas in the UK for three years. And so I graduated high school over there in an American style high school. That was kind of an international school. Um, and then we moved to Albuquerque. Wait a minute. Like their album from there to Albuquerque, Albuquerque has a massive nuclear weapons facility. And that was my dad's forte. That's what he did. Was was munitions. And of course, as you work your way up in that career, you are in charge of nuclear bombs. You know eso. So that's why we're in Albuquerque. And, you know, he really pushed me to do some sort of a technical field. I mean, science and engineering stuff, which wasn't really I didn't really have the brain for it, you know? Or the desire. I think, um, and I ended up dropping out and playing in bands and just was really fascinated by music and art on so on. How'd that go over with a military father? I mean, not well, as you can imagine. I remember my mom saying when they were arguing about it, they were frustrated with me and her just saying, I don't know why he does what he does. And I was It was totally confusing to them. I think you know, it made no sense. Um, you know, and and so my twenties was spent, you know, in bands messing around and kind of having a lot of fun. Honestly. But any success at that point, it was in bands having fun. We couldn't draw 200 people to a show in Albuquerque in our home come town. Yeah, so No, not really way. I was learning a lot, though. Yeah, I was learning a lot about song writing. I was learning a lot about what I was capable of. Um, you know, I was faking it a lot and trying to be something that I really wasn't. That didn't really make sense for my personality on and just kind of working it out. And and, um, by the end of the nineties, technology had advanced to the point where you could record at home and a buddy of mine gave me a like a fortress, a bootleg. We give me a bootleg version of cool Edit Pro, which is a really cool program, actually. And that's what I recorded the first Shins record on the whole record on a Hewlett Packard Pavilion. Like one of those short stack things that, like on office sort of computer. Wow. Yeah. And so still basically unknown working. Sure. We're working to pay the bills or out of that work? Um, yeah. I was working on jobs. We concise. Yeah, that's why you're I was working all kinds of jobs. I mean, agencies are great. What were the oddest? A buddy of mine gave me some starts of marijuana, and I started growing that in the closet and selling to friends and stuff like that. I mean, just whatever I could do, you were just ahead of your time is very entrepreneurial. I really don't recommend that in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1999 with the military father it with you. But, you know, I just I need I knew that I needed to be able to go on tour, and I needed time for myself to do what I was really into because I knew none of these jobs that I was doing were, you know, going to come to any nice end. It was just paying the rent, you know? So I just kept working at it, and recording was a huge thing. I mean, getting that device and being able to layer tracks and so on, that was like, I mean, it blew my mind, and I became kind of obsessed about it. I haven't talked to so many people in the seat that you're in right now. This is a really common theme that I'm hoping that you all can help us culturally move forward, which is that there is something that you're supposed to be or become. If you're successful, you're gonna be a doctor, a lawyer or whatever. Obviously, the times are so much different now. And what what are we doing to stamp out so many of the things that that could be an amazing artist or a musician, But we've got this cultural sensibility that we need to reframe. So that story I've heard it over and over again. So you're not alone and be Let's make sure that the rest of the world doesn't feel like that where we have some responsibility to impact them. And you're really filling this niche. I mean, where, you know, certain skill sets that are very valuable now are just not available at the traditional college or whatever. Yeah, this Yeah, credible. It's a new disrupt that. Yeah, So you you said something sort of declared of right there, which was like an actual recording was really important. Why was it does it do to give you a sense of, like, permanency or you're capturing something and you were able to share it? What was the? Well, I mean, it's how you make a product in the music world, you know, it's how you get the attention of some of the people who are here tonight who really changed my life. Megan Jasper's here from sub pop everybody, but you know, and it's so I I I loved also, I loved records you know, I I wanted to be part of that world. So and in also in Albuquerque that it's it's kind of a few and far between the people who know how to do that. You need somebody who knows how to record is a good engineer and has good taste. So that's a combination. That's just you confined it in a big city like this. But in Albuquerque, they were just only a very few, and it was expensive. So is that what you're doing yourself at that point? And so I started doing it myself. It started with a four track, like you said. And then it was the this Hewlett Packard Pavilion computer that, like word processing by dome and sins recording device by night. Yes, exactly. How did you get from there to Portland and Seattle in the Northwest, Like, just literally decided to pick up and move? Was it because everything was happening here, like on what time frame give us a little? Well, I mean, it sort of starts with with little tour jaunts that I made that reminds you probably make sure your phones off. You know what that present you know, Littlejohn's that we would do in in an old band I was in called Flake. We met people. So again it's just working. It's doing It's getting out there and meeting people and making connections that you don't realize will come to some strange fruition, you know, down the road. So on this one trip, we opened up for a little band in a sandwich shop. It was a band that was on the newly formed up records called Modest Mouse, and we played right there, right and sandwich shop in a sandwich shop on a stage not near as big as the SC, though, and people are coming in and buying there food and stuff. But, you know, So what happened was Isaac hit me up about opening up for them in Texas because he had remembered were from New Mexico, and he put it together and was like, You guys come out open up for us. I really like that record you guys did. It was a 10 inch we had and, um, I met. I hung out with Z Coward, who is partner with me on Pasted. Yep, he was drumming, loves his sister, who is opening up for modest mouse as well. It's these connections, you know. It's crazy. Well, from sandwich shop, John, like top billboard albums. Obviously there was a journey there. So get your ass now, Teoh detail that people want They want another sandwich shop because I think people home, they don't know it's in California that they really don't know. This is part of the thing. Is that you? You think that this stuff happens overnight and the reality is that you're living in the basement with fewer transfer and you're frustrated? And so there are people out there listening who were trying to go from 0 to 1. That means they don't even identify as creative or whatever, and they're trying to get there. And then there people have been grinding for a long time, and you almost just have to outlast the shit. You get through it. And so now I would like you to take us on a little journey here up to the Northwest, right? The sandwich shop, Zeke in Isaac both go back to Seattle, where they were living, and they speak to people in sub pop and say some pop was was really cool in that they were telling some of their bands and people that they knew, like, if you see anything cool out there, let us know, you know? And so we got kind of a direct connection or indirect connection to sub pop through that. And, you know, it wasn't too much longer after that. And Megan and Jonathan, who were running sub pop, showed up at a show. And where was that show is that it was in San Process that I first, but we started having correspondents with some pop, and it was a big deal. I mean, it was I don't think I really realized how big of a deal would be for Albuquerque. Yeah, but yeah, it was really cool. Really crazy time for us, you know? So did it that you're living in Seattle. Now you're talking to sub pop, and you know, I I I was still living in Albuquerque and lived there for until well for a couple years. And then that was going to go down, GoPro down. And then I moved to Portland, actually, because a friend of mine had run out of gas in Portland, became a dishwasher. Literally. I have a friend who's done a lot of money. He's a dishwasher. I'm gonna go move in with him, E. I mean, that was called a soft landing for us and our working. Yeah. Okay, so you're in Portland. There's seen that this list, uh, amazing group of people at sub pop record exposed to all kinds of new things. Totally different. Um, social life. And it was It was cool when the first record happened. That was 2001 June of 2001. Okay, And then we went on tour, and 9 happened while we're out there and just let me just began this crazy career, you know? And it started out slow still, you know, it was just a record available. That's all you know. Although it was on sub pop with, you know, give its mom it about record stores. They respect and admire sub pop. But we were unknown. And, um and so touring was an integral part of, you know, getting the word out. Was it like a bunch of guys in a van and seeing movies were driving. And my buddy is doing his best to tour manage, working with people who don't want to pay us, no matter how well we did, you know? Yeah. So catapult yourself from driving around in a van to releasing a full length with an E. P s. So we put out we put out a single on sub pop and then a full length record on something because I had built up quite a bit of material working with this computer. It's all about the computer, and I Well, I mean, the robots help there. I seriously, you know, I tried to do what I did on a oh inverted world with a four track, and I'm not that skilled. I mean, it just it takes a lot of work. It was a great, you know, the advent of that thing really did change everything. Um, so we have the first record came out sub pop, sentenced to Europe. We went and played in Sweden and stuff, um, it was just really cool. And then what happened is about that time. So it did spread. There was there was something about the record that had some hooks in it. And, um and it wasn't too long, you know, after the record coming out, I mean, maybe six months to a year that we I remember receiving a treatment and somebody wanted to put one of our songs in a movie, and we immediately were like, Yeah, treatment. He doesn't mean the spot. He got a movie treatment. Yeah, movie training. It is like the scene is written out, and here's how we'll use your song. And And we were like, Yes, totally. And that was the first of many of those sorts of things. Remember what that was? It ended up being Garden State, which didn't come out until 2004 or so. But it was 2001 or 2002 when we were a lot of people lost their virginity to that. I that one thanks everyone. So that ended up being a really huge thing for us and is partly why I'm here today. You think so? Yeah. It was a big deal for us. It was just well, that soundtrack was really widely played. That was really popular movie in a popular soundtrack. Yeah. So you and Zach Braff buddies because of that? Um, I can't say we're buddies, but I know him and I have done more work for him and he's really sweet guy. And did that just go from, like, 0 to 100 miles an hour? And you went from from in front of Red Van that we were touring it to actually being able to rent a bus. Cesaire musician terms right from the red band of the But we went toe and a bus. Yeah, it was pretty cool with a bathroom in it. Great. Did the sub pop know about that? Cause that's probably enough charge. So let's go from there to start him. Just skip everything and you got the number one or two album on Billboard. So and that would have been wincing. The third record. Contrast those two lives for us. So Red van to the bat, the bus with the bathroom and then playing large venues, sold out shows, you know, Billboard Top albums. I mean, my personal life really hasn't changed that much. There's not that much of a difference, you know. I'm what about the psychology? And it's just something you Did you actively resist this, or is it just cause you're James or the people want to know? I would say yes. My psychology has changed. Megan, Who's here? Who's known me during this whole? Can we just Meghan, just put your hand up. Coming. I'm sorry. Me? Yeah. Um, you know, I think that the people who knew me back then would say I was very I was just very shy. Um, and, you know, it's a and just reticent least all that. So I mean, I've come come out. I've come out of my shell, I guess during this process a little bit, but, I mean, you know, I don't know. I am not very visible, You know, I'm not really spotted on the street often or any of that stuff. Yeah. So my life really attractive. Do you actively work against that? I don't really think about it much. I mean, also living in Portland probably helps, right? Living in Portland House. Yeah. Um, yeah. I mean, and I guess I haven't really sought out the my image being available. But it wasn't a decision. It was just sort of like, you know, I had cool friends who did great art. Like Jessie Lee. Do you have up here in Seattle? And, um and so that would be the default thing for us as far as artwork or things like that. We wouldn't. It wouldn't just be like, you know, us on the cover. So But you don't have to tour in the bus of the bathroom, necessarily. You don't have toe live in in a small apartment in moments. Yeah. And Albuquerque, Um, did do you feel like you're art changed Because of the acknowledgement. I'm tryingto help people relate to the fact that so many people have a great freshman album and then struggles a sophomore because there's a lot of shit going on, right? And did you feel none of that? Some of that. It feels like, basically, how you're you're responding that you didn't You were just like, doing your thing, that it wasn't very intense. And I remember being asked these questions back when we put out our second record because the 1st 1 was a success. Um, you know, in some ways, I think that the creative process is always a bit of a struggle. You're sort of having a conversation with yourself. You're you're criticizing. It is. You're doing it. Yeah. And this dialogues going on, you're imagining people seeing. I mean, that's even when I'm doing visual stuff or writing. You know, uh, I'm imagining this conversation, and I'm having the conversation at the same time with myself. So it is a bit of a struggle, I think no matter what, you know, Like when I was in Albuquerque, alone in my room, I knew my friends. We're going to hear it. I knew the other bands in town. We're gonna hear it. And I wanted to show them, you know, I was So I had this, like, angst and intensity about it. Did you lose that when it was just on the radio or because there was no them? There's no they may be. Then it's slightly shifts and changes because, um, you have, in addition to the people that you know that you're impressed by that you wanna impress you also unknown masses that you want to impress I. But I don't know. It didn't have the impact that I think it does have on some artists sometimes got it right. Shift gears. So when I find out a couple of things about you that that, um well, that may that's the question. What are some things about you that if you revealed right here that people would be surprised to know, because the whole selling weaselly probably thing that's probably a surprise. I never actually revealed you're safe now that it's legal up here. You know, it's like I happen to me If they have found that in the closet. Um, you know, you're in the twenties that wild? Um, I mean, on Ideal day for me is at home with my family and my wife and kids in the garden. The garden. Last time when we were together in San Francisco, you talked a lot about garden. That a thing. I mean, it's a big thing for my wife, and it's something that I sort of introduced to her. But she's just run with it, and it's just a big part of our life. Therefore, you have, like chickens and your Portland's chicken are covers. Have chick and go stuff. I've seen Portlandia. Yeah, right. That's our neighborhood. Is we have got chickens. Yeah, no pets. Maybe that's a surprise. I have No, we have no pets. What? You also remarked in one of the most recent answers there, but I was in M s 13. No, there's nothing surprising things that really surprised you, where the surprising affected you grew in your closet to pay for your food. You said something second ago, just about about being created where I'm writing or drawing or painting. But you said you love your breath said four or five things that some of the things that is wildly apparent when you spending time with you that you you think and work on lots of different dimensions is that inherent. And you do you feel like that was uncorked by your music and it was putting music out there that allowed you to pursue a bunch of other things. And you get used to putting yourself out there. So what is it, uh, you know, talking about that for a second. I mean, I've always been curious. There's that, You know, I always just been fascinated by the world, and so, and I guess I've always had a little bit of, ah, almost delusional belief that I could that I could do something cool, that I could contribute something. So maybe that those two combined has got me messing around with lots of things. Well, that's the thing when you ask a room full of say, you're all were like eight year olds who wants to come up here and draw me a picture? Every hand in the room goes up and then you ask that same question when they're 12 20% of the hands up and you ask that same question, their and there's like four people in the room that want to get up and draw. Yeah, it's it's frustrating. That's one the reasons why this place exists. But would you put yourself in the camp of people who have just, like, blown through that and not paid attention to it? And you were always good with wearing that as a bad No. I was definitely one of the kids who would not put his hand up even at eight years old. I was shy. I was really terribly shy. So I really had to on come out of my shell and I mean, I can I can credit. So I was doing art, but it was in my bedroom. It was, you know, I kept it private, but, um, I had a friend named Neil Lankford who was in Flake with me, and he kind of took my hand and pulled me on stage at one point. And that was the beginning of me sort of getting over that stuff. And I I mean, I really don't know that I would have ever done anything if it weren't for that moment. Yeah, he really was, like, you know, he heard me playing in my room or something. Like, you should join our band. You should go play at the sandwich shop. Yeah, right. Yes. That's that's another thing that I'm hoping that people at home can take away is that it started at the sandwich shop. Not just for you, but for everybody. Yeah, Yeah. I mean, right, sure. I would guess that. I mean, unless you are spotted at the mall at 10 years old, and Disney signs you to something, you know, it's gonna be the seven. Everybody that never goes. Well, yeah, it doesn't go well. Ever goes well, so you feel reasonably confident. And artists you said, I think I could make a mark, I think. And that sounds like it came over time. Um, one of the things when we were last in San Francisco together, you talked about Ah, a new creation you've talked about yourself as a non techie. Yeah, and yet here you are you guys for if you don't know James on and some friends, um, developed an app tell us like that seemed like you've got however many millions of records out there in the world. Your on your just self produced a new one. And and the thing that's like you're talking about a lot is app. Really? Is it weird you're into it, right? Because that's another. I think it's another creative sort of thing. Starting a partnership with some friends. Zeke, who I told you, helped me to get signed to sub pop. Um, I was in a restaurant in Hawaii called Buzzes on old. I mean, it's been around, probably since the forties or fifties on the beach in Kyla need old place. And there was a collage of just face is mainly and just a big board filled with these faces, old pictures, and you could see that at the bottom, you know, they were getting newer. It's like from the sixties all the way to the eighties or something. And I thought with your phone using facial recognition, you could possibly make an app like that. And so I started looking for it because, like, it's it's gonna be there. And I'm gonna buy that. Yep. My instagram is gonna be so cool, But it wasn't there. And so, um, Zeke and I spoke and Zeke as a programmer. Now he's no longer the drummer for lovers laughter, but he is a drummer. Still, he's playing tonight, actually, in town. But so he said, Yes, we can do this. This could be done. And he already was in the midst. He had done work for Spotify. He runs a company with his partner Ben called Brigade Brigade and work. Just cool stuff. I didn't realize he had done all this cool stuff, and he had this whole second career. But anyway, so we work together, and we for many long months, we hashed it out, trying to design this user interface, which is really fun to try and figure out. What do people want to do? What do you like about the APS that you love? And then there's the whole aesthetic side to it. So we created a collage called Pasted. And I think you're going to show you nice. Yeah, e I really want, But I am not sure that I am with you running over here. We'll figure out what what has to happen. Internet. Put that out there. Do you think you know me? But that airplay okay to the apple TV airplane. To what? Boot deck booth. A thief? A or boot boot? That You guys call me Booth. Okay, I said when? Well, look there. There it is. Yeah. So this is pasted. Um, that's our cute animation happens beginning. So get started. And basically what, we'll see our photos in my camera roll. Did you edit this first? Because this could be ugly. I selected some photos that you think this is gonna be very rough. Okay, But the thing that this does that other collage maps don't do is you can select a bunch of things and throw them out at once. Um, and it just sort of okay, there they are. It's not looking cool, but I can select this and I can just start moving things around, and I can If I work at it, I can approximate what I saw. It buzzes. It has facial recognition. So it avoids coming, coming out my mom and my daughter's face there, Um, and it just just kind of cool. And you can see that basically, you can assemble last night's party. Now I've changed a filter. Um, you could go like this and there's a bunch of different filters. You can go up and you get the backgrounds changing. Um, but I've done a T shirt designed with this. I think you have that gift, by the way, right? Gave me get over the shirt. It's amazing. So anyway, that's basically the gist of it. But you can imagine messing around with this for a while, and it's got a bunch of cool features like This is a masking tool where you can do weird stuff like this. So why did you do this? Like, was it just was it because I couldn't buy it, so I had to make it? But that's the thing like that's a take away that if you're again at home or out there, if you if you're interested in making something, make something that scratches your own itch because that's what people care about. People know that, and if you have a thing that that is bugging you. There's probably, you know, a 1,000,000 other people. That's just the way the world works. And in the process of making this, what kind of experience was it for you? Were you satisfied? Were you terrified? Because this fun and interesting for you to share this with the people of people who know you as a musician and now you're a developer is that weird, different sort of thing? But I there's a lot of similarities. I mean, when you're when you're creating a product that kind of goes back to that thing of when you're recording a record, you're really just taking what you're doing in your bedroom or at on stage and your training to something that people can experience from afar and it and it really becomes about product design. And there's packaging and all those things. So it's similar in certain ways, you know, that whole the aesthetic side of it. Do we have any of those examples? Somebody just that was just about to break. So I don't. If you want to talk to you, some of these these it's gonna be hard to see if you're the back of the room, But I'll hold these still. So that camera that's hovering over your head right there get it. These were some of the examples that the community of things that the community have made This is like very Fallon. Ask, right, I'm sitting thing, but it truly beautiful stuff. And one of the things that first doing a whole lot of that I'll show a few more here. One of the things that well, that's scary. One of one of the things if you actually pay attention to the app and it's on the front page of my phone right now and the night that we hung out in San Francisco not too long ago, there is a thriving community that's using this to make stuff. Um, a lot of these air sort of abstract. That's Yuki is here. Our bass player, Where you at? Yuki? They're just back there like he's claiming it right now. I saw that This is cool. This is Anne Beattie. Did this, uh, who's really great artist and, uh, does all kinds of immediate work down important, and she's moved to L. A. But that's a great one. This is There's a dead alive sticker pack so the shins Dead alive Song that we first released. We did a sticker pack based on the video that we created God. So they're stickers in their, like, instigating surely stickers. You didn't show the stickers? Okay, there. Stickers? Yeah. There you go. This is ah, person named Blue Cacau. That's her handle on Instagram. He or she actually, he or she do? No, you don't. I don't know, but does really, really cool stuff with pasted. So it looks like in part the like my grandma's hallway just covered with these collages of when we are all you know, young. And she did that. Yeah, like those little cut out Not. And I've also, you know, the Rolling Stone. That a big piece about the about the app And is it, like, rock poster collage thing? That's one of the things that we've kind of discovered is a value in it. You know, back in those days in Albuquerque, I would spend hours at Kinko's making photocopies and blowing things up and then using white out, making flyers and stuff. Pace is actually a great way to do that sort of stuff. Fly with your phone and you know, and not have to necessarily own a $2000 laptop with photo shop. Got it? Well, throughout the course of our conversation so far, I've asked some folks here in the room to be fording the questions that are coming in from all over the world. And I've got four or five and I'd like to go to a couple of those. But you all in here in the room. I'll let you guys have a couple questions in a second, but I do want to get to this one. Mary Jennings, uh, asks, Have you ever really considered giving up being an artist? Or is what you were meant to do? And if you have, Was it art? What? Was it the art making, or was it the struggle to successfully perform? That was the challenge. I think it is that that was That was two things, though. My heart making Yeah, there aren't making Or was it the performing after you've made the other writers in the world of music, you have to end up performing it, don't you? Yeah. Um I guess I mean, really, I I was always in. I always enjoyed making music and um and I don't think I would have ever really given that up, but yes, I did. You know, before I I was able to make a living at it. Of course. You know, it's like my really just kidding myself. Like, what is this then doing? You know, um, and at one time, I told my parents in Albuquerque that, you know, I had this new computer and I was going to really push hard. And don't expect much from me in the next year. You know, I know you guys are frustrated with me, but I'm gonna push hard this year to make as good on album as I can and see if it merits anything and see if it becomes any kind of a success. And And I promised them if that didn't work, I would go back to school and get a proper job stuff. So, yeah, there is that moment how to go for them. I mean, was that well, then they were like, Yeah, right. And then they're tapping their fingers and, you know, they acted supportive, you know, they were frustrated, and I can understand it. I mean, I'd want you want you want a lot for your kid. And they're a different generation, you know? So, yeah, they did their best to be patient with me. Honestly, how big of a part of your career today is? Fear versus 20 years ago when you started, man, I have to be honest. I mean, it's it's a mixed bag still, um, but this is like, this needs to be said James. Yeah, right. Question. It's a good question. Um, and I've never been asked that I think that I was pretty fearless, you know, early on, because there was nothing to lose. Um, and I would say that there are times now when there is fear, you know, and anxiety about is because of who you become because you have expectations because, you know, you're like, trying to get a paycheck. What's the fear about now? Well, I recently I had this doubt because I'm really out of touch in a lot of ways with, like, the modern music scene, you know, I know certain bands and they really they stick out to me. But I do see a lot of things that are popular, that I don't really understand why they're popular way. All do. Probably so nicely said. But it's a disconcerting sort of thing, you know? Um, but then I realized so brilliant in a conversation with my wife. She kind of pointed out, You've never been in touch, man touch with. It's always been like, you know, it's and and and that's kind of good, yeah, but that's a thing like, That's one of the reasons I ask the question because you just do you and that I think artists by and large and just people, whether you're trying to transition career, whatever it is, you think that the answers are out there. But they're really in here like that. What makes you and the things I love things I really love, like you can see influences and so on, but dearly because you're not in touch with the new hot shit. True. So if you're sitting at home true, but that's the thing you're sitting at home like What you gotta do is you gotta do you. So another question that's dove tailed off that other one is We haven't even touched on the new record yet, which this is a great segue way into it. Um, once you give us the short, so talk about it for just a second in the last this year. Question from Brian. Okay, um, the new record is on Columbia Records. It's called Heartworms. Heartworms. Heartworm. What's the title? Let's give us the back story. Um, well, are these, like, stupid rock journalist questions? Because I want this guy is good. I kind of like this story. Okay, Um, I don't know if any of you remember there was a band in the nineties called Heartworms. No, no one is that they They had one really cool record. But it was Archie Moore who had done Velocity Girl and other bands spacing, but really cool guy. Um, and I was in the midst of writing the song titled Heartworms, and I wanted to describe this love affair as something something that the person just really wishes they could just take a pill and just get it knocked out of them and just be passed it. So they feel infected by something. But I didn't want to be too grotesque, so I remembered this heartworms and that phrase. It always just struck me as something really cool, you know? Um, so I contacted Archie Moore and he gave me the go ahead. First he gave me he kind of messed with me. Hey, dude, I cannot believe you would ever Just kidding. And so he let me use it, and I'm I'm very thankful because I really love what he did. And so anyway, so heartworms, that's and that to me just became, like, everything about the records, sort of, You know, it's like those moments were all of a sudden. Now everything makes sense. You know, the records called heartworms. It's I'm hopefully infectious, um, and touches your heart. So it was just kind of, ah, grotesque version of like, the word earworm, But it's been it's been well, is it not since you, since you released the record. Oh, yeah, it was five years for the Shins. It was five years assignment of another band called Broken Bells, and we had done 12 years earlier, So it's some kind of leap frog broken bills, Right. Let's talk about broken bells for second set against a really interesting project. Go there for me. Give us the back story. Okay, So danger amounts of famous producer Brian Burton is his real name when he called the danger. Danger? No, I just Brian. Brian, it's so, um, I was in a bit of Ah. Oh, man, you crisis much safe. It's safe mode, right? I live here. I was struggling with the band and I wanted to do something different. I knew that I wanted to sort of change things up. This is after wincing the night away. And, um and Brian, uh was also in a similar situation. He wanted to have a new band like a proper band. He really likes to perform and right, um and he's great at all of it. And so he wanted to do the same thing, and we got in touch through my management. I had met him a number of times. It shows and stuff. He was a tions fan, and I was a fan of his stuff. So he proposed the idea that we get together and just have a band like we'll just write songs together. I know it's crazy, and he had a working studio and like he's got Kenny Takahashi and tall Mont Falcone, who were great engineers. So I was just invited to go down there and of course, this is back. I'm still a little bit in my show at this time. I was nervous about this, you know? I mean, I hadn't gone and performed with people outside of my band before, you know? So I mean, it was a pain in the ass to get me on stage in the first place. And now I was gonna go work with proper musicians and a famous producer. You know, Brian had just finished basically touring and doing the second Gnarls Barkley record. There are big bands, a big act that was one of the biggest songs of that era. Yeah, um, so I was I was really nervous. And it's funny looking back, and, you know, you have those moments you just scared to death to do something. And often you just do it and get through it. And you look back later and you're like, What was I so afraid of? It was one of the first. It was It was a big moment for me working with Brian. If you take that little nut, that's if you walk with anything from this conversation, you should walk away with that. There's a moment where you're terrified. And then as soon as you start doing it, as soon as you're into it and maybe start to get out of it, you ask yourself, What was I so terrified about? Take that. I'm sure there's a lot of people retweeting that right now, but the journey from chutes too narrow to the new album How have you changed as an artist? Yeah. Yes. Well, yeah, Well, im or adventurous. Yeah. You know, I think the new record is the most adventurous thing we've done. Um, and it's a lot of those steps. It's, you know, working with something like Brian who has very different aesthetic, uh, scope and very different technique and learning a lot. And it's, you know, just doing it enough and growing and then and also feeding off of new music that's out there. So is out of touch, as I say I am. I really love Ariel I'm obsessive about I love Tame and Paula and, you know, he's really cool things, But they're not necessarily the absolute top of the charts. David Butler wants. No. Did you have a long term plan? Are you just following your instincts? No plan, No. Never plan. Well, I would if I could, but I didn't have a I didn't have a plan, You know, I have I have realistic goals that I set for myself, but, you know, I didn't have sort of, like a life plan. I mean, this was this was hard work and luck and and, you know, knowing when an opportunity is is has arrived and not letting it pass, you know? And that's intuition. I guess so, Yeah. All right. We're gonna go to I got to opportunity. Answered two questions from here in the inside your audience. You're in the front row, so you're gonna get second place here. I'm gonna go you in the fourth row there, please. Mike's gonna come your way. You can use that tells you, actually stand up. Tell So you are Maybe. Yeah, this is official. Right? Thank you. I think I think it's working, but it's not your not attached. The p. Okay. Great. Um, I wanted to ask you about your voice, because I think you have one of the most incredible special voices. And ah, just when you started to saying what was your first kind of experience with especially someone who shy and a voice is so personal. So and I grew up in Hawaii. So what? Up with buzzes? Thank you, Sarah. Rude. Not that's great to hear from you. I mean, I remember, you know, listening to records in my room and singing along all the time, you know, privately in my room with the door shut not wanting my parents to hear, sort of wanting them to here and singing along to a lot of So this is a lot of this is in that time when I lived in England, So I had gone to Woolworth's and bought, echoing the Bunny Man's Ocean, Rain and the Smiths. The queen is dead. And like and you to war like these. These were these records that were on the pop charts in England at the time, But over here at that time, they were pretty obscure, you know, But sitting and singing along toe all those songs, I think I learned how to sing a bit. I will say this, um and it goes back to Brian having a producer in the room, criticizing you as you're singing. It really gets you to focus on on your voice and helps you have perspective. And it really is a great training tool. So I think I learned a lot about singing and kind of honed the skill a little bit. I mean, you know, it's funny because you know, all these the pop acts that you that you hear. You know, I have to say I'm very impressed with a lot of these people are they're well trained. I mean, they've gone that route, I guess. But, you know, they really are great singers. A lot of these kids, you know, um and so I'm, like, self taught. And it's, you know, though, that process singing in the bedroom with the records and then maybe having the luxury of Brian Burton. All right, crapping on your performance once. Actually, that's a great We're gonna go to the front right here for that second question. But before we do so young, Lim wants to know where you grew up. So shy. What exactly made you get over your shyness to perform? Because you have. If you've got a barrier between you and performing and why do you want Why do I want Oh, yeah? What is it you visit mass artistic. What's the I think that and this is maybe a little bit lofty, but I think that humans want to communicate. It's kind of our thing, right? Mind if we do this thing? We speak to each other. We try and express things, and we always have. I think that art is sort of an elaboration on that. And so the shyness almost pushes me. It's even more beautiful. The goal of actually communicating to somebody, you know? I mean, it almost makes you want to choke up. If you think about it, it makes it all the more beautiful, You know, to actually express yourself and have it received, you know? So I think that that maybe is the drive awesome. Sherri wants to know, Will you please Will someone please get on stage and take a picture and see what James and Chase are seeing seeing right now? Pretty face. Casey. Casey, can you come up? Just take a picture of what we're seeing right now. We're happy to do that. Sherry will weigh, do that way post on ourselves. Careful. But, um, in the meantime, we're gonna go to you find, sir, please stand up tell us who you are and ask your question of Mr James Mercer. Hi, my name is Mitch. And, uh, my question is about your song writing. I know the ships have gone through a few different lineup changes, and I'm curious. Um, yeah. Hazard. Do you feel your song writing? Has it all been tailored by the people you're playing with or the songs? Just your songs Independently of Yahoo There with you can't hear have your ever songs been tailored are independently or are they a reflection of who you're playing with right now? I think they have. It has certainly been altered because And that's probably enough. Thank you, Casey. Thank you. I'm just kidding. I love how he runs his game. I'm just kidding. I love that guy. Just love playing, playing. But I would say that it's indirectly because, you know, the people that are around me, I get I am turned on to a lot of music, you know, overhearing what they're hearing. So like, in my early days, Marty and Neil in the first Shin's Federation were just huge music nerds and really opinionated, you know, um, which was good and bad. You know, but I really got exposed to a lot of cool stuff. And so I think that it's it's indirectly a big influence the people that I'm playing with for sure. One more question from the in studio audience. We're going all the way back to the old man with the white shirt. I think his name is Tab. There's so many awesome people in this room and hear me, Okay, You talk loudly, talk loud. Yeah, I'm I'm curious. What do you do when shit's gone off course? Like, what's your course? Correct. Things are going well creatively or, you know, in whatever, whatever sense. Well, I mean, I'm working on multiple songs at once, so I can leave a song behind for a little bit, you know, and get onto something that maybe I haven't addressed in a couple of months and I might have fresh years. That's a good thing. I think, Um, the other thing is just question. I think I found that sometimes the reason I started writing the song is actually the problem. Like it sometimes the thing that I thought was the anchor is actually like the anvil, like holding it down or something. And so the question everything re approach production. I'm so I'm talking about music, you know, and that's kind of the only thing I really versed in. But those are the two things I try, you know, And sometimes I just bail. I just abandon a song. You know, there's some research that came out recently. I'm not very good at citing research, so just take my word for it, um, research right now, But something like that, there's some optimum number of projects. It's like 45 projects we have going on at the same time that as And this is not just for creative, this is this is just in life. You've got four or five things that you're working on, and when you get stuck on one, you move to another. You work on that, you get stuck, and they ultimately life is pretty simple. And all of these things relate to one another in a way that you can't actually understand, but that they take turns getting the other one unstuck. So is like is five like you have five songs you're working on same time. Yeah, sure. And I was just realizing maybe a a canvas that's laying on the floor that I'm smudging paint around on as well. You know when I get frustrated or bored with that. So, yeah, I like that approach. Great. Well, to be able to sit here and speak with you in front of, ah, couple 100 folks or 150 folks have money fit in the small room has been a treat, and there's just a lot of just the questions that are coming in from all over the world. There's too many of them for us to get to. But I'm painfully aware that thing that so many people have, um, why they're here, whether tuning in all over the world is to hear you play. I could play a couple. Would you guys like that?

Class Description

There's a common misconception that artists have a monopoly on creativity… But the very act of making waves - no matter the career - is a creative one. The Chase Jarvis LIVE Show is an exploration of creativity, self-discovery, entrepreneurship, hard-earned lessons, and so much more. Chase sits down with the world's top creators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders and unpacks actionable, valuable insights to help you live your dreams in career, hobby, and life.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE:

Getting your career as a creator off the ground is hard. Keeping it on the rails after years or decades is even harder. Being one of the best – someone who breaks through to mainstream success? Orders of magnitude harder than all that. The amazing highs are – inevitably – coupled with difficult lows, and learning how to cope with that dynamic is crucial for the sanity + success of anyone who seeks to build a career around their creative passions– and James is a wealth of knowledge on that topic.

We also get into the nitty-gritty of the how + why he created the new app Pasted (spoiler warning: it’s amazing – creates incredibly cool, cut-n-paste style graphics from the photos on your camera roll – it’s currently on the front screen of my phone).

  • Longevity and stamina. How do you stay motivated and inspired after success and hardship, the industry, dealing with the “what’s next” feeling and post-achievement comedown?
  • The artist-as-entrepreneur paradigm. Whether they like it or not, all artists are also entrepreneurs. What does “entrepreneur” mean to James?
  • Collaboration: How do you have co-creators? (eg. his Broken Bells collaboration with Danger Mouse). How do you develop the soft skills to the business? When do you compromise on creative differences and when do you decide to cut ties?

ABOUT JAMES:

James is the founder + driving force behind indie rock icons The Shins. With over 20 years in the game, he’s seen just about every facet of the music business – from tiny shows at dives bars to Billboard top 10 albums on major labels – and as you can imagine he’s learned a thing or two along the way.

Reviews