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COLUMN: Father John Misty returns with slow, witty lyrics


Father John Misty performs May 11 at Upland Brewing Co. as part of the Granfalloon: A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence. Father John Misty's newest album, "God's Favorite Customer," was released June 1. Emily Eckelbarger Buy Photos

Father John Misty, real name Joshua Tillman, can’t possibly be the same person he was six years ago — nobody is — but regardless of how he’s changed personally, his sound has been consistent since his first solo release under the stage name.

His folk-rock sound can be heard through each of his albums, most recently “God’s Favorite Customer,” released June 1. “God’s Favorite Customer” was written over a period of two months, which Tillman spent holed up in a New York hotel room, according to Pitchfork. 

Father John Misty has been in the music game for quite some time. When he was 21 years old, he moved to Seattle and began recording music. One of his demos made its way into the hands of Damien Jurado, a singer-songwriter signed with Secretly Canadian, and Father John Misty began opening for Jurado. 

Tillman joined Fleet Foxes in 2008, but in January 2012, he played his last show with the band and went solo. He has been releasing solo albums under the persona that we all know and love, Father John Misty, since then.

Father John Misty has a certain air about him. Deemed sarcastic, self-absorbed and oozing with wit, Tillman has always been an interesting character. He’s still self-absorbed, witty and sarcastic, but something in his lyrics displays a change.

He hasn’t completely dropped the sarcastic humor that weaved its way through the lyrics he used on his first albums, but he has begun to discuss things in a more serious way.

“And I’m writing a novel / because it’s never been done before,” he sings, exuding sarcasm, on “I’m Writing a Novel” from his 2012 debut solo album as Father John Misty, “Fear Fun.” 

His voice croons on every song from “God’s Favorite Customer,” and as the music swells and grows dim again, the lyrics drip with meaning. Tillman discusses topics such as love and depression. 

“I’m just dumb enough to try to keep you in my life a little while longer,” Tillman sings on “Just Dumb Enough to Try.” “And I’m insane enough to think I’m gonna get with my skin and start my life again.”

It’s not all serious, though. The second song on the album, “Mr. Tillman,” is amusing, and it's Father John Misty’s second-most popular song on Spotify — rightfully so. 

The dreamy music twinkles behind Tillman’s voice as he sings about a hotel concierge trying to politely tell Tillman that he, essentially, trashed the hotel room he lived in for two months.

“And, oh, just a reminder about our policy,” Tillman sings. “Don’t leave your mattress in the rain if you sleep on the balcony.”

The sweet, starry sounds combined with the lyrics, “I’m feeling good, damn, I’m feeling so fine,” will leave you wishing you were living in a hotel room with white walls and crisp white sheets, eating room service every day and sleeping out on the balcony during warm nights. 

The introspective, witty lyrics that riddle "God's Favorite Customer" will hide in the crevices of your mind, returning as you lay down to sleep. The catchy phrases uttered by Tillman will cause you to tap your foot and listen to whichever song you can't stop thinking about just one more time before you close your eyes for the day.

As you drift off to sleep humming along to "Date Night" or "Please Don't Die," you can picture Father John Misty smiling in the distance – stuck in your head is exactly where he wants to be.

Tillman is on tour now to promote "God's Favorite Customer," and although he already made his way to Bloomington to perform at Upland Brewery Co. as the headlining musical act for Granfalloon: A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence, you can catch him Sept. 21 at the MacAllister Amphitheater in Indianapolis.

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