“There's almost no point to be in New York or Los Angeles right now, you know?” says Christopher Mansfield. He’s the singer, songwriter and figurehead of the hugely-hyped Fences, who have drawn favourable Bon Iver comparisons for some time, and were once produced by Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara. Headliner converses with Mansfield as he gears up for the UK re-release of his latest album, Failure Sculptures.
I kick off our conversation about whether US-based musicians still have to live in either New York, Los Angeles or Nashville in order to ‘make it.’ It’s worth listening to Mansfield, as he’s lived in all these places.
“And there were times that it was really helpful, particularly in Nashville, with so many studios and musicians. Music was almost the first language there; almost everybody you met was a great songwriter, and it’s similar in L.A and in New York. But now, all the stand-up comedians are doing podcasts, people are doing YouTube channels, and musicians are just recording remotely at home.
“So it seems to me we're breaking away from the idea of needing to be in certain cities, and who knows if a lot of these cities will ever fully recover from the pandemic? If we go fully back to normal and have felt a little bit of success in this, I don't know if someone's gonna want to move from their place in Montana back to L.A if they're already making music at home, have a podcast and are selling merch. I think that this is showing people there's a lot of holes in Hollywood and the music business. It shows we do have the power to do what we want to do.”
Mansfield was born in Massachusetts, and perhaps not immediately evidenced by his folky tunes today, attended the highly prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I think it would be more something that other musicians could probably hear,” he says. “It's not obvious because I'm not playing jazz fusion or prog-rock. The music doesn't necessarily sound complicated, but there are a lot of little melodic movements. There's some slick stuff in there that I think another musician might say, ‘oh, maybe you do have a bit of knowledge of music theory’.”
Mansfield’s musical journey began all the way back when artists were still being discovered on Myspace. And it just so happened that his music was heard by Sara Quin from Tegan and Sara in 2009. I let Mansfield know that I’m thanking goodness itself that he still had his Myspace music profile up at this point, for it to be discovered.
Not that Mansfield had any such expectations, as for him Myspace was the only place to host music that he was aware of.
“I don't recall that I had any sense of trying to get famous. I mostly just put it up so I could have a place to show my friends. Before that I was burning CDs and writing on them with a Sharpie and handing them out to my friends. So it was really revolutionary to me to be able to upload music and my photos and not need someone to do that for me. When Sara hit me up, I honestly thought it was a prank!”