Prolificity: John Darnielle

26 January 2006

John Darnielle is the name of the musician who is, by himself, the band The Mountain Goats. He plays folk-style music, but with his own special imprint that takes it a long way from folk. If you’ve ever heard him play, you’ll never forget his highly articulated, nasal voice — not to mention his sad, affecting lyrics.

One of my fascinations in life is prolificity, that enviable trait shared by the few who outproduce all the rest of us by miles and miles. Darnielle is one of these people: he has released more than 500 songs, but even that number is low in comparison to all the songs he’s written. Many, many of his songs were recorded on a store-bought boom box, although he has begun to cut studio albums in the past few years.

I’m no critic, so I won’t go on about his music, but rather point out to these articles on it.

Salon, 2003.
Kickstand, 1997.
The Village Broadsheet, 2004.
The Daily Kirk (blog), 2005. (Nice appreciation piece from a real fan.)
Dusted magazine, 2005. (Review of The Sunset Tree.)
The Believer, 2004. (Interview by Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket.)
Newcity Chicago, 2005. This piece includes an interesting take on Darnielle’s prolific output:

Often described as “prolific”–a term that makes Darnielle cringe–the sheer volume of recorded work he releases increases the possibility of misfire, which makes The Mountain Goats that much more impressive given its consistent catalogue. At this point, it would feel strange if Darnielle began releasing records every three or four years, instead of annually. “The difference between me and those other artists is that they are lazy. It isn’t asking much of a guy to write, say, one song a month. If you’re only doing one a month, then you should be able to do twelve terrific songs per year. If you have any work ethic, it should be more than that, especially if you’ve been doing it for a while. I’ve been on this job for a minute now and I don’t think it makes me `prolific’ to be able to do it quickly without getting all languid-artist-dude about it.”

Too many creative people — yours truly included — lack this helpful way of thinking. Without even having gone through the crap Darnielle has in his life (he was abused by his stepfather), many would-be creators focus on how hard it all is and how long great art takes. Bogus.

Here’s the site for The Mountain Goats, and a super fan-site with discography, etc.

“Create, artist! Do not talk!” — Goethe


One Response to “Prolificity: John Darnielle”

  1. Lee Simmons Says:

    Kudos on the Darnielle props. I’m a recent convert, thanks to his stunning 2005 release The Sunset Tree (recorded in the same studio where, incidentally, Tom Waits has laid down some of his best work). “Love Love Love” easily fits in my top five favorite tunes for the year. Thanks for sharing.

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