Chris Mansfield, musician/songwriter from Seattle’s alternative rock/pop band Fences talks with The Fusion Press’ Lauren Alexis Wood.
“I usually charge for this if there is a budget. Hard times for musicians.”
Is he fucking with me?
“No worries. Free is fine. Give me a call.”
He’s fucking with me. Holy shit. I just lined up an interview with the frontman for Fences by sliding into someone’s DM’s. An account with the little blue star thing even! God I love Instagram. Hashtag score.
In all reality I managed to line up an unbelievable conversation with Chris. We talked about his thoughts on their last album. An out-of-body experience collaborating with his musical idol Will Oldham. Also. how he’s been dealing with the pandemic and its impact on his creative process.
Full Disclosure: Did I know everything there was to know about Chris Mansfield and Fences? Did I do any research whatsoever before the call like a real journalist? Did I do nothing and wing it?
This isn’t Rolling Stone.
Of course I went in blind! Just like I do everything else in my life. However, after listening to Failure Scriptures an hour before the call I was blown away.
Why isn’t this Rolling Stone?
Surprisingly, according to Chris the album nearly fell on deaf ears. What he felt to be his best work, to-date, was the worst-received album Fences has released during their entire career. The music videos were posted to the wrong platform account. Streams we’re surprisingly low. Album sales fell far below expectation. To say the release was a letdown for the tortured and tattooed artist would be an understatement.
“I understand music and this industry. I can assemble a team and produce a chart-topping album. I don’t make music for that reason. I put my personal heart and soul into those songs and into this album and it fell flat.”
It’s a horrible feeling. To put everything you’ve got into your craft for naught. To believe in something solo. To produce something you’re truly proud of only to be greeted with a symphony of metaphorical crickets?
However, Mansfield isn’t backing down. Plans are to re-release the album in a few weeks with four additional tracks and a renewed emphasis on promotions. He hopes Failure Scriptures will have a bigger impact in its second round by personally reaching out to the fan base that has always been there for him, as he’s been for them.
“I make music for the guy ten years younger than me who hears a song and feels it saves his life. Then he makes a song, saves another life. I truly feel like there’s no hope for me but I make this music to help others and that butterfly effect is the impact that I can make in the world.”
That impact is not just felt by fans.
Recently Mansfield reached out to his musical idol with written lyrics and a collaboration request. Unbelievably, just a few weeks later Chris received the digital file of Will Oldham singing his words.
“This guy is my hero. It was like my standing at the top of a mountain alone moment. He is why I started this band. Then to hear him singing what I’d written? Unreal.”
That song, titled Niagara, will be available soon. The entire creation process was like an out-of-body experience for Chris.
“I dropped out of college, grabbed a guitar and listened to this man. To know we created a song together is like a simulation. It’s too meta. My hero singing my words.”
Admittedly, it was amazing to hear such an accomplished and talented artist modestly gush about someone who gave them direction when they needed it most. Something he himself has done for countless others over the years.
Something he feels we need collectively more than ever.
When I asked about COVID’s impact on his art he shared that he’s been able to spend more time in the studio, where he feels most at home. I had no idea the tour-experienced musician had such unbelievable stage fright. The time away has almost helped facilitate a healing from tour and festival crowds, like Bonnaroo.
“I thrive in a studio. It’s my natural habitat. But being away from the stage during this time. I’ve felt it. I do miss it. Some of the anxiety is gone.”
Our shared thoughts on COVID spanned the spectrum from Buddhism to Nihilism with a joint concern for humanity, but the musician felt all that he can do is what he does best. Create music. With everything the Internet has done to perpetuate fear and harm on the opposite end it’s an amazing vehicle for musicians who are staying true to their art and making music for their fans.
“I may seem like an asshole, but nothing compares to meeting the fan who tells me I saved their life, because I was that person. I know what it feels like. I’m no martyr and I love making music, but giving it as my gift to my fans is indescribable.”