Honesty is Chris Mansfields most powerful tool. He pours his everything into writing songs as Fences, musical missives that hold a mirror up his foibles, his heart, his hurt, and his confusion. His songs document experiences. Its the raw yet poetic quality of his music that piqued the ears of Sara Quin (of Tegan & Sara) who heard his first EP, Ultimate Puke, on Myspace and was instantly intrigued. She went so far to as to befriend Mansfield, producing his self-titled debut, released in 2010.
But it was Mansfields follow up, 2015s Lesser Oceans, which elevated Fences to a mainstream concern. Still crammed with sparkling confessionals, his second record offered a broader sonic palette, his hooks were bolder, and of course there was that little hit Arrows, a collaboration with his old Seattle pals Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (nearly nine million YouTube views and counting).
Which brings us to Mansfield now: a new father to a baby girl called Cedar, probably a few new tattoos and a new clutch of songs in the form of six-song EP, To The Tall Trembling Trees, a title which he says is a metaphor for nervous people: Someone whos been still in their life, theyve been in the same place for so long that theyre so tall, and they just fucking grow and grow, but theyre anxious.
Mansfields music has always been visual, his words inspire wistful, sometimes nostalgic snapshots; the melodies make them stick. On Cedar Wesley, named after his daughter and penned when his partner was pregnant, he sings simply: Both our lives collided and they caused a new one. Like a Feather he describes as just a simple love song, while the EPs centerpiece Buffalo Feet, with its skittering beats and sing-along chorus, offers instant pop appeal. Sometimes the springboard is a phrase lodged in his brain, sometimes its a feeling.
Just as Mansfield is an open book in his songs, so too he talks openly about his struggles with anxiety, using alcohol as an anesthetica few beers to buoy his confidence so he can perform, so he can make peace with the spot-lit glare. David Foster Wallace called the brain the great and evil master like how do you silence your mind? he says by way of explanation. You sacrifice a bit of your personal life and your health to appear completely relaxed and to do a good show. Now its trying to figure out how not to buckle and how not to be emotionally bankrupt.
Which begs the question why does he continue to do it? What pushes him to create and put himself and his music out there to be loved, yes, but also scrutinized? Because yesterday I wrote the best song Ive ever written, I just do that, its not really a choice, he says without missing a beat. I just talked to Sara [Quin] about this the other day and shes was like, 'You could never quit. Even if you painted houses youd come home and write a song that people need to hear. I was like, shit, yeah, I cant really not, thats totally why: because I just do it.