What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

The Three Josh Tillmans


Father John Misty. Photo: Alicia Canter

Father John Misty. Photo: Alicia Canter

I don’t know how he does it. I have enough trouble keeping my one identity in check, but Josh Tillman has already cycled through three. Josh Tillman was his shy drummer identity who played with the White Stripes and with Fleet Foxes. That guy was reportedly always uncomfortable-seeming on stage. In his current incarnation as Father John Misty, he’s not just come out of his shell; he’s stomped the shell to bits and smoked the remains. Father John seems more like an alternate personality than a public persona. He’s an irreverent, sarcastic, confrontational, semi-sociopathic musical storyteller and humorist whose jokes I don’t find funny. But it’s his first public identity that I like the best. He was known as J. Tillman, and he was a remarkable, shy folk singer/songwriter with a talent for introspective, thoughtful lyrics and the voice of an angel.

“If desire is what makes
Upright mammals human
Put me out to graze
Give this beast a burden
Because the universe
Makes much more sense without a purpose
Poor, poor James” – J. Tillman “James Blues”

The lyrics he wrote as J. Tillman were nearly as sad as Nick Drake‘s, but rather than battling the crippling depression that plagued Drake, Tillman’s sadness seemed to come from trying to reinvent himself while keeping one foot in his past. According to an interview in The Guardian and a post by fellow blogger Trading8s, Tillman grew up in an extremely religious household in rural Maryland and was exposed exclusively to Christian culture until he was 17 years old.

” A Year in the Kingdom is a testament to Tillman’s spiritual roots and a reflection of his personal journey as an artist; it tells the story of a man who has gained the world at the cost of paradise.” -Trading8s

Clearly, not everyone prefers the J. Tillman identity. The Guardian’s interviewer, Rhik Samadder, referred to that identity as a “miserabilist folkster,” and called his music “songs to stare into canals to.” (At least that joke I get.) This assessment seems a bit harsh. I’m glad JT is exorcising his demons as Father John, and I know the hipsters are completely mental over him, but I hope he doesn’t get so far away from the songwriter once known as J. Tillman that he can’t go back and write beautiful, touching music again.

Follow me on Bloglovin!

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

4 thoughts on “The Three Josh Tillmans

  1. Misty displays the old-school misogynism of 80s Elvis Costello. But it ain’t the 80s no more so we tend to cringe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Misogyny? It was my impression that Father John was equally obnoxious to all sexes equally. And while I don’t remember Elvis being that obnoxious, maybe you’re right. Maybe it was my youth that excused him. Or the fact that I was in on the joke rather than the butt of it.


  2. I would totally go see him in concert. (Oh wait, he will be at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October and playing two nights following, so I WILL totally go see him in concert.) I can’t explain it, but I like the song I Love You, Honey Bear. A LOT.

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.