J. Tillman

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Joshua Tillman
J. Tillman 2014.jpg
Tillman performing at Utopia Fest in 2014
Background information
Birth name Joshua Tillman
Also known as J. Tillman
Father John Misty
Born (1981-05-03) May 3, 1981 (age 33)
Origin Rockville, Maryland
United States
Genres Indie rock, experimental rock, psychedelic rock, post-rock, folk rock
Instruments Vocals, guitar, drums, percussion
Years active 2004-present
Labels Sub Pop
Yer Bird
Western Vinyl
Bella Union
Keep Recordings
Fargo Records
Crossroads of America Records
Flannelgraph Records
Broken Factory
Associated acts Fleet Foxes
Saxon Shore

Joshua Tillman (born May 3, 1981), also known as J. Tillman or Father John Misty, is an American folk singer-songwriter, guitarist, and drummer.[1] Maintaining a steady output of solo recordings since 2004,[2] Tillman is a former member of indie rock bands Saxon Shore and Fleet Foxes and has toured extensively with Pacific Northwest artists Damien Jurado, Jesse Sykes, and David Bazan.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Tillman grew up in an Evangelical Christian household in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.[5][6] He is the oldest of four children: a younger brother named Zach Tillman and two younger sisters.[7] His father was an engineer at Hewlett-Packard.[5] Before Tillman discovered that he wanted to be a singer-songwriter he had ambitions of being a pastor because it was the closest thing he knew to being a performer on stage. On his upbringing Tillman stated: "I was actually a pretty aimless kid, I didn’t really do anything: I never really studied hard and all my parents were interested in was my spiritual status. When I was younger my reality was heaven and hell and angels and all this bullshit that doesn’t mean anything in terms of becoming an actualised human being." After learning drums Tillman picked up guitar at age 12.[8]

Tillman said his childhood "wasn't a good experience" and was "culturally oppressive". He said that he has been somewhat estranged from his parents for about 10 years, though he talks with them yearly and his relationship has improved as he has aged.[5]

Tillman was raised in a Baptist church and attended an Episcopal elementary school, but by fifth grade he found himself enrolled in a Pentecostal Messianic Jewish day school.[9] "People spoke in tongues. There were public healings. No amputees though, or anything. It was more like the common cold being relieved, momentarily", Tillman said. "But the mental image of a row of second graders lying on the ground convulsing and talking about seeing dead grandparents was definitely traumatic." Tillman said that he “never passed out. It didn’t work. By their tenets, I was basically failing at being a Christian.”[9]

Tillman said he was naive when he was growing up because there was almost no cultural influence and no secular music allowed. Around the age of 17, there were new stipulations from his parents - he was allowed to listen to secular music that had a "spiritual theme". So his early purchases included albums like Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming as he was able to establish that Dylan was classified as a "Christian artist".[5]


Solo albums[edit]

After briefly attending Nyack College in New York,[10] Tillman moved to Seattle when he was 21.[5] He found a job there working at a bakery, which allowed him to record at night before his 4:30 am shift began. A demo he made eventually found its way to Seattle singer and songwriter Damien Jurado. A year later Tillman started opening for Jurado.[11] At shows Tillman would distribute CD-R copies of songs that would later become his album I Will Return. During the tour, he also struck up a friendship with Eric Fisher, who produced another CD-R album, Long May You Run. Both albums were later released on Keep Recordings.[12] Tillman and Jurado both later signed on for a U.S. tour with Richard Buckner.[10]

In 2006, the independent label Fargo Records released Tillman's first properly distributed solo album, Minor Works, and reissued I Will Return and Long May You Run as a two-disc set the same year. In 2007, Yer Bird Records released his more elaborately arranged fourth album, Cancer and Delirium.[10]

After signing to independent record label Western Vinyl, Tillman released two albums in 2009, Vacilando Territory Blues and Year In The Kingdom.[11] Tillman said the title track of Vacilando Territory Blues was "about me moving to Seattle and the images that I associate with that journey." It is also "about my brother, and him subsequently moving to Seattle."[8]

The following year Tillman released Singing Ax.[11]

[M]y first instrument was drums. As a kid I had all this nervous energy so I would just constantly tap on things, eventually my parents thought if they got me drum lessons I would stop tapping. The minute I picked up those drumsticks it was just over for me, I was just like ‘this is it.’ My drum teacher was like this legendary DC Jazz musician, but I would never really be prepared for practice so he used to get pretty frustrated with me, tell me I was throwing my parents money away and suggest I try the clarinet or something. He saw me playing years later and I saw him nodding as if to say ‘not bad’ and that was like the ultimate approval. But drumming was something that I only really did in high school after that I got so into song writing that I ceased to identify myself as a drummer.

Joshua Tillman, TLOBF Interview :: J. Tillman (2009)[8]

Fleet Foxes[edit]

In 2008, Tillman joined Seattle folk rock band Fleet Foxes as their drummer.[9] On his involvement with the band Tillman said: "People have really exaggerated my involvement with Fleet Foxes; they had two records done by the time I joined the band and the writing was already on the wall that they were going to be the next big thing. I just learned the drum parts for their songs and tried to execute them as best as I could."[8]

After extensive touring with Fleet Foxes, promoting their album Helplessness Blues, Tillman played his final show with the band in Tokyo on January 20, 2012.[13]

Father John Misty[edit]

On May 1, 2012, Tillman released the album Fear Fun under his new moniker Father John Misty.[14] When discussing his motivations behind the creation of the name, Tillman paraphrases Philip Roth: "'It’s all of me and none of me, if you can’t see that, you won’t get it.' What I call it is totally arbitrary, but I like the name. You’ve got to have a name. I never got to choose mine."[15] A couple of months prior to the release of the album a video was released for the song "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" starring Parks and Recreation‍ '​s Aubrey Plaza. The album was a dramatic departure from any of Tillman's former releases. On how the album came about Tillman said: "I got into my van with enough mushrooms to choke a horse and started driving down the coast with nowhere to go. After a few weeks, I was writing a novel, which is where I finally found my narrative voice…. It was a while before that voice started manifesting in a musical way, but once I settled in the Laurel Canyon spider-shack where I’m living now, I spent months demoing all these weird-ass songs about weird-ass experiences almost in real-time, and kind of had this musical ‘Oh-there-I-am’ moment, identical to how I felt when I was writing the book."[16]

As Father John Misty, Tillman was featured on Kid Cudi's 2013 album Indicud.[17]

Tillman wrote an essay about Damien Jurado's recording, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian, 2014).[18] He also wrote the soundtrack for a short film called The History of Caves, directed by his wife, the filmmaker Emma Elizabeth Tillman.[19][20]

The upcoming Father John Misty release New Winter, paraphrased as a "Christmas Neu-Jazz Double Album",[21] has to be considered a hoax. The "Limited Run Promotional Poster" available at the artist’s website quoted several paradox, made up reviews for example from the Wall Street Journal, calling it the "new standard by which all seasonal music must now be measured", or from Spin, giving the release 10 out of 10 points calling it an "[e]ssential year-round [sic] listening". Further the poster text states that the release will be sold as "compact disc" as well as "[l]imited edition prismatic hologram 6xLP on merlot and emerald semi-translucent 180 gram vinyl with original alternate-side etchings by Josh Tillman available till supplies last". The poster names five songs that are part of the track list: "Gesture I: Inoculation (Mother And Child)", "Gesture II: Feast Of Spirits", "Anacrusis Future Seed", "Naked Fire/The Fifth Season" and "Gemini".[22] As to now no other official statements exist that New Winter will be an actual release; making the poster a creative marketing strategy rather than a “promotional poster” for a forthcoming record.

In February 2015, the album I Love You, Honeybear was released.[23]



as J. Tillman[edit]

as Father John Misty[edit]


Singles, contributions and covers[edit]




  • "Tillman Sings 'Tonight's The Night'" (self released, exclusively for Aquarium Drunkard, Sept 13, 2010) (as J. Tillman), free, digital only, cover album of Neil Young's album Tonight's The Night (Reprise Records, 1975) – In a comment on Aquarium Drunkard Tillman wrote about this release: The "covering of an album is rarely, if ever, predicated on a deficit in the original, (as is clearly the case here) it’s an expression of affection for the source material. This album has been an inspiration and comfort for me for a long time. […] I was under no illusion that I was going to somehow improve or “one-up” the original. It’s a little ridiculous to even have to belabor that point, but it seems some of you are under the impression I’m some kind of ego-maniac as opposed to someone who is head-over-heels fanatical about my favorite songwriter. […] All of these are first-take, raggedy demos that I felt were congruent with the spirit of the album. I certainly could have done some kind of official release with a band, or a string section, or some kind of radical re-imagining of the aesthetic, but I can’t imagine how over-wrought and terrible that would be. This felt honest to me. Please just take this as what it is: A songwriter who some people like and some people don’t sharing his perspective on a monolithic album that changed his life. This in no way impedes on your ability to listen to and love Tonight's The Night."[24]

Personal life[edit]

Tillman is married to photographer Emma Elizabeth Tillman. They met in Los Angeles at the Laurel Canyon Country Store and were married in Big Sur. They currently live in New Orleans, Louisiana.[25] Tillman had previously lived in Seattle for several years.[9]

Notable performances[edit]


  1. ^ "J. Tillman (as Father John Misty) announces new solo album". Albino Rhino. 2012-01-10. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  2. ^ "Josh Tillman Biography". Artist Direct. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  3. ^ "J. Tillman". thesixtyone. 2010-09-22. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  4. ^ Alt-Gramma. "Interview with Josh Tillman". Speed of Dark. Archived from the original (BLOG) on April 30, 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Maron, Marc (December 30, 2013). "Episode 457 - Father John Misty" (PODCAST). WTF with Marc Maron Podcast. Retrieved 31 December 2013. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ a b "Father John Misty’s ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ Out February 10th". Sub Pop. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Stiles, Blair (June 15, 2013). "Concert review: Crowd meets the palm of Father John Misty's hand (with Pure Bathing Culture) at a sold-out Firebird, Friday, June 14". KDHX. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d Down, Lauren (March 9, 2009). "TLOBF Interview :: J. Tillman". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d Ducker, George (January 22, 2009). "Introspection pays: Sad folk ballads of J. Tillman". Los Angeles Times (Pop & Hiss - The L.A. Times Music Blog). Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c "About J. Tillman - J. Tillman Career". CMT. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  11. ^ a b c "J. Tillman". Western Vinyl. 2009-04-27. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  12. ^ "J. Tillman - Discount Priced CDs". J Tillman Music. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  13. ^ Hogan, Marc (2012-01-20). "Fleet Foxes Lose One Beard: J. Tillman Exits Band". SPIN. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  14. ^ "Father John Misty Website - Very Important Info!". FatherJohnMisty.com. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  15. ^ "Sub Pop Records: Father John Misty". SubPop.com. 2012-05-01. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  16. ^ Zabrey, Paula. "Fear Fun By Father John Misty". Subpop. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  17. ^ Rayner, Caroline. "J. Tillman reborn as Father John Misty, releases brooding new album Fear Fun on Sub Pop - Music News - Releases". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  18. ^ McGovern, Kyle (October 16, 2013). "Read Father John Misty's Incredible Essay About Damien Jurado's New Album". SPIN. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  19. ^ Brown, Harley (October 29, 2013). "Josh Tillman Talks Film Score, New Father John Misty Album". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Battan, Carrie (November 25, 2013). "Stream Father John Misty's Soundtrack for The History of Caves" (SOUNDCLOUD). Pitchfork. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "'New Winter' Christmas Neu-Jazz Double Album Promotional POSTER". Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "'New Winter' Christmas Neu-Jazz Double Album Promotional POSTER". Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  23. ^ Samadder, Rhik (January 31, 2015). "Father John Misty: ‘I just wanted to write about love without bullshitting’". The Guardian. 
  24. ^ Tillman, Joshua. "Hey all …". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  25. ^ "Update". Pitchfork. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  26. ^ "Watch Father John Misty Play Letterman". Stereogum. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  27. ^ "KCRW Presents: Father John Misty" (VIDEO). Morning Becomes Eclectic. NPR Music. May 30, 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 

External links[edit]