Father John Misty

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Father John Misty
Father John Misty Piknik i Parken 2017 (213349).jpg
Tillman in 2017
Joshua Michael Tillman

(1981-05-03) May 3, 1981 (age 39)
Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
Other namesJ. Tillman
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • record producer
Years active2001–present
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
  • drums
  • percussion
  • harmonica
  • bass
Associated acts

Joshua Michael Tillman[2] (born May 3, 1981), better known by his stage name Father John Misty, is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and record producer.[3] He has also performed and released studio albums under the name J. Tillman.

Maintaining a steady output of solo recordings since 2004,[4] Tillman had been a member of or toured with Demon Hunter, Saxon Shore, Fleet Foxes, Jeffertitti's Nile,[5] Pearly Gate Music,[6] Siberian,[7] Har Mar Superstar,[8] Poor Moon,[9] Low Hums, Jonathan Wilson,[10] and has toured extensively with Pacific Northwest artists Damien Jurado, Jesse Sykes, and David Bazan.[11][12]

He has also made contributions to albums by popular artists, including Beyoncé,[13] Lady Gaga,[14] Kid Cudi,[15] and Post Malone and has produced one album for Matthew Daniel Siskin, known as Gambles.[16]

Early life[edit]

Tillman grew up in an Evangelical Christian household in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb outside of Washington, D.C.[17][18] He is the son of Barbara and I.C. Tillman, an engineer at Hewlett-Packard, who met at a Christian youth group.[17] His mother was raised in Ethiopia, where her parents were missionaries.[19] The eldest of four children, he has a brother and two sisters.[20] Before Tillman settled on a career as a musician, he briefly had ambitions of becoming a pastor because of the performance aspect[21] when he was approximately six years old.[22] He comments that his parents focused on the spiritual aspects of his upbringing, which he describes as "culturally oppressive". They were estranged for many years, but they reconciled.[17][21] After learning drums at a young age, Tillman learned guitar when he was 12.[21]

Tillman was raised in a Baptist church, attended an Episcopal elementary school, then a Pentecostal Messianic day school.[23] Tillman said he was naive when he was growing up because there was limited 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". For this reason, 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".[17]


Early career and Fleet Foxes (2004–2012)[edit]

After attending Nyack College in New York for a year,[24][25] Tillman moved to Seattle when he was 21.[17] 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.[26] 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.[27] Tillman and Jurado both later signed on for a U.S. tour with Richard Buckner.[25]

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.[25]

After signing to independent record label Western Vinyl, Tillman released two albums in 2009, Vacilando Territory Blues and Year in the Kingdom.[26] Tillman said he wrote the title track of Vacilando Territory Blues to describe imagery he associates with his move to Seattle. His brother Zach subsequently moved there as well[21] and is now in the musical group Pearly Gate Music.[28] The following year Tillman released Singing Ax.[26]

In 2008, Tillman joined Seattle folk rock band Fleet Foxes as their drummer.[23] 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.[29]

Father John Misty moniker and Fear Fun (2012–2015)[edit]

Father John Misty performing at the Utopia Fest in 2014.

Tillman released the album Fear Fun under his new moniker Father John Misty on May 1, 2012.[30] 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 prior releases.[31]

As Father John Misty, Tillman was featured on Kid Cudi's 2013 album Indicud.[32] Tillman wrote an essay about Damien Jurado's recording, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian, 2014).[33] He also wrote the soundtrack for a short film called The History of Caves, directed by his wife, filmmaker Emma Elizabeth Tillman.[34][35]

The "Limited Run Promotional Poster" was available at the artist's website, and promoted a purported release called New Winter, described as a "Christmas Neu-Jazz Double Album", and quoted several paradoxes and 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 and calling it "[e]ssential year-round [sic] listening"). The poster text further 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".[36]

Subsequent Father John Misty studio albums (2015–2018)[edit]

Father John Misty performing at Fairgrounds Festival in December 2015.

The album I Love You, Honeybear was released in February 2015 to widespread acclaim. According to Tillman, it is a concept album about himself and his personal life.[37][38] Tillman made headlines by covering Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" and "Welcome to New York" in 2015. He claimed to have never listened to the artist prior to recording the covers. This was done as a parody of Ryan Adams, who had released his own version of Swift's 1989, featuring covers of every song.[39] Tillman released a new song entitled "Real Love Baby" on May 19, 2016.[40] He appeared on the song "Saturday Night Inside Out" on The Avalanches' second studio album Wildflower, which was released on July 1, 2016.

Tillman gained media attention on July 22, 2016, after walking off stage at XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, New Jersey, after twenty minutes into his planned fifty-minute performance.[41] Instead of performing his setlist, Tillman walked out and asked, "What the fuck is going on?"[42] He then talked for six minutes about the "numbing" role entertainment plays in our lives and how "stupidity just fucking runs the world because entertainment is stupid." When the audience applauded him he asked them not to and responded by saying, "Maybe just take a moment to be really fucking profoundly sad."[43] He finally played a thirteen-minute piece from his then-upcoming album Pure Comedy called "Leaving LA" which references the frustrations he spoke of during his speech. Tillman then covered Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire" before telling the crowd he loved them and walked off the stage, cutting his performance short.[44] The following day, Tillman explained his performance in an Instagram post, in which he called Donald Trump's speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention a "demonic clown pageant coronation of our next potential Idiot King", which took place the night before Tillman's performance.[45]

On January 23, 2017, the single "Pure Comedy" was released alongside an accompanying music video. The second single released off of Pure Comedy, "Two Wildly Different Perspectives", was released with another music video on January 30, 2017.[46] The third single released was "Ballad of the Dying Man" on February 1, 2017.[47] The fourth single, "Total Entertainment Forever", was released on the night it was performed on Saturday Night Live on March 4, 2017.[48] Pure Comedy was released on April 7, 2017. The album sees Tillman externalize the stereotypical Father John Misty character that he developed through the two previous albums to prevent himself from being constricted to the character's image, using his personhood and experiences to expose his outlook on life.[49]

The Pure Comedy World Tour began in April 2017 and continued into early 2018.[50] During this tour, Tillman mixed the tracks for his next album produced with Jonathan Rado, revealing potential song titles "Mr. Tillman, Please Exit the Lobby" (later shortened to "Mr. Tillman"), "Ouch, I'm Drowning", "Well, We're Only People and There's Nothing Much We Can Do About It", and "Dum Dum Blues". The album explores heartache and was written during a six-week period where Tillman was living in a hotel.[51] Tillman released the lead single, "Mr. Tillman", from God's Favorite Customer on February 20, 2018.[52] The album was announced on April 18 and was released on June 1; its track listing was shared, alongside two further songs, "Disappointing Diamonds Are The Rarest Of Them All" and "Just Dumb Enough to Try".[53]

Hotel Artemis soundtrack and live album (2018–present)[edit]

Tillman as Father John Misty at Haldern Pop Festival 2019.

British screenwriter and film producer Drew Pearce, who had previously directed the music video for "The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment", sought out Tillman for his directorial debut Hotel Artemis, when he wanted to cast a musician. Tillman has a small role in the film as a bank robber, and has said that his character "gets his head blown off within, like, 30 seconds."[54] Tillman also contributed to the soundtrack of Hotel Artemis with the song "Gilded Cage", which was released on June 8, 2018, the same day as the film.[55]

On March 23, 2020, Tillman released a live album titled Off-Key in Hamburg, which was recorded at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie on August 8, 2019, on Bandcamp. All proceeds from the album go to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.[56] It has been described by NME as a "high-end luxury offering" and "immaculate".[57]

Personal life[edit]

Tillman is married to photographer Emma Elizabeth Garr. They met in Los Angeles at the Laurel Canyon Country Store and were married in Big Sur.[58] They had lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, but have returned to Los Angeles.[59] Garr had previously lived in Seattle for several years.[23] She has taken photographs for Father John Misty albums.

Tillman was raised in an Evangelical Christian household; he now openly criticizes religion in many of his songs.[60] He has said that he is still culturally Christian "for all intents and purposes," though he is troubled by the way Christianity is commonly expressed in the United States.[61]

Tillman has struggled with depression and drug use.[62] He stated in 2017 that he microdoses on LSD daily to alleviate his depression and anxiety.[63] He also stated that he has been diagnosed with PTSD "by three therapists."[64]


Studio albums

as J. Tillman

as Father John Misty

with Fleet Foxes

with Saxon Shore

  • Be a Bright Blue (2002)
  • Four Months of Darkness (2003)

Awards and nominations[edit]

A2IM Libera Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2015 Himself Hardworking Artist of the Year Nominated
I Love You, Honeybear Album of the Year Nominated
2016 Creative Packaging Award Won
2018 Pure Comedy Nominated
Album of the Year Nominated
Himself Best Live Act Nominated

Berlin Music Video Awards[edit]

The Berlin Music Video Awards (BMVAs) are an annual festival that puts filmmakers and the art behind music videos in the spotlight.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2017 "Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution" Best Music Video Nominated
Best Director Nominated

Grammy Awards[edit]

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States. Josh received four nominations.[65][66]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2012 Helplessness Blues Best Folk Album Nominated
2016 I Love You, Honeybear (Limited Edition Deluxe Vinyl) Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package Nominated
2018 Pure Comedy Best Alternative Music Album Nominated
Pure Comedy (Deluxe Edition) Best Recording Package Won

mtvU Woodie Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2013 "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings / Drive" Best Video Woodie Nominated

NME Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2018 Himself Best International Solo Artist Nominated

Rober Awards Music poll[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2012 Himself Best Songwriter Nominated
2015 Best Male Artist Nominated
Best Songwriter Nominated
2017 Won

Sweden GAFFA Awards[edit]

Delivered since 2010, the GAFFA Awards (Swedish: GAFFA Priset) are a Swedish award that rewards popular music awarded by the magazine of the same name.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2019 Himself Best Foreign Solo Act Nominated [67]
God's Favorite Customer Best International Album Nominated

UK Music Video Awards[edit]

The UK Music Video Awards is an annual award ceremony founded in 2008 to recognise creativity, technical excellence and innovation in music videos and moving images for music.[68] Tillman has received one award from two nominations.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2017 "Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution" Best Rock/Indie Video – International Won
Best Animation Nominated


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External links[edit]