The Shins’ James Mercer Talks About Depression and Anxiety

By Kelly Burch 03/09/17

The "New Slang" singer says he first experienced feelings of anxiousness as a kid that eventually manifested into depression.

James Mercer

The Shins frontman James Mercer is opening up about his anxiety and depression in interviews celebrating the release of The Shins’ fifth album Heartworms.

“Sometimes anxieties come in, just from knowing that I have kids and I have to be there. It comes at weird moments in life, too,” Mercer told NME

His anxiety sometimes manifests as nervousness about his career. “Like we went for this big meal the other night because The Shins are releasing a new record, and then I realized that it’s just me in The Shins so all those people were there for me. It was weird. It was friendly, but I was so anxious.”

Mercer, 46, says he's been dealing with the condition since his childhood, although at the time he didn’t realize it. 

“When I was a kid, I would have waves of [anxiety] that lasted months and I didn’t know what the hell was going on,” he said. “Back then you just got told to shut up. It faded into this depression that lasted a while, and I haven’t had that for a long while.”

The Shins are an indie rock band based in New Mexico. One of the the songs on their newest album is called “The Fear.” It deals with feelings of anxiety that Mercer says he is familiar with. 

“‘The Fear’ is about someone who realizes that he missed an opportunity with a relationship and he’s sad about it. The door has closed and he’s sad about it,” Mercer said. 

Heartworms will be released on Friday. Mercer said the album blends songwriting with classic pop, and is a different sound to albums that The Shins have previously released, such as their 2012 record Port of Morrow

“The Shins started as a rebellion against what had become in the '90s this watered-down, punk-rock aesthetic and now I feel I'm rebelling against something I helped create, which is this very earnest, 'sensitive guy rock,'” Mercer told USA Today

Mercer said that though he's not political, he couldn’t help but think about current events and the atmosphere in the country while writing the album. 

“Name for You, I wrote (for my) three daughters,” he said.“You can't help but worry about them as they grow up, and I was thinking about slut-shaming and the double standards that we put on women. I'm not a very politically minded person, I find it to be a big soap opera. So if I sing something that may in any way refer to something political, I'm thinking about the more human elements and historic arcs, not about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. That's just boring to me."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.