Who is Colin Meloy? [And How Does He Get Away with Pseudo-Rapey Art?]

This post is the SEVENTH in a series of mini-biographies that chronicle the power of the memoir. Some of the stories are great and inspiring; some are tragic and teachable; some are about ordinary people just like you. Maybe after reading them, you’ll consider writing your memoirs.


Every single one of you fall into one of two categories: lyrics-person, or melody.

Me, I’m a writer. I hear the words long before I memorize the telltale guitar riff or that wicked drum solo. If the lyrics are boring, unoriginal, or just plain silly, the singer/songwriter/band has lost in me a fan.

Then there are those of you who will be humming mindlessly along with your quote-on-quote “favorite” song one day and go: “Wait—THAT’s what those lyrics says?” You’ll shake your head and smile at your own ignorance and your life will go on … because, hey, you still like the music.


Luckily, there’s at least one band who combines them both: witty writing and exceptional chords. Colin Meloy is the front man of the Portland-based Decemberists, a group unmistakable for their signature sound (and voracious vocabulary).


I remember the first Decemberists song I ever heard: “A Cautionary Song.” Set to an upbeat yo-ho-pirate accordion frenzy, it tells the story of a young mom who is kidnapped and gang-raped at sea every night, so as to pay for the collard greens that her children then refuse to eat. Dark, yes, but darkly hilarious and infinitely catchy. All the Decemberists songs follow a similar bent: epic storytelling, fairytale morality, tragedy that inevitably falls just shy of morose, and fantastic phraseology like “indolent,” “odalisque,” and “parapet.”

talented colin

Colin crafts these masterworks almost singlehandedly: as the band’s singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter, he has produced seven studio albums, eight EPs, thirteen singles, two compilations, and a live album. He variously plays the acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, electric guitar, bouzouki, harmonica, and a handful of percussion instruments.


When he’s not song-writing, he’s fiction-writing! The Wildwood Chronicles are a trilogy of 800-page tomes marketed to young adults (I still read them, though). Colin writes the text, and wife Carson illustrates. Together, they describe the story like this:


Colin Meloy, musician, author, hipster heartthrob: please come read/sing my someday-children to sleep.