The Decemberists Let 'King' Songs Come Naturally, Eye Stage Musical
The Decemberists Let 'King' Songs Come Naturally, Eye Stage Musical

While The Decemberists have their hands full in the coming months with the Jan. 18 release of their sixth album "The King is Dead," fans could see a Decemberists-penned Broadway musical from the Portland folk-rockers in the future.

"People are constantly asking me to write musicals -- it's the cross that I bear," the Decemberists vocalist/guitarist Colin Meloy jokingly tells Billboard.com. "I grew up doing theater, so in theory, I would love to write a musical. I don't know if I have the stuff -- I always end up just writing little pop songs that stand a better chance on a record than on stage."

The frontman has not been as productive as hoped on a theatrical project while working on "The King is Dead," but Meloy adds that a Decemberists musical is still on the table.

"It happens that the director Michael Mayer, who directed Green Day's 'American Idiot' musical on Broadway, is the guy that got me going about doing a musical," Meloy says. "We're still talking and there's potential for a musical down the line, for sure."

Meloy's original idea was to write a musical about miners in Butte, Montana around the turn of the century, he says. A song, titled "Rox in the Box," spawned from the concept, and found a home on "The King is Dead."

"Rox in the Box" is just one of many tracks on the Decemberists' latest with rural sensibilities. The album is a departure from the overarching musical folktales of the band's last two records, "The Hazards of Love" and "The Crane Wife," with Meloy taking a decidedly simpler songwriting approach.

"For this record, I was just kind of letting the songs come naturally," Meloy says. "It was my interest, having gone through a phase of feeling like each song could open up into another song, which made for these longer, multiple-part songs. I think I'm sort of over that for the time being. I'm just really enjoying kind of concise, 3-4 minute songs like I did in the early days of The Decemberists."

Recorded in a barn on the outskirts of Portland, "The King is Dead" (Capitol/EMI) stands strongly as both an ode to vintage country rock and '80s-style indie. The album also finds Meloy getting by with a little help from his friends -- and his heroes -- including Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. Buck plays guitar or mandolin on three of the album's ten tracks, while Welch lends her vocals on seven songs, including lead single "Down By the Water."

"On a lot of songs I wrote for this record, I was trying to free my mind from more academic music interests I had over the last four or five years, and trying or reconnect with some of the music that initially got me playing guitar and writing songs in the first place," Meloy says. "So I started writing these bold-faced R.E.M. songs, and I thought, 'If we're going to go there, it would be fun to get Peter [Buck] to get on board, and he was totally into it.'"