In addition to vocals, he performs with an acoustic guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bouzouki, harmonica and percussion.
Meloy was born in Helena, Montana.
His sister is Maile Meloy, an author often published in The New Yorker.
Meloy attended the University of Oregon in Eugene for two years, studying English and Theatre, before returning to Montana and enrolling in the creative writing program at the University of Montana in Missoula. He graduated in 1998.
While in high school, Meloy was in Happy Cactus, and when in college, in Missoula, he was the lead singer and songwriter for Tarkio. Both were indie/folk/alternative country bands. Soon after graduation, Meloy left Tarkio and moved to Portland. There he found, to his disappointment, that he pretty much had to start again, "going to open mics, ... sometimes with no one else in the room save the bartender. ...However, when I was in that position, with nobody to appeal to or scare away, I thought, ‘I might as well do whatever I want to do,’ Meloy said [in 2009]. 'And that created a new thing.'"
In Portland, he met future bandmates Jenny Conlee and Nate Query.
In 2005, he went on his first solo tour to support the self-released six-song EP, Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey, consisting of six Morrissey covers. Only 1000 copies of the album were made and they were sold only on this tour.
Meloy did a second solo tour in January 2006, playing with Laura Veirs and Amy Annelle. On this tour, he sold an EP featuring covers of British folk artist Shirley Collins. 2006 tour performances were recorded for a live release.
Meloy contributed an online bonus track for Lavender Diamond on their Imagine Our Love album. He performed a solo version of "Oh No."
Meloy began another solo tour in April 2008. This coincided with the release of his debut solo album, Colin Meloy Sings Live!, on the Kill Rock Stars label. Singer-songwriter Laura Gibson was the supporting act for the full tour.
As with previous EPs, Meloy sold an EP only available on this run: Colin Meloy Sings Sam Cooke, a collection of five Sam Cooke songs, arranged and performed by Meloy, with Laura Gibson singing harmonies.
On February 24, 2006, Carson Ellis, Meloy's wife, gave birth to a son, Henry "Hank" Meloy. Ellis shares her birthday with Meloy, and is a graphic artist for the Decemberists.
In about 2010, Meloy revealed that Hank has high functioning autism.
On March 14, 2013 Ellis gave birth to Milo Cannonball Meloy .
Meloy's sister is Maile Meloy a writer and his aunt is Ellen Meloy who is also a writer
In 2004, Meloy wrote a 100-page book on The Replacements' third album, Let It Be, released as part of the 33⅓ series.
Meloy made his debut as a children's writer with Wildwood illustrated by wife, Carson Ellis. He kicked off the book tour as the keynote of the AJC Decatur Book Festival on September 2, 2011
The second novel in the series is Under Wildwood, published in 2012.
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