Nick Mulveys 2015 veröffentlichtes Album First Mind war das Debüt eines Künstlers, der sich dem Konventionellen entzieht und dem Erwarteten ausweicht. Eine Platte voll konträrer Nuancen und ungewöhnlicher Rhythmen, auf der ein exquisiter und talentierter Gitarrist sein Instrument außergewöhnliche Dinge tun lässt und einzigartige Klangfarben zum Strahlen bringt. Ein schwer zu vergleichendes Album. Sein neues Album Wake Up Now erscheint nun diese Woche etwa zwei Jahre später und zeigt den Songwriter, sowie seinen Sound runderneuert, selbstbewusster und bereit für den nächsten Schritt. Wir haben uns mit Nick Mulvey zum Interview dazu getroffen!
Last time I spoke to you you’d just released First Mind and just been nominated for the Mercury Prize, what’s changed since then?
Wow loads of things. So we toured that all the way to the end of 2015 and moved out of London. That was kind of the major thing that happened. Oh and I got married, that happened at the beginning of 2015 and yeah my wife and I we were both ready for a change but we hadn’t really articulated yet so there were quite a lot of options. We didn’t really know where to start but we didn’t have to in the end because a friend of a friend popped up and said you should move here and it was a beautiful fit. It was a barn tucked away in the middle of nowhere in Wiltshire. I’m really happy to be there. So we moved at the end of the whole First Mind tour and writing the next record kind of coincided with us moving out of London. But then it wasn’t long until we conceived a baby and then this album was written in parallel with the pregnancy and I became a dad last September. It’s a beautiful thing, he’s ten months old now, I miss him actually. It’s all kind of wrapped up in the same kind of flow. A lot of the frustrations I found writing the album were kind of resolved towards the late side of pregnancy. I still didn’t have a full album of songs you know I was just making loads of demos that I didn’t really like and I was lacking direction. They were too perfect and that was the problem. I didn’t realize that perfectionism had become quite a compass point for me which was quite dissatisfying. But by the late pregnancy it became clear to me that my priorities had to change. So I made the album the second priority which was very practical and in the space I did have, in between changing nappies, that’s where I started to write the rest of the album. I knew what to do basically and it was really connected with these personal transitions.
How much do you think your son has actually influenced this album?
I probably don’t even know the full scope of it. And I have the most cosmic feelings about his involvement and he’s really in charge.
That’s really special.
It is you know, but I also have to be kind of careful to remember to separate the two things. In advance people had told me that having a kid will influence how you write songs which is great, but I also didn’t want to put my profession over this family thing. It’s tricky. Just knowing that distinction helped I think. There’s a song on the album, ‘Remember Me’, and I was playing it with him on the carpet and we were just jamming together and it was really sweet. You know it’s a really simple, almost silly song, but I’m really really happy with it, it didn’t matter that it was silly. Which is quite liberating and in that moment I found myself thinking about my father as I was singing to him which was very nice.
With this album you’re also donating some of the profits to charity. What made you want to do that?
Well it comes back to the songs themselves and I think for me personally getting together a body of work and really writing songs at this time, you know through the course of 2016 and in parallel with writing alongside the pregnancy, it felt like it was impossible not to talk about everything that’s going on. I think if you’ve been made homeless because your country has no social security and not supporting people at risk, then the issues have been loud for you for a very long time. We’re just getting to the stage where everyone sees and you know I don’t think climate change is an issue, I think it’s a series of messages from the planet in the language of storms and floods and fires and melting ice caps and the messages are really important that we all reflect on our systems. They’re not working. And I think unrelenting boatloads of displaced people coming across the Mediterranean is also not an issue. Anyway I’m going deeper than I mean to but basically when writing these songs I thought to not write about these issues would be like walking past a burning house and just carrying on as normal. It was that kind of realization and then I kept getting this feeling, I’m not an economist or anything, but from whatever perspective I used I always could see fundamental causes to these different problems and a lack of self knowledge is really key. We’re all distracted, profoundly. I was listening to something the other day and it was talking about how since the steam engine, humans have seen themselves as having a dominion over nature. Because before the steam engine you had sails and you needed the wind to blow on the sails so there was a fundamental reciprocal relationship with nature. Or you needed the water to turn the fields in your factory so you had to be by a river. So you had this obvious understanding with our relationship within the totality of nature which indigenous populations and non-industrialized places have had for years. As a race for 250 years we’ve kind of let the smoke blow up our own arses and seen ourselves as above and beyond nature. We’re fast learning that that is not the case and it’s really catching up with us. On a scientific level we are so acutely connected with nature, we can’t survive without it. I’m interested on an experiential level and our being. I don’t think we talk about our being enough. It’s not about talking about being but it’s about being being. We’re not our names and our roles and statuses, those are all labels that are put upon us. But when you have moments of realization like when you see a birth or are close to someone who dies it makes you think, what’s in me that’s seeing through these eyes, feeling this touch. The ‘I’ that I was when I was seven years old is still the same ‘I’, its not personality because that’s kind of a constructed thing, but the ‘I’ that doesn’t change is about being. So that’s what this album is about again and again: being. Anyway after all of that, it took me to writing this song about the refugee crisis and it was something I wanted to write about but hadn’t known how to do it. I had these chords and lyrics that were quite Mediterranean and also this North African feel to it. I’ve been a magpie with music my whole life, I’m kind of just able to copy things and get a feeling. But I didn’t have any words. I liked how the chords sat though; they had a different feel to the rest of the album. But every time I tried to write my own words it was just way too intense. It got to the end of recording the album and I still hadn’t got round to it. But we sat down and started working with this ‘come get me’ line and it worked backwards from that. We both agreed we didn’t have the first hand knowledge to write about this, that would be distasteful so we did some archive research into first hand accounts from refugees. We pulled out these stories and, still haven’t answered your question but it felt right to partner the release with a charity in order to really get the message out there. So I had a couple of friends who introduced me to Philly from Help Refugees and she was exactly the person who we needed to meet. She had just been to Cali with four girlfriends who all had quite a strong social media game so they were all able to make this really ace organization which was really flexible at responding to the situation, a lot more so than places like Amnesty or Save the Children.
I was reading previous interviews with you and in one you said ‘I want to warm the room’. But now talking about it maybe music’s become more political for you? Or something that you can use to send a message?
If I remember rightly what I meant by wanting to warm the room was wanting to connect, give music a degree of accessibility. And the reason I made that point was because I felt I’d come from a time where in Porto Quartet we’d lost our way a bit. We wanted to challenge convention but to me it kind of became a thing where we were never allowed to do the expected thing. I don’t think it really became music before. So when I write music now, you’re ganna know what key I’m in, I’m not here to be tricky. Although I do surprises and intelligent writing too of course.
I totally get that music has to be accessible. Do you think because you want music to be accessible it’s also a good way to use the platform to be more political? For example by donating some of the profits to charity.
Yeah definitely. And I think that’s happening more and more now. I saw some footage of M.I.A. at the NME awards and she was just roasting the room. Properly not flinching away from talking about unpalatable subjects and representing unrepresented people. And I was so inspired by that. I was also on a personal journey of realizing that I shouldn’t not say what I think. In First Mind I had kind of shied away from speaking my mind and I did end up regretting it by the end of the tour. And then I realized you’ve not got much time you might as well say it and also coupled with the fact that I’ve shared this process with friends and I know its good cause we’ve all shared it together, therefore I can relax about it. But the other aspect is lots of musicians just waking up and people waking up and going oh fuck. We have to do something. Whatevers in our power. There are changes we need to make cause this is a really challenging time. I heard the other day that in some unprecedented moment in human history with population expansion going at the rate it is, we’re about to have three billion young people. They’re all about to become 23 to 30 and they haven’t been brought up on as much of the same ideas about progress and expansion and separation from reality. And loads of them have been coming of age after the 2008 crash. No one believes the bankers have our best interests at heart anymore. No one accepts establishment and government as representing democracy; we have to keep fighting for it. So it’s amazing all these kids are now coming of age, it’s so exciting, we don’t know what’s going to happen.
It’s quite a scary time as well though? Especially within Britain. I thought you’d have maybe brought up Brexit on stage actually.
Yeah that’s true, singing we are never apart. I mean trust is not knowing that everything is okay but trusting that it is. Everything’s far from okay really you know and we obviously need to go on this trip and we might fail. But we need to. In the past couple of years writing this album and reading the climate scientists, I really couldn’t believe it. I turned the page and went to the next page. Until I heard a Vietnamese monk say you know we really might be at the end of our species, a next 150 years. So just like the individual at the end of their life, all the roles and labels start to become meaningless. You either have a difficult time or what matters shines through. And he said in his own poetic away, its better to know eternity on the in breath than eternity on the out breath. Which is his own way of talking about being, and being is what we are. I could just rabble on all day.
I think it’s really good to use music as a platform and talk about these kinds of things.
Yeah cause its not all intellectual, it’s a feeling. We all need to do a lot of processing, we’ve all got a lot of crying to do. There’s trauma around the world on an unprecedented level. You think oh it’s just me but its not. Think about all those kids playing Call of Duty across the country and how we even process what our grandparents experienced first hand in the first world war. I mean I’m just using my own personal experience here but we see this bizarre behavior and you just wonder what it is we’re holding on an emotional level. But you know, we have unprecedented access to yoga and knowledge about our own breath, and we have the tools. I love life.
Amazing. Just moving on slightly, how was Glastonbury?
Amazing thank you. Yeah we’ve got the new band and it’s a tall order to be festival ready and the expectation at Glastonbury is always very high but things clicked for us. The sun was shining and it was great. And my son was there too with his ear defenders which was really lovely.
How do you think the crowd is different at festivals?
It’s like a mix of things. Sometimes you’ll do a gig where people have just come from the office and you can kind of feel that whereas at the Sunday at Glastonbury they’re kind of powerless to resist. I’m ganna give them a good time and they don’t have a choice. So that’s nice. But also it’s quite pressurized because they could be seeing someone like The Killers, but they’ve chosen to see you.
Do you have a favourite festival or city to play?
I think right now I would say Womad. I’m playing it on the weekend. Yeah that’s such a fun weekend. I first went when I was 18 and I was mad about African and World music. Then over the years in my 20s I went to loads of different ones and now I’ve come full circle.
Do you notice a difference in the crowds depending which country you’re in?
I’ve got a really good answer to that. I was talking to a friend who’s a musician in Toronto but also lived in London, so this is his theory but I also liked it. He said it all comes down to the cost of living. So here, it’s a lot cheaper so people go to work a lot less, they work kinder hours here so they don’t push it to 6.30 in the office. Therefore much more time opens up to go home and see your friends. I was a support act at this point, I think for Jamie Cullum, and I was like I love it they listen to me. And he said its because they’ve done their chunk of socializing before they’ve come to the gig so then they’re ready to switch off. Whereas in London they’ve come straight from the office. He made that link between the way we are and the cost of living which I thought was really interesting.