Marcus Mumford: ‘I didn’t just want to hang traumatic stuff out there and trigger people’

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MArcus Mumford says he doesn’t actually remember writing Cannibal, the extraordinary song that opens his debut solo album, Self-Title. But she is very clear about the circumstances that led her to write it. He debuted with alcohol addiction and binge eating at the end of the last Mumford & Sons tour in 2019. Take responsibility,” he says. “Oh, I’m on my own, so I can have a few drinks in my room,” or “I can have a few pints of ice cream in my room because I’m on medication for loneliness, or shame, or whatever. “

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Then there was a period when “people around me said: ‘You have to figure this out, mate,’ but they didn’t know what the problem was, and neither did I”. Then came a time when Mumford went into trauma therapy and a period when he didn’t want to write songs at all: he was “in denial about being an artist, when I only hang out with farmers or estate agents”. .

He remembers recording the demo, and playing it with his mother and telling her about the subject of it. Cannibal vividly details the sexual abuse experienced by Mumford at age six, who is variously furious—”You fuck the beast”—and moves toward self-harm and, ultimately, forgiveness. It was something he kept to himself when he first revealed it during a therapy session last year, which Cannibal also describes: “When I started telling, it became the hardest thing I ever said out loud ,” she sings, “the words locked in my throat — man, I suffocated.” Grace, the song that followed it on the self-titled, describes the ensuing conversation: “I’m fine, it’s okay, do I think I’m lying?”

He never thought of releasing Cannibal, or Grace, or really any of the other songs on the album, despite his personal nature (Mumford asked a trauma specialist to check through him because “I just painful stuff didn’t want to hang out and activate or trigger people”), or the fact that releasing them would make their subject matter a global news story, an inevitable consequence of the millions of albums he produced as frontman for Mumford & Sons. sold in

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“It felt like a natural and quite helpful part of my process, I was now less of a shame,” he says. “The natural extension of this process of handling stuff and coming to terms with what I do and who I am was writing a song about it.” He laughs. “Taking these intimate things, these really private moments and publicizing them as widely as possible — it’s just a messy thing. But there’s a magic to it, I think, because you provide an opportunity for people to connect through it.” Huh.”

‘I was in less embarrassment now’: Marcus Mumford Photo: Eric Ray Davidson

Still, making a self-titled album was not easy. We are sitting in a studio in west London where Mumford & Sons recorded in the 00s. When he made his first album here, he says, it took four weeks. Self-titled took 18 months. Some of them were down to painstaking attention to detail. But Mumford burst into tears during the recording of Cannibal, mixing every word of the song with producer Blake Mills to make sure they were “relentlessly honest”.

The album features Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo, Monica Marty and Brandi Carlile, comparing the recording sessions to “a trust fall”, in which a succession of female artists “stand behind Marcus. I think women are pushing the message.” I was capable of a little more.”

Mumford says he refused to admit he was making a solo album, despite the fact that he played the songs to other members of Mumford & Sons and told them he should do the same – and that Elton John would play the song and he not only got the same response, but “conversations with him and David” [Furnish] About being fearless and fearless which I will never forget”.

“Even until last November, when I was in the studio, I was refusing to call it a solo album. Because once you switch to thinking of it as an album, you inevitably Let’s start thinking about the label, how do you present it to the world, how will people hear it and I thought: nothing can distract me from writing it, I can’t start thinking about it. That’s how people are going to listen to it, or how I’m going to talk about it, or the live show.”

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The end result is extraordinary. The lyrics – about addiction, faith and redemption – are surprisingly powerful, but the lyrics will be strong regardless of their theme. It’s tempting to say that this is an album that people who don’t like Mumford & Sons might like. This is partly because the lively stew of country, electronica and rock doesn’t sound like that band at all. And partly because it’s the kind of album you want people to listen to without prejudice. Mumford & Sons was hugely successful, but attracted as much fierce opposition to its image as to its music. Bunting, navy flags and vintage shop fronts on their album sleeves, waistcoats and ties: it was all seen as the red hue of a Twi, Cath Kidston-designed, Keep Calm and Carry On brand of nostalgia a non-existent English for the past. Viz Comic mocked his influences – “they tour the English countryside in their rustic twin-turbo jet-powered flying highway” – while artist Scott King produced a 2013 print that read STOP MUMFORD AND SONS , claiming that: “They represent everything that is wrong with this country today.”

“I’m sure it made me more defensive,” Mumford says. “I tried not to read that stuff, but anyone who tells you they don’t read it at all, or it doesn’t filter in any way, is lying. But I guess, some Years ago, before I started this process of healing, having a family, changing priorities a little bit, in some ways Covid made me care very little about what people think of me. And I historically loved people. I’ve been a pleaser, so the idea that I’m not pleasing people has been difficult at times. ‘Oh, I wasn’t ready to hurt you! How can I mend this broken relationship?’ — which of course didn’t exist anyway. I’m now able to think and think a little more lovingly, with some distance, perspective, and changing priorities, that’s fine.”

Mumford & Sons: (lr) Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwayne.
Mumford & Sons: (lr) Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwayne. Photograph: Larry Busaka/Getty Images for Naras

One thing that struck critics of Mumford & Sons was their Christian faith: Mumford’s parents founded the Association of Vineyard Churches in the UK; He first met his wife, actor Carey Mulligan, at a Bible study camp. Christianity was not front and center in his music, but neither was it hidden at all. When he won a Grammy, Mumford thanked God in his speech, which, as he says, “feeled strange to some”. “Serve God, love me and mend,” went the title track of their debut album, ah no it’s a quote from Shakespeare, but still.

Mumford’s belief in self-titled is there again, though not in the places I thought. I thought it was the theme of Stonecatcher, with its lines about “having the strength to get back on my knees again”, but Mumford says that the song is actually based on Just Mercy, an American lawyer. Brian Stevenson, whose Equal Justice Association has saved more than 130 people from the death penalty. The prior warning, however, features imagery taken from a passage in the Gospel of John: Jesus painted in the dust to pacify an angry crowd.

He says his experiences over the past three years have “deepened” his faith: Certainly, he is more confident about discussing it publicly than he once did. “Then, you know, that people-pleasing thing. I think I feel less insecure about my beliefs. I remember Cover interview with Rolling Stone Where that guy was, like, I need confidence and I’m not sure that will happen anymore. Maybe we are all learning to be more tolerant of each other and that will be less of a difference. It actually seems to me that it is more accepted for a lot of things, including someone who holds a belief, which is a good thing. ,

He reaches for his phone, and begins searching for a photo. “I met the Pope yesterday!” He smiles.

Excuse me? “I went to Rome and met the Pope. It was wonderful. I went with a group of artists to talk about art and faith, in the Vatican, which is a strange thing, this seat of institutional power that’s historically Formally so complicated. But it was really beautiful and really cool, really interesting. In the past, I would have either been insecure about publicly sharing my faith in any way or about Would have been insecure, like, I don’t deserve to be here. It’s not like there’s some revolution in my ego, like yeah, I fucking deserve it, it’s like: no, that’s cool, I can embrace it .

Mumford with his wife Carey Mulligan.
Mumford with his wife Carey Mulligan. Photograph: Comic Relief / Getty Images

He wants to underline that Mumford & Sons has not split, although he laughs when I ask him if they still have a concern: “‘Worry’ is a great word to use. ” Quite aside from Mumford’s own issues, last year, his childhood friend Winston Marshall left the band after praising far-right journalist Andy Ngo’s book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy: He first apologized, Then apologized and announced. His departure from the band. The common belief is that he was asked to leave, but Mumford states the opposite: he “actually tried to reason with him to stay”, believing that “he was embroiled in something who was not…


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