Nick Mulvey: ‘I’m not thinking too much. It’s very natural for me’

We speak to English singer and songwriter Nick Mulvey, about his upcoming album, New Mythology, the effect of ethnomusicology, and cultural influences from all over the world.

Nick Mulvey new music

Jamie Lucas speaks to revered English musician and singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey about his upcoming album, New Mythology, the evolution of his music through ethnomusicology, and cultural influences from all over the world.

How did you get into the world of music?

I’ve done music since before I can remember. It happened so naturally, and as I got into my late teens I started forming bands. There are some music people in my family, but not in the same area that I was wanting to go into, so I knew nothing about touring, music deals, etcetera. It felt like a distant, glamorous entity. 

I moved to London to follow my passion without any sense of career really. I formed a band called Portico Quartet, with quite a unique instrumental sound. We had a great attitude and loved it. We were busking, out on the Southbank – we did everything we could. We moved into more serious work, got a Mercury Prize nomination. It was all up and running, but after a couple of albums, I wanted to get back into solo work and getting guitar in.

Nick Mulvey new music

How was transitioning from a band to solo?

It was a big life decision for me. You really live it when you’re young and in a band. It wasn’t easy to move away from. I had to go deep and honour something in myself which was telling me to get into my inner solo creative. I had the blessing and support from the band, but these things are always tough.

Were you studying music at the time?

I went down a more academic route, I studied ethnomusicology. It’s almost like the study of music through an anthropological lens. I was looking at the evolution of music: why, as humans, we create and love music. I was never an academic, I was always late with essays. But I loved immersing myself into that world. As much as I love things in the charts, I crave music from different cultures and different centuries.

Who were your early influences?

For me, I was focused on the best songwriters. When I was 15 my sister gave me Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, that album had a revival in the late 90s and I loved that. He went to university in Cambridge where I grew up. I was connecting to the university, but opposite my house was the college Nick Drake went to, and I’d look out my bedroom window playing my guitar thinking maybe Nick was in that dorm there! He’s definitely still been an influence to me to this day. 

And what do you listen to now?

All sorts. Today I was listening to Tereke. He’s a great ambient musician I love. Still listen to a lot of the greats, back into Leonard Cohen. I don’t listen continuously to artists like that but I go into these phases and come back to them. Same with Paul Simon.

Nick Mulvey Still

A still from the video behind, Star Nation

As someone who has studied music from different cultures, how does that influence your music?

In a natural way, you absorb all the music around you. They alchemise inside the pieces. It’s not obvious on the surface, but if you look under it’s definitely there. Listening to a lot of African music and Latin music and the structure of the grooves, and how the rhythms work. I definitely subconsciously use them. Implicitly not explicitly.

How would you describe your music?

I write songs for sure. But I also like house music and hypnotic qualities in folk music, in African music, or in techno or in modern American classical music. That’s where my music is, the songwriting but also the groove. It’s very natural for me. It’s not a cerebral fusion that I’m thinking about. As an artist I’m not thinking too much, I get my tools whether it be the guitar or the synth and I like feeling my way through it. That’s where the sweet spot emerges, and it feels right.

Talk me through the song Star Nation?

I was working really hard on some songs on the album NEW MYTHOLOGY, probably too hard. I took a break and I still had the guitar in my hands. I was already doing the chords and the picking pattern, and thinking, ‘That’s a good start’, and it unfolded without too much of my focus. The lyrics folded so easily, like, ‘It doesn’t matter when you know’ came in. From there, I felt it was a beautiful musical space, it was simple but I managed to keep my attention. A friend came round with something I found really inspiring called the Hopi Prayer, it comes from the Hopi people from Arizona. They are in touch with the ways of life that have been less interrupted by the big modern industrial journey we’re all on.

There is a really interesting voice in this time of modernisation. I’m fascinated with people who learn to live in harmony with themselves and with nature. This is a short extract from them talking about this time, and it really stayed with them and I ended up quoting some of that in this piece. I got in touch with people from their community and get the ok from them.

Star Nation

A still from the video behind, Star Nation

And the album is called New Mythology, what was that like recording in Paris?

I met Reno Le Tang, whose work I love. I went to his studio in Paris and met his team, it was the coolest set up and I decided to work with him. Paris was in a real lockdown so moving about wasn’t easy. It felt like this little corridor I needed between the UK and France was open, and I felt lucky to be able to do it. It was just a good flow from the start with the guys. Taking the songs and plugging them into this record making machine and listening to their amazing high standards felt great.

NEW MYTHOLOGY’ is released on 10 June 2022

Leave a Reply

More like this