On a grey and dull Thursday afternoon, I had the opportunity to ring Nick Mulvey and have a bit of a chinwag about his new album. Not only did we discuss the beautiful themes running through his second album Wake Up Now, we delved into the topics of parenthood, sacred temples and friends.
So Nick, what have you been up to since releasing First Mind in 2014 apart from writing Wake Up Now?
Well, basically I toured First Mind for the best part of two years, so the end of 2015 was my last gig for that. And almost after that we moved out of living in London and to living in the West Country in Wiltshire. I then made that my home with my wife but I’ve got lots of friends who live there as well. And I kind of got a different rhythm out there you know, living very much quite remotely, more in nature than I was in the city. And we made a baby and wrote this record.
What is your writing process like?
Um, you know, I don’t know if it is a solidified kinda thing, but the process for this album was initially some frustration and kind of like remembering that I can’t force it at first. I had a little studio space in my home and I went in there and I spent a lot of time figuring out what I wanted to write about. But that wasn’t too hard in a way in 2016, sort of becoming a Dad, you know, I think I was a bit more ready as a writer to have a bit more of an outward perspective for this record. But this writing process has involved friends more for me, naturally I was just saying stuff to friends and that just grew into a proper collaboration.
I listened to your new album and I noticed quite a lot of the songs were touching on global issues. Would you say by titling your album “Wake Up Now” you want your listeners to wake up to the issues around the world?
Yeah, I mean the title is more towards myself initially as the songs are all about self-inquiry, which you never talk about at school, you never talk about what is it to be alive and to be looking through my eyes, with all the titles that we are given on top of that. At the end of the day we are more than those things. And I could feel that so many of these different and really complex problems, and I am not saying that I am an expert, you know, it varies, but I could begin to see that many of these complex global problems had a similar potential cause. It’s about ignorance, it’s about we don’t know what we are; and that has given rise to so many of these things that are going out of control. So yeah I wish everyone to wake up but only in the sense I wish for peace and wellbeing for every living being on the planet.
I wish everyone to wake up but only in the sense I wish for peace and wellbeing
Yeah I particularly found that with ‘Imogen’; it was a really lovely song and it actually made me feel quite emotional!
Good! That’s the job of it and I feel like it is significant in this time of 2017 to sing that it is over now because there is so much talk about our predicament, which is not necessarily looking very good. I am not saying I am a spiritual teacher in any way but I just know when you begin to understand and live to understand that the things that are more than our roles and our labels is something eternal – then that’s game changing, but what does that mean?! It means that even if we are at the end of our species, it isn’t over now because we are more than our species, you know? We are the formless, eternal, emptiness looking through our eyes and um, for me that was worth writing about!
So would you say this is what makes this album different from your first album?
It’s different in a few ways, after touring my first record and living with those songs for a long time, I had a really clear intention from the beginning of this record and I wanted to speak very plainly. A lot of the time in my first album I was using metaphors cause that was where I was at as writer and I don’t think I was quite ready to own these statements. The experience of releasing and touring my first album kind of gave me the confidence to do that. So I kind of realised you are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t, so I may as well speak the truth as I see it.
I wanted to speak very plainly
I know this is tough question but what song are you most proud of on the new album?
Umm, it changes, but I think it’s ‘We are Never Apart’ and I am most proud of that one because the way the song came into being. Some songs take a long time, you live with them, and you kind of figure them out over a lot of time and other songs come much quicker than that and this was one of those. It takes an act of meditation in a way, you have to be very absorbed in the act of doing the song and let go of that self-critical mental aspect of doing an album. This song was a really cool experience for me because it really seemd to move through me and I was like, ‘wow what is this I am singing about?!’. It was a real process of discovery.
How do you go about choosing who is in your tracks and in your band and who sings?
Well, that was actually new territory for me in this album. It happened in a more organic way, again relating to moving to Wiltshire and then being situated amongst my friends out there; it was natural for us to share our creative processes; they’re artists as well and naturally we just hung out and they got to know the songs and the song structures. I didn’t recognise it until the producer Ethan Johns who was working with at this point said to me, “everything you need is closer than you think”, and I said to him, “there is this pool of friends, like five or six musicians of mine who are really talented and who know all of the material”, and Ethan was like, “well duh go there; don’t go further afield get your friends down.” He gave me the confidence to really make this record with them and now by and large those players have all become the band that I am touring with on stage.
You are about to go on tour. Where is your dream venue be play at?
It wouldn’t be a typical venue. It would be some kind of sacred site, like in a sacred temple on a auspicious day. I went to a place called Palenque once in the forests of Mexico, and I think I would like to play there.
Are you reading anything at the moment? If so what?
I am actually, I am reading this really interesting book called The Continuum Concept, and this was put in my hands when I was becoming a Dad and my wife was pregnant. It looked like another baby book which I wasn’t too interested in, so I didn’t get around to reading it. But then someone else mentioned it and I was like, “oh I have that book on my bookshelf”, and I picked it up and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s about this woman called Jean Liedloff, who wrote it, and she spent most of the 60s and 70s with the Yeuquana people from the Amazon and she begins to collect all her observations. She has incredibly deep insightful observations about human nature. Lots of it focuses on parenting and the family structures of the Yeuquana. She kind of writes about how life for human beings has just changed at this unprecedented accelerated rate for the last two thousand years. But that’s a very short space of time in an evolutionary sense so actually our bodies are very similar to how we have always been. So her time spent with the people who are living now much as they always have lived without much interruption, i.e. these people in the Amazon, gives a really interesting insight into all of us, into human behaviour.
Wow, that actually sounds really interesting. Also who is currently your favourite artist?
I like this guy called Nicola Cruz. It’s been a while since I have found an artist which I like everything I’ve heard of them. I just can’t get enough of this guy, he’s a producer, he’s amazing!
Two more questions! Are you where you imagined you would be right now when you were younger?
I don’t think I ever thought that far ahead to be honest! I think I would be really happy that I live with such a wonderful woman and we are making babies together and also that I play music in my life. I think I always knew I was going to play music. But when I was younger I was never that good at looking far ahead, and I am still not very good at it.
Yeah that is definitely fair enough! And lastly, what are your plans for the future apart from touring?
I know you’re not very good at looking at the future!
Yeah there you go (laughs). But having said that, I think it’s about making a family isn’t it, and bringing up kids and bringing them up well; that contains everything, it’s a real living indication to practice what you preach. It’s just amazing being a dad and I am humbled by it, I’m enjoying it so I hope that continues.
Aw that is lovely! Well thank you very much Nick, I wish you all the best!