Interview: Nick Mulvey

Singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey has had to put it mildly one helluva year. He was shortlisted for BBC Sound Of 2014, released his debut solo album First Mind to howling critical acclaim and has a headline UK tour just on the horizon. It’s been the year when as Nicks says, “All the hard work has really become something”. With the release of his stunning first EP, Marie Wood caught up with Nick to talk about his ‘whirlwind’ journey, sublime debut album First Mind and going it alone on the road this October.

You’ve had a stunning year you were shortlisted for BBC Sound of 2014 and your debut album First Mind was released to critical acclaim. What’s it been like for you?

I’m in a whirlwind this year, it’s been pretty non-stop, but I’m very touched by how the record’s been received that way. All the hard work has really become something.

What’s been a key moment for you?

Playing the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury …We were waiting in the wings at the and I suddenly saw there was huge crowd, much bigger than I daren’t to hope, I think all of us relaxed in a really nice way and remembered what we were in it for. It was a very sweet moment, it made me take stock in a really busy year.

You’ve supported London Grammar, Laura Marling and Ben Howard. What’s it like to now play shows on your own?

On a practical note, I’ve put together a band around me so actually on a day-to-day level I’ve got a lot of friends on board. The other things is after a long time honing my craft and working out how I want the performances to go in front of other people’s audiences it’s been really great to take it back to my own audiences and watch them grow. We’re getting to know each other, basically, me and my audience and now the record’s out there everyone’s that coming to the gigs (it’s a really obvious thing to say) they all know the music before you start playing. The point at which you start the gig and play the first note is already a loaded point, therefore how far you can go in the gig and the depths you can go in the music is even greater.

You started out your career in the Portico Quartet and you left to go solo. What was the final straw to make you go out on your own?

There wasn’t really a final straw so much as in a slow realisation, because I realised that I could be brave and do what my gut was telling me as I didn’t need to worry about security or the idea of security as it wasn’t really there anyway. It doesn’t matter how sorted your situation is or secure the income is or secure your set-up is if you’ve run out of creative ideas.

How did you go about writing the songs?

Just working on sounds and stuff until an idea grabs you and then going with it really and always trying not to think too much. If that’s one my aims then I routinely fail as I couldn’t help but interfere with it and overthink it. I think, as I look towards the second album, I’ve redoubled my commitment to that same principle to not to think about it and to just be musical than too intellectual.

Your song ‘House of Saint Give Me’ is about your father’s retirement work tending his local cemetery and ‘Cucurucu’ is an interpretation of DH Lawrence’s poem. Where do you think you get your inspiration?

I’ve always read a lot and loved poetry, like Elizabeth Bishop; I love the economy of good poetry and the precision of good writing. That was in my world and I had some guitar patterns and I wasn’t feeling that creative that day, so I looked at it almost as an exercise to keep me going and keep me writing. Then on the other side I mumble the music or sounds and then they become words and I’m surprised at what I write, it’s very much a form of therapy. As a writer releasing and performing is a vulnerable place to be as it’s really allowing your insides to take expression without much editing or censorship. I always try to find the inner personal rather than confessional as I don’t think songwriter has to be confessional, literary naming things in your  life, I don’t find that necessarily very useful… I always leave it open enough so that anyone can apply their own experience.

You mentioned a second album, have you started it?

In a way it’s kind of happening all the time. I think I’ve started songs, it’s something I’m always doing, I’ve always got my ear open for phrases or words I like. Actually finishing songs and creating a batch that will become an album? That’s not happening  at the moment, that’ll happen later on. It tends to take a bit of time and I’m touring and it doesn’t just happen in five minutes between sound checks. I’m not going to rush that process.

You’re heading out on your own UK headline tour this October. What do you want people to go away with when they see you?

I want people to be completely inspired. I’m really excited to take this band to my audience, because we’ve really met and played to a lot of people at festivals this summer but it’s a different vibe… At the beginning of summer we did one London show and one Manchester show with the band, so I had a little taste of what it’s going to be like to take this band to my own audience and I’m really excited. I’m really excited for the songs to have that support around them, it’s going to be great.