Nick Mulvey talks new album Wake Up Now with hmv.com...
There wasn’t a tremendous amount of expectation for Nick Mulvey when he exited jazz collective Portico Quartet in search of life as a solo artist, but his 2014 debut First Mind proved to be both a critical and commercial hit, earning him a Mercury nomination in the process.
Now he returns with a second record Wake Up Now and we called him up to find out all about it...
How did making this album compare to making your debut album?
“It was different in pretty much every way. It was a massive progression. Right from the very start of the process, I applied what I’d learned from the first album, but I did everything with a real desire to do things plainly. To use plain language and say what I think, not rely so much on metaphors.”
“I love playing the guitar. I’m obsessive. I wanted to get more from my personal style of playing, but simplify things. I got sick of how complex the guitars were on the first album, I wanted to strip it back.”
Were you able to be more collaborative this time?
“Absolutely. I involved friends from the very start and they were there right through the process. We came together in October last year and we recorded in a very live way, all together in a circle, playing at the same time. There’s a lot of imperfection that comes with that, you have less control over the sounds, but you have to trust people and trust you’ve chosen the right players. I did the first album by multi-tracking each instrument in isolation, this is live and raw.”
You did the album with Ethan Johns, who's worked with Kings Of Leon, The Vaccines, Paul McCartney, why did you settle on him for this album?
“It was amazing. It took me a while to decide on how I wanted to record, that I wanted to do it live, so I needed a producer who was meticulous about performances and was comfortable with a live way of doing things. So that was a priority. Then I had a baby in September, so I didn’t want to go far from my family and we live out in Wiltshire. I’d spent the year talking with my label, all these options of producers were on the table, but once the baby came it was boiled down to ‘Which producer records in this way, lives in Wiltshire and is free in October?’. So at that point, it became a shortlist of one. Fortunately, we really clicked.”
You also worked with Dan Carey, who’s a more electronic producer...
“I think it’s a real strength of the record. From the moment I met Ethan I wanted to get across how passionate I was about capturing a live performance, but after that, I could take the files up to Dan in London and add that electronic sheen. To Ethan’s credit, he didn’t have any ego about it, he said he was excited to hear it. Dan was keen to be involved too."
Do you think it hangs together okay?
"I think it’s a cohesive record, not an album of two halves, I’m the anchor, I had the vision and the singular outlook. It was quite painstaking. We had all this live stuff and we had to beat map it all. It took a long time, but I’m so happy with it. The electronics sound great, but they’re definitely subservient to the human elements.”
What kind of album is this lyrically?
“In different ways, each of my songs is about the same thing, which is self-inquiry, talking about being alive and what it is to be a person. There’s a lot of searching and seeking. My first album was about that, but it was inward looking, but with this album, my attention is flowing outwards, it’s lot less self-centred, I’m not doing so much navel gazing.”
How does that come across?
“You learn as you get older that you don’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a weird, I’ve been living in the countryside with my wife and daughter in this wonderful peaceful environment, but the world is in turmoil. Climate change, war is everywhere, insane governments, the world is louder than ever and I couldn’t avoid that in my songwriting.”
Is that where the title came from?
“The title chose itself. It’s the chorus from ‘Mountain To Move’ and, as with all my titles, it’s a case of me getting my mind out the way and letting the ideas flow. The song led me to that phrase. I was a bit reluctant at first, even though I knew it was what I wanted to say, I didn’t want to be misunderstood.”
What made you worry about that?
“Well, I’ve got no interest in preaching or handing out criticism. I think we need to change what we can, but I don’t think the problems in the world are trivial and you can just solve them simply. I’m also doing a dance between the idea that I’m a waiter delivering food to people or a chef in the kitchen cooking it. I feel a bit more like the waiter now, I just deliver music to people at the tables, I’m an artist who surrenders himself to ideas, the music comes from somewhere beyond me.”