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Monday 01 October 2018

Wake Up Now: Nick Mulvey Spreads The Seeds Of Love Over New Material Ahead Of Brighton Show

For Nick Mulvey and his new album Wake Up Now, the answers are sought and found within. 

Mulvey says: "Naturally, this record reflects all that's been happening in my life recently, as a man and as an artist, trying to answer a call to be a better person. 

"The world seems so lacking in respect for the true value of life, for the planet, and for social justice. But seeds of hope are everywhere."
 
"I'm not saying it's simple at all" he concludes, "and I can be as lost as anybody. But I know there are maps. I sing about those maps." 
 
You will know Mulvey, who broke out from his former band (Portico Quartet) in 2011, for the Mercury Prize-nominated 2014 debut, First Mind. 

That album was celebrated for the way it combined expressive songwriting with everything from West-African rhythms to electronic dissonance. 

It operated in a space that required repeat listens to peel back its varied layers, but also worked nicely on mainstream radio.

What you won't know, chiefly because it remained hidden under the surface of that album's lyrics, is that Nick was deep into a journey of self-enquiry that continues to this day.
 
Wake Up Now, his remarkable second album, tackles that journey head on and brings those themes clearly to the surface. 

The poignant We Are Never Apart, written in response to the crisis of the Dakota oil pipeline running through sacred Native American land at Standing Rock (and our own government's plans to start fracking here), was written just after the birth of his son and came amid a period of heightened creativity that the transition into fatherhood triggered in him. 


Transform Your Game is a fluid groove about shedding ego and the possibility of ancestral connection in the here and now, in which Mulvey relays advice given to him: 

"You will have it all when you find greatness in a peace that you do not claim".

Imogen, an elegant, fingerpicking guitar-led ballad, is about the role of self-enquiry and looking beyond the mind in these 'end-of-days' times.
 
"It's easy to feel a real armageddon mood in the air at the moment," he says. "and it blows my mind to think "what if we are living through the end of our species?'. 

Wake Up Now is a profound album, but not a heavy or inaccessible one. 

You can hear touches of Paul Simon's Graceland in the lightness and sophistication of the harmonies, shades of Caribou and Four Tet in Mulvey's organic approach to electronics, and even the seeking spirit of Cat Stevens within the quieter moments of acoustic reflection. 

It also has a quality that is entirely Mulvey's own, most probably because, for the first time, he is being as honest as possible in what he is trying to say and how he says it. 
 
"In the past I've veiled my lyrics in metaphor, but I want to be clearer now. 

"My ambition is to be simple, to speak plainly and to be understood. I shied away before because I wasn"t ready to be this direct in my writing. 

"Now I am ready. And I realised that it"s important in these times for artists to be brave and bold."
 
The album process began at the end of 2015 when Nick and his wife left life in London to live in rural Wiltshire. 

Soon they discovered they had conceived a baby, and for Mulvey the songwriting ran loosely in parallel with the pregnancy. 
 
"Impending fatherhood is a wake up call and of course it was going to impact my songwriting. 

"As my wife prepared for the birth, I felt an urge to take care of our surroundings- our home set-up, you know, putting in the dimmer switches, gathering our people together, getting everything ready- and I think that this urge extended much farther beyond just my own home. 

"I began to feel a new responsibility towards the world we are creating, the world in which my son will grow up. 

"I knew it would be impossible for me to write a batch of new songs that weren't useful, that didn't speak in some way to what's happening in the world." 
 
Early advice came from David Bowie in the form of a dream. 

"I vividly recall a dream where Bowie was telling me exactly where to place my fingers on the guitar neck- new chord shapes to play. 

"You're not going to argue you with him, are you? I thought I'd give it a try and right there and then a new song pretty much wrote itself. Amazing!"
 
Further advice came from Brian Eno (dreamlike perhaps, but very much in the waking world), who Mulvey spent two days with Eno at his Notting Hill studio in March 2016. 

"Brian planted some seeds in my mind. He encouraged me to question convention in all ways, not least those of the "singer/songwriter'. 

We also talked a lot about fostering community around my music." 
 
The advice resonated with some personal intentions Mulvey had already set. 

"From the beginning of this process I wanted to be open and involve my friends. I knew it would be more fun that way, plus I had always written in solitude. I was bored of that."  
 
Nick added: "'Wake Up Now' is an album I always dreamed of making. Me and the band worked together in a spontaneous way- not planning too much, and letting the arrangements emerge by themselves. 
 
"Working this way was all about ensuring the living spirit of the music remained exactly that; alive! I'm happy that the fun we had making it shines through."
 
Nick Mulvey plays Brighton St. George's Church, on Wednesday 3rd October 2018. CLICK HERE for tickets.

by: Mike Cobley




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credit Andy Willsher

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Photo credit: Sarah Millican

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Pic by Grant

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(c) The Unthanks 2018

The Emily Brontë Song Cycle is a new work commissioned by the Brontë Society, written and recorded using Emily Brontë’s piano in her home, by composer, pianist and producer Adrian McNally of the band The Unthanks, and performed with sisters Rachel & Becky Unthank.

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