For those of you who are local to Marlborough in good ol’ Wiltshire, you will be familiar with the greatest shop on the high street; the musical sanctuary and my happy place, Sound Knowledge. Not only do the guys in there always have the latest releases along with great recommendations, but they also get in a whole load of artists to come perform and to do some album-signing. After weeks of being away and missing Everything Everything, Marika Hackman and Declan Mckenna in MY VERY OWN HIGH STREET, on Monday night I finally made it down to the record store to watch the engaging and endearing Nick Mulvey perform some new songs from his latest album, Wake Up Now.
The many hipsters of the Shire, clad in their vans and chequered shirts (not to mention an abundance of man-buns) filled the small venue, and it was clear from the number of times I heard ‘I’m actually so excited for this’ that many of them were fans of Mulvey’s. I, on the other hand, was a total newbie to his music, even though he has received warranted acclaim throughout his career. His first album released in 2014, First Mind, was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize award. I don’t know how to tell you this, but that’s a kind of a big deal.
So what was my live introduction to Nick Mulvey to be; a folky flop or a songwriter success?
Well, with his humbling presence and bona fide musicianship, how could I not have fallen in love with this guy? It was only him and his partner-in-crime, Federico, on stage, the latter playing the African drum and Mulvey playing guitar, and yet the sound was so rich and the harmonies were spine-tingling. If I closed my eyes whilst listening I thought I was listening to a studio-recorded song, for his voice was note-for-note perfect from start to finish. It’s easy to think ‘Oh woopee that’s just what this country needs, another George Ezra or Ed Sheeran’, but Mulvey’s incorporation of tribal sounds through the drums and African-styled call and responses is what makes his style far more unique.
What made the deliverance of his new songs even more special was how much each song meant to him. For many of them were deeply personal, such as his beautiful new song, Imogen, which he wrote when storm Imogen hit the UK just moments after the birth of his son. And yet he made it very clear that they were songs for everyone, at one point saying, ‘I can’t write your epiphanies for you, I give you the pieces and hopefully you put the puzzle together. But I hope these songs speak to you.’ Many of his songs sang of global issues in a very moving way, such as the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in We Are Never Apart, and more notably, his song Myela which he wrote about the refugee crisis. The lyrics, such as ‘They’d rather die once in the sea than dying everyday a little more’ are raw and really strike a chord with its listeners. The music video is equally special, as it was created by Majid Adin, an Iranian animator and film-maker who has sought refuge in the UK. Well worth a watch.
Personal favourites of the night came in Transform Your Game (We Remain), and the two pre-released singles, Mountain To Move and Unconditional. The latter is a sweet and tranquil love song with delightful lyrics such as ‘The mark upon your lip / The venus light is shining in your kiss’ making your heart flutter a little. Also makes you desperately want someone to cuddle and sing something as wonderful as that to you.
So overall, full marks to Sound Knowledge for the night (and for just being awesome), and full marks to Nick Mulvey and Federico for such a humbling and heart-warming performance (and also for being awesome). As ever with musicians, it makes all the difference when they make their audience feel appreciated and like they are a part of the music. Even though the album sounds like it should be quite dark and heavy, it is in fact, as Mulvey himself said, ‘a celebration of being alive’, and makes for perfect lazy afternoon music as we cling on to the final fleeting moments of Summer.
Lots of lovin children,