On this week’s episode of Rocket Hour, Elton John chats with Marcus Mumford. He tells Elton about working with Brandi Carlile, Mumford & Sons, his new solo album (self-titled), playing with Joni Mitchell, his love for Elton and more…
Marcus Mumford on Elton John
Well, it's a bit of a trip for me to be talking with you on your podcast about this record, because you are partly responsible for this thing happening at all, Elton. And I hadn't imagined it being out. When I first played you those couple songs in Los Angeles and you and David sat me down in your kitchen and gave me one of the great speeches that I'll always remember about fearlessness. I still, at that point, didn't imagine a world where I was putting the music out. I hadn't got that far, and I'd only just started writing really. And, I think I promised to myself that I would write just for the sake of writing music, partly to enjoy music again. And then Cannibal came out and then Grace came out and then it got more fun.
Marcus Mumford on Brandi Carlile
Well, Brandi and I have been friends for a long time. And actually we're both ambassadors for the same charity. In the UK it's called War Child. In the US, it's called Children in Conflict. And we really connected again through that. And then we saw each other at dinner with you in Los Angeles. And she sidled up to me and she said, "Something's going on with you. You're presenting quite differently in the world and I'd like to understand it as your friend." And I said, "Yeah. I can explain that to you." And then, I guess, you had called her and told her that you'd heard a couple songs and that she should too. So we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway together and listened to music. Some of her music, some of my music, and she put her arm around me that morning and said, "Dude. Whatever it takes to help you bring this music into the world, I will be here for it." And we drove straight to the studio and recorded.
Marcus Mumford on Mumford & Sons
I really agree with you. And I said to the lads that this is not to launch a solo career that I could do alongside for the rest of the time, at all. It was really, it was a project-based thing for me. These songs naturally felt like they had to be not really put on anyone else. I had to carry these on my own. But, I've always said to them I want to go away and do this, and then I hope to come back to the band, a better writer, a better performer and actually a better band member now. And certainly having made some changes in my life, probably a nicer bloke to hang out with and make music with too. So I think it's going to be a good ... I'm really excited about the next one. I've got a few songs kicking about. I know the lads do too, so it's going to be fun.
Marcus Mumford on lead track Cannibal, taken from debut solo album
Just a line in the song that naturally came. I was actually looking through my lyric books, because I write everything out by hand when I'm writing lyrics. And that word came up a bunch. It was rattling around my brain until I got it in the right place in this song. And it just felt like the right way to start the record. It's an intense way to start a record, but once I'd written it, there was no hiding from it. And for me, it's not actually a sore subject now, because I feel like I've had the opportunity to do a lot of work on it. And in my family, amongst my friends and people like you, honestly, Elton. So, yeah. It felt like the natural thing to do to write a song about it, once I'd done some work on it.
Marcus Mumford on playing with Joni Mitchell at Newport Festival
It totally was. And in rehearsals we'd done it slightly differently. At the jams, we'd all sort of pitch in and sing a bit. And I think by the time she got on the stage at Newport, for the first time in 20 years or whatever, I think she needed less support from us and from Brandi. And so, Brandi had said to me, make sure you sing it all so that she can join in when she wants to, and then she can duck out when she wants to. But, by the time we get to that song in the set, she'd been singing stronger than I think anyone had heard her for a long time. So, I felt like, now I've got to duck out and get out of the way of Joni Mitchell, because she's rising. She was just rising throughout that set. Thanks to Brandi, really, who's been like a physiotherapist, to her vocally. And so, I ducked out. I planned on singing much more than I ended up singing on that song, just because you've got to make way for the queen, haven't you?
Marcus Mumford on Monica Martin
… She was playing a show at Largo and I texted a friend of mine who was going and said, "Can I come?" And they said, "Yeah. You can come, but you're going to have to play a couple songs." And I said, "That's fine. As long as I can get in the room, because I want to see Monica Martin play." And she was even better live than I'd hoped she would be. And we met and I said, "I'm gently stalking you, because I'm so obsessed with your music. Would you hear this song I'm working on for my record?" And she did. And she came in and sang it. She held my dog for the entire day, while she was singing. And she layered up her parts. She did it all in one day. And she just blew us out of the water. It was amazing. So we had to mix her really high.
Marcus Mumford on the positive influence of female artists
I'd worked in a male-dominated environment for a long time. And I started out working for Laura Marling. She was the first person to give me a job. I was her drummer. And I hadn't really worked in a studio with women since then, and it had been far too long. And actually, it just so happened that with this music, particularly, for some reason, I found that women really connected to it. And I found in my really vulnerable moments in the studio, it tended to be a woman who'd come along. Even if it was Clairo who's 23, or Julia Michaels, who I'd never worked with and never met, who's 25. And just come along and lift me over the particular wall that I'd faced. And then behind the scenes too, my team's changed a bunch. My publisher, my agent, head of my record label in the US, and now one of my management team, all women. And really key to it. And there's good reason for the record being dedicated to my wife. So, just at this period in my life, it was what was necessary and it was awesome.
Marcus Mumford on his love for Elton John
Elton, can I just say? Can I just take the opportunity, publicly? Because, I know I've said it privately to you, and I've said it behind your back a lot, but I don't think I would've made this record without you. And I'm really, as much as you might be proud of me, I'm even more grateful to you. Because, yeah. I'd hit various walls along the way, even before I started making it. And you have been a constant friend and encouragement to me. And you and David, both, I'm so grateful to you. And so, being on your show is like full circle, complete joy. So, thank you.