You studied Ethnomusicology at The School of Oriental and African Studies – how did your interest in the music of other cultures come about?
It was quite normal for me. I’m typical of my generation in that I have an iPod, which makes it easy to flick between different genres. In my parents generation they used to identify with a particular style – like Punk Rock. For me, I absorbed all the music that I grew up with – 90s bands like Oasis and Blur, and also cooler stuff my sister was giving me like Portishead, Massive Attack, and House. And then I really started to love the sounds of South America, Africa and the Middle East – and any expression of it. I got into a few radio DJs like Lucy Durán and found some great blogs about World music. I have this belief that all music is great no matter what it is.
Do you have favourite guitarists?
My inspiration for playing the guitar has not always been guitarists. A huge inspiration for me is the American composer Steve Reich. I was given one of his albums when I was 15 years old, and I loved it – it was everything I wanted from music. He has a minimalist approach and his principles really fascinated me – like repetition, and building music in a hypnotic way. Fela Kuti from West Africa is another major influence. I never actually think of myself as a guitarist – the guitar is the site where I process and create music but I take influences from everywhere.
Could you describe the recording process for the new album?
We went on a journey with it. First of all, I made a bunch of demos that I wasn’t satisfied with. At that time my wife was pregnant, so I gave up and supported her. That was just what I needed and I’m grateful for it – it showed me what I needed to do when I didn’t know. As I was doing basic things around the house I’d have these insights into how my old recording method wasn’t serving me, and I realised that I needed to explore live recording.
You’re supporting Help Refugees UK with the release of the single Myela. Do you think musicians can do more to support important causes?
Writing that song about the refugee crisis was something I needed to do. My songs are often about self-enquiry and things we never really talk about at school. It’s natural in my journey of self-realisation to start looking outwards because we don’t live in a vacuum. Long story short, I was ready to write about these things and felt that I had to. I wanted to partner up with Help Refugees to support them, and so that people understood what the song was about. I think it’s great how artists like Anohni and PJ Harvey address relevant issues with their music. Politics is too important to be left just to the politicians.
Brian Eno’s given you advice before: if you could meet any other musician dead or alive, who would it be?
I would love to have met John Lennon. My jaw hits the floor when I think about the reality of his achievements. I’m fascinated by The Beatles’ journey. They began as these pop-y boys all dressed the same, and then there was a psychedelic revolution in their appearance and their energy. I believe that The Beatles were a vehicle for a spiritual message.
What were the last three bands or artists that you listened to?
I’ve just got into an artist called Nicola Cruz – he’s French but lives in Peru. It’s been a while since I’ve found a musician who I love that much. I also listened to Patti Smith this morning with my son, and a song of hers called Spell. And finally, I listened to a song by Daughter earlier called Burn It Down. I used to live with their guitarist.
Are you looking forward to playing up North again next month?
I’m really excited to come back. I love shows up there.
Nick Mulvey is on tour in the UK from 27 September to 19 October, with dates in Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle.
6 October – The Leadmill, Sheffield
7 October – Church, Leeds
10 October – Wylam Brewery, Newcastle