Mercury nominated Nick Mulvey played Leed’s own Brudenell Social Club last week as part of his current UK tour promoting his first studio album, First Mind. Illustrating his diversity as a musician, 29 year old Mulvey performed both with his four piece band as well as solo, captivating the audience in both forms. What struck me about Nick was the sheer ease he seems to feel on stage as if, excusing the cliché, he was born to perform. His fingers stretch incomprehensible distances across the frets of his guitar making every guitarist in the room squirm with both envy and awe. Stopping at the beginning of a song to correct the tuning of his guitar, Nick jokes with the audience: “if you’re gonna do it, you might as well do it right”. This perfectly illustrates Nick’s dedication and search for perfection as an artist. Before the gig, I caught up with Nick to learn more of how this musical virtuoso arrived where he is today.
The same ease that Nick displays on stage is echoed in his casual stroll over and genuine politeness.
“We’re having a blast, a really special time.” Nick remarks on his time touring with a band after months of solo live performance, “I got to the point where I really wanted to develop it into a band, that’s how I made the record.” Calling his fellow band mates “brothers”, Nick appears to be more than grateful to be sharing his musical experience not only with his band, but also with the audience who support him: “I snapped a string for the first time on stage two nights ago and somehow it turned into this really special moment. I was in a new place with this crescendo and the audience were there with me.”
So how did this easygoing and brilliant musician come to be nominated for the mercury prize this year? It all began when as a child, Nick “just wanted to make a lot of noise and racket” and picked up the drums. This developed into the jazz piano as a teenager, “I thought I was a bit sophisticated”, he laughs. Nick didn’t begin playing the guitar until he was 15 and bored on a family holiday. “I found the guitar very easy immediately,” Nick admits, “I liked the guitar because it was a combination of the drums and piano: the right hand was like the drums and the left hand was like the piano and the harmony”.
I’m amazed all the time and that really excites me
Nick’s first guitar teacher, Frank Harrison let Nick explore his own creativity teaching him the basics in order to shape and mould his playing. Other people who have shaped Nick’s creative flare include greats of the 60’s American song book; Paul Simon and Bob Dylan plus the Malian maestro Ali Farka Touré and not forgetting Uncle Jeremy, “a big inspiration”.
Contrary to most modern artists, Nick has a wide range of musical experience having studied world music at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and developed his skill of the guitar in Cuba. “The more obscure the better” is one of Nick’s mantras.
His studies very much reflect through his music and style of guitar playing: “it meant I started to play very rhythmically and very repetitively,” he tells me, “If I get a little unit of music, I do it, I do it and I keep doing it.”
Seeing his passion it isn’t hard to see why Nick has been nominated for the Mercury prize this year. But seeing his humbleness, it’s clear it isn’t all about winning for Nick, the nomination itself speaking more than the prize. “It’s like the outside world nudging me and saying ‘you’re doing ok’.”
From picking up those drums to releasing his first solo album, Nick’s journey has been an evolving and exciting one. “Growing as a person you start to have your own voice and all those things combine to become the middle point, which is you.”
So what’s next for Nick? “A lot of America next year. There’s an appetite over there for what I’m doing. And after the tour a holiday, did you want my calendar or my vision?” Without a doubt Nick will continue to develop as both an artist and musician, taking every new opportunity as it comes: “I’m amazed all the time, and that really excites me.”
photo 1: amazwonaws.com
photo 2: londontheinside.com