Hometown glory

Ruthie Collins catches up with the Mercury prize-nominated Nick Mulvey, who’s in town for a homecoming gig this month  

“It feels really lovely,” Nick Mulvey says of the prospect of playing Cambridge Corn Exchange this September, a hometown gig for the multi award-nominated singer, who grew up in the city with his family. “I feel really spoilt, blessed and lucky. It feels really sweet to play Cambridge and also to feel so recognised.” We know Nick as the Mercury Prize-nominated English singer-songwriter of soulful power ballads such as Fever to the Form (2013), or Mountain to Move (2017). Ballads peppered with poignant lyrics that sing to the soul, a joyous rallying cry to all to embrace a way of life away from the vices of modern day living – endless comparisons, overlooking the present.

“Those ideas on Wake Up Now are really familiar to some, others not so. On an emotional level, it’s giving space to feel our feelings together, but also acknowledging the ideas I believe in – not in a cerebral way, but celebrating being alive, although not in a way that looks away from the struggle.

“It’s very easy to always strive for something that’s about to come; you can overlook what you’ve already got,” says Nick. “The last year for me since Wake Up Now has been a real journey of letting go. I don’t want to say this is it now, I’ve found it, because I haven’t,” he adds. 

But he’s also a loving family man. “With two babies under two myself, fatherhood has made a massive change in my life. I’m happy to keep things simple right now,” he says. “The power in the change isn’t anything particularly ethereal. It’s the down to earthiness of it all. It forces you to get your life in order. You have to be super organised about everything.” You can see this family influence in songs like Unconditional, or in his love for his siblings – he had the entire crowd at his sold-out gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall earlier this year, singing to his brother Dom. “Yes, we’re close,” he laughs. 

Nick will head out solo in September on an initial 18-date run of shows in which touring with his second album, Wake Up Now, has evolved from five-piece, to trio, and now back to just Nick and his guitar. The tour starts in Belfast on 19 September, before heading to Dublin and Cork. Nick then crosses the Irish Sea to play at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on 24 September. 

"I'm a product of this community, it's good to connect to that"

He’ll be playing at many intimate spaces he’s not performed at before. “The tour is about keeping things really simple. It’s been an intentional decision to keep things to just me and my guitar. I was hearing it from my audience – they were telling me, this is what they wanted. I write all my songs with the guitar, so it centralises that process. This tour is about keeping things simple, getting back to a more intimate relationship
with my audience.” 

Nick is passionate about this. “Before each gig I do a practice, a meditation. I think of everyone, their journeys. I feel grateful. I see my audience not as fans, but as friends. This has been a huge shift for me – these aren’t 2000 people out there to judge, they are 2000 friends.” 

Nick went to school at Chesterton Community College, before leaving the UK to study music in Havana, Cuba, then returning to study ethnomusicology at the School for Oriental and African Studies in London. Here he met his band members for what would become the Mercury-nominated Portico Quartet, including band member Duncan Bellamy. 

“I’ve played Cambridge Corn Exchange once before, while supporting Laura Marling, and at Cambridge Junction too – that was an amazing gig. Plus a couple of Meet Me There gigs at Nomads,” he says. “I’m a product of this community. It’s good to connect to that. This all feels really right.”