Recorded in Los Angeles with producer Blake Mills, Marcus Mumford’s full-length solo debut began coming to life when the Mumford & Sons leader was in pandemic lockdown. On the album, Mumford sings vivid, and at times harrowing, songs about being sexually abused as a child, and the therapeutic journey his life has taken since. “It’s a record about freedom and it’s a record about healing,’ he tells Apple Music. (self-titled) opens with the simmering “Cannibal,” the first song Mumford wrote for the project and a rebuke of his abuser. “The story of the record started with that song,” Mumford says. Next up is the jagged “Grace,” which, he notes, is an “answer” to “Cannibal,” where the singer-songwriter grapples with what happens when, as he sings, “Healing is around the corner”—or at least it’s supposed to be. From there, it depicts the personal voyage Mumford has taken, and is still taking, within himself, with singers like Brandi Carlile and Phoebe Bridgers serving as counterweights to his searing voice. “What I’m learning now is that it’s super common to suppress things really hard, to the extent where you don’t think they’re a problem at all until someone says, ‘Let’s look at that a bit deeper,’” Mumford says. “That’s the point I came to in my life—people around me were like, ‘You’ve got some stuff to look at here. Things aren’t quite right.’ And then the opportunity presented itself, and I took it.” Mumford began writing what would become (self-titled) in January 2021. “I didn’t know at that point whether it was going to be for the band or for someone else or for me,” he says. “I just said, ‘I need to reconnect with my songwriting muscles. They’ve gone into atrophy during COVID.’ I did a bit of scoring work, and I did a bit of songwriting, but not enough that the songwriting muscles were being exercised. So, I just went away and said to the lads in the band, ‘Look, I’m going to go away and write. I don’t know what it’s for, but I’m just going to follow the [muse]. And I’m going to set myself the task of writing as honestly as I can.’” That goal was met by (self-titled), which is a decidedly introspective album that takes the listener along for its trip through Mumford’s psyche. “I admire artists who can take on other people’s stories and write them. I’m not great at that,” Mumford confesses. “Bob Dylan is great at that. Bono’s good at that. Johnny Flynn is the best at that, in my view. But I’m not very good at that. So, I’ve got to write about my stuff.” Mumford notes that the album’s brevity—its 10 songs clock in at 38 minutes—was the result of advice from one of pop’s greatest songwriters. “Elton John, who was a real inspiration from the beginning of this process, sat me down early on and was like, ‘You are not allowed to make more than 10 songs.’ It brings this intentionality. Every song has to fight for its place. So, that meant that we edited hard—really hard.” While the next record from Mumford & Sons is still far off, Mumford notes that making (self-titled), which also involved collaborators like Tobias Jesso Jr. and Julia Michaels, will definitely inform his band’s next steps. “I’m pretty stoked to take some of the stuff I’ve learned back to the band now,” he says. “For me, this kind of blew the doors off this weird structure we have around the band. I think going through the motions is the death of creativity. I’m pretty excited to go back with this possibility of sound.”

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