Marcus Mumford on How Solo Album Helped Him Share Story of Sexual Abuse

Marcus Mumford on How Solo Album Helped Him Share Story of Sexual Abuse

Marcus Mumford is opening up about the real stories behind the songs in his debut solo album.

Following four hit records released with his band, Mumford & Sons, the musician is embarking on a solo career with his album “(self-titled).” He promises the group is simply on a break as his band members agreed that the subject matter of this album, released on Sept. 16, is meant to be a solo project.

In a Sunday Sitdown with TODAY’s Willie Geist, Mumford opened up about the inspiration for several of his songs, including his experience suffering sexual abuse as a child, referenced in the album’s first track, “Cannibal.”

“You take the most private things that you have and that moment of artist's behavior where you write a song about something really personal and then you do the most public thing you can do with it and you go and publicize it and play it to people and it goes on the radio,” Mumford said. “It’s just a really weird thing that we do.”

Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist - Season 36 (Nathan Congleton / NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)
Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist - Season 36 (Nathan Congleton / NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

Willie noted that the musician’s honesty about his own abuse has helped fans identity those experiences in their own lives and feel like their stories are being represented, and Mumford said that was what helped influence the title of his album.

“It’s the reason I called it ‘self-titled,’ rather than using my name, because I love the idea that other people might be able to access parts of my story and project their own onto it or feel something from their own story in mine,” he explained.

The second song on the record is titled "Grace," and details Mumford telling his mother about the abuse he experienced.

"I thought I'd talked my mom through that stuff and I hadn't," he said. "So when I played her 'Cannibal' it was the first time she kind of clocked it and so I wrote 'Grace,' and the first lyric is 'Well, how should we proceed without things getting too heavy?' And that sort of acts, I think, as an invitation for the audience to join me in what I think becomes a story about freedom and recovery and has a lot of hope in it."

Mumford, 35, discussed his experience with sexual abuse when he was 6-years-old during an Aug. 2022 interview with GQ. “Like lots of people — and I’m learning more and more about this as we go and as I play it to people — I was sexually abused as a child," he said.

“Not by family and not in the church, which might be some people’s assumption,” he added. “But I hadn’t told anyone about it for 30 years.”

After Mumford had played the song "Cannibal" for his mother, she inquired what the song was about, to which he said he said he replied, “‘Yeah, it’s about the abuse thing.’”

“She was like, ‘What are you talking about?’” he recalled. “So once we get through the trauma of that moment for her, as a mother, hearing that and her wanting to protect and help and all that stuff, it’s objectively f-----g hilarious to tell your mom about your abuse in a f-----g song, of all things.”

During his discussion with Willie, Mumford said that he hadn’t set out to write a solo album from the beginning, sharing, “I just wanted to write songs again.”

“The first two songs that came out were ‘Cannibal’ and ‘Grace,’ which are the first two songs on the record,” he said. “And as soon as I’d written them I showed them to the guys in the band and I said ‘I don’t know if this is a band record, I don’t know if it’s even a record yet, but I feel like it’s something I maybe should do on my own’ and they all completely agreed and supported it.”

Mumford also finds support in his wife of 10 years, Carey Mulligan, and dedicated the album to her. The couple tied the knot in April 2012 and share two children, Evelyn, 7, and Wilfred, 5.

“It’s good reason that it’s dedicated to her,” Mumford said of Mulligan. “She’s been phenomenally supportive all the way.”

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