News of a forthcoming Marcus Mumford solo album began to leak out this past week, which countless radio stations and websites around the world immediately leaped to assume meant that old gang of his was breaking up. Mumford made it official on two counts — yes, his solo record is coming up, and no, Mumford and Sons are not splitting — and offered a first taste of the new project as he sat in with Brandi Carlile Friday at L.A.’s Greek Theater.
During the encore portion of the first of Carlile’s two sold-out gigs at the Greek, the two sang a powerful, collaborative new ballad (the title of which was not announced) that Mumford said would be the closing track of his solo album, publicly confirming a heretofore secret project that has become widely speculated upon over the last week.
Said Carlile in bringing out her special guest, “This is a person that I consider to have become a soulmate of mine, and he’s making a really brave and spectacular piece of music that we are really honored to share with you for the first time. Please welcome, the one and only Marcus Mumford.”
“I have openly cried four times this evening…” said Mumford, soon upon reaching center stage.
“Same,” said Carlile.
“…mostly,” Mumford continued, “because of what an impact my friend Brandi has had on my life since we became friends quite a long time ago now. And I was in the process of making a record — with the full blessing and permission of the band that I’m still in,” he said, pointedly, to applause. “She heard a couple of songs and put her arm around me and said, ‘I’m gonna help you do whatever it is you need to do to finish this.’ And so we went into the studio the next day and wrote and recorded this song, which is the last song on the record.” (Watch fan-shot video of the number, below.)
The song they premiered has Mumford singing the first four lines alone before being joined by Carlile in equal harmony for the remainder of the tune, with one particularly dramatic octave leap that comes and goes, a staple of some of Carlile’s most endearing ballads. The stark lyrics speak of forgiveness that becomes necessary after a bitter parting: “I hope your memory is less vivid than mine” and free from an “awful light,” they sing. “I have to say I still wish you had just done it in the dark, so the pictures didn’t burn so bright. … I forgive you now, as if saying the words will help me know how.”
On the lighter side, Mumford seemed to be taking up another new career: as Carlile’s merch pitchman. The once-and-apparently-future frontman of Mumford and Sons came out onto the Greek stage draped in one of the blankets that were on sale at the merch stand, and did quite the sales job. “I just want to say, this is the best $75 I’ve ever spent in my life,” he told the crowd, brandishing the blanket. “And it was so easy. I paid with my phone… just saying.”
Variety confirmed with sources earlier this week that there are no plans for Mumford and Sons to break up — a conclusion that many seemed to have leaped to just from a lack of recollection of a time when rock singers made solo albums apart from their groups without actually leaving. It’s understood that Mumford began the writing process for his album intending to pen songs for the group, before determining that at least some of the new compositions were enough of a departure that they merited being recorded and released under a solo banner.
The existence of the album first came to light when he reportedly performed some of the material at an intimate Spotify party held at the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity in the French Riviera on Monday. Mumford’s time in France was apparently short-lived, as he was said to have been in the States by mid-week privately playing some of the tracks for a few people in Los Angeles. It’s believed any official announcement of an album, single or label may still be weeks away. But his appearance with Carlile Friday indicates he’s not too concerned with keeping it completely under wraps anymore — or at least wasn’t if it would have meant foregoing the chance to publicly blend voices with Brandi.
Read Variety’s full review of Carlile’s concert, with more video of performances from the show, here.