Arts & Reviews

Mumford and Sons: musician profile

By: Nicky Barone

After the great success of the British Invasion of the 1960s, it has become a common aspiration for British acts to spread their popularity to the United States. In the case of the British folk rock Mumford and Sons, this common aspiration has been achieved beyond their wildest dreams. Formed in late 2007, Mumford and Sons first began performing in West London, among other famous folk acts, developing a community around the area. The popularity of the band spread nationally when they performed at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset. An extensive tour of the UK began. The band’s first experience internationally was a series of performances in Australia alongside other folk artist Laura Marling. In 2009, after gaining considerable international attention through their performances, Mumford and Sons recorded “Sigh No More,” their first breakout album. Becoming widely successful, the band’s first major US engagement was performing their single, “Little Lion Man,” on the Late Show with David Letterman. Since the release of “Sigh No More,” Mumford and Sons’ popularity skyrocketed and is still growing to this day.

The musical style of Mumford and Sons has been described as Irish folk rock, with dashes of bluegrass and country blended in. On the topic of why Mumford and Sons was so appealing in the United States, head music critic at The Times stated “Americans get excited about a British act—let’s says it’s Arctic Monkeys—and expect them to do what American bands would: appear on the local radio, do the local press, meet and greets, promotions”. While many British bands, such as the Arctic Monkeys, refused to take a role in the media spotlight, Mumford and Sons embraced, seeing it as a way to spread their music to a wider audience. From a musical standpoint, fans have responded that the raucous and theatrical tendencies of their performances also make them widely appealing. Some, such as English musician Kevin Jones, have pinpointed the recession as a possibility for the appeal of Mumford and Sons’ music. Jones theorized people become more introverted when money is tight and tend to look towards music with more meaningful, heartfelt lyrics (which is a staple of folk rock).

After a worldwide tour (known as the Railroad Revival Tour), Mumford and Sons immediately began the recording of their next album: “Babel,” which was released to near-universal critical acclaim on September 24, 2012. Reaching #1 of the Billboard 200 chart and becoming certified platinum in three countries, Mumford and Son’s exploded in mainstream music, bringing their popularity to new levels. Performances on Saturday Night Live and BBC radio also helped spread their popularity to mainstream audiences, bolstering album sales. In November 2012, the band announced their East Coast tour would begin in February 2013 in Virginia. After coming off to a rocky start, playing in West London dives for little pay, Mumford and Sons have certainly proved not only talent, but charisma and emotional musical delivery, an aspect of popular music that has been considerably lacking over the past few decades.