Having briefly tasted international fame with the song To You I Bestow, featured on the bestselling soundtrack to Baz Luhrmansnís Romeo & Juliet, Irish songwriter Mundy now returns with what is most likely his most ambitious work to date. Strawberry Blood sees him once again tying his Irish roots with his love for country, roots-rock and good old fashioned pop, making Strawberry Blood one of the best albums of this year so far. In this interview, Americana UK had a word with Mundy about hanging out with Shane MacGowan, covering Steve Earle and moments of extreme sadness.
Interview by Soren McGuire
Hi Mundy. First off Ė tell us about the first thoughts you had on this album
Well, my producer, Joe Chester, actually put it quite nicely when he said he just wanted to make a beautiful album. We took each song as a piece itself and we werenít trying to make a certain kind of album.I didnít have a title for it, I just knew the words Strawberry Blood were going to be somewhere involved. We made the album in an organic kind of way, just went into the studio and recorded it as live as we could. There wasnít no great masterplan for it.
I hear you and Joe Chester ran into each other almost by mistake?
Joe is a guy Iíve admired for years. Heís played in loads of different bands in Dublin and I met him in Heathrow Airport and ended up having a pint with him. Our flights were delayed and he was just telling me about all his favourite records and what he was doing production-wise. I was just waiting for the proper producer to come by, so we just kind of started making the album, just the two of us. Joe seemed to have a creative vision and I liked that. It was real personal and we just brought the band in when we needed them.
You recorded the album at Grouse Lodge. How did that go?
Yeah, it was a really great studio, the same place R.E.M. and Snowpatrol recorded their last albums. With the way record sales are going these days, I wasnít sure if it was the right place to record the album, but we certainly had a lot of luxury making it.
The title, Strawberry Blood, thereís a lot of strong imagery in those words. Where did it come from?
With titles, I always like it when something sticks in your head like Strawberry Blood did. I had the song, Strawberry Blood, without the chorus and these two words came into my head. I had no idea what they meant other than it was something human, something sweet and savory. But what Iím basically trying to say is that every drop of blood is worth a lot. Blood sounds like such a harsh word, but itís actually quite beautiful, so I was trying to take some of the power out of the word?
And the other thing, somebody told me that a strawberry is the only fruit that bears its seeds on the outside. It reminded me of the humankind, so I suppose itís a little protest song in its own way. Itís about one of those days where you just press pause, thereís no bad things, no lightning, no badness. The world is just this happy place. Then you take your finger off the button and it all just goes down the f***** drain againÖ
But itís not really a dark album, is it?
There are shades of darkness in there if you dig beneath some of the rocks. I donít think it sounds dark, the sound is more uplifting, but lyrically there are a few things there that are, if not dark, then at least somewhat stark.
Are you a happy person?
Am I a happy person? I have my moments of extreme sadness and I have my moments of extreme happiness. If I mind myself, Iím a very happy person. These days itís very easy to get struck about how the world is going and stuff like that, but thereís really nothing you can do about that, so I just try to take it for what it is and keep my head above water.
Do you have these special moments where songs come easier to you?
Winter time for me is a very dark period. Thereís not really nothing much you can do in terms of touring, working and so on, not very many people around, so you tend to go into the darker corners of your mind. It can get dark, both physically and mentally.
Shane MacGowan sings on Love is a Casino. How the hell is Shane these days?
Shane is great! I became friends with him over the last few years. He was a special guest on the gigs I did with Sharon Shannon and we spent a lot of time together backstage, after gigs and so on. I had asked him a long time ago if he wanted to sing on the album, but he wasnít really into doing stuff at the moment, but on the last day of recording, I felt lucky. So I said to my producer, Iím gonna ring Shane now and if he says no, he says no, but he just said Ďletís do it!í. We ended up spending the entire night listening to the album, and the next day he did the vocals.
Whatís it actually like being in a studio with him?
He took it quite seriously, which was great. A lot of people have asked him to sing, so I feel quite priveliged that he wanted to work with me.
A few years ago you had a big hit with Steve Earleís Galway Girl. How did you covering that song come about?
Iíve been a big Steve Earle fan for years. Not of that song in particular, but more of stuff like Fearless Heart and stuff like that from Guitar Town. I ended up being asked by a radio dj to do a duet with Sharon one night in Galway, and he suggested that song. So we ended up doing Galway Girl in Galway and it sounded really a good. A lot of people texted the radio station asking them to replay it. I was making a live album and dvd in Vicar Street in Dublin one night and I asked Sharon if she would come on as a special guest and we sang that song as an encore. But me playing that song is just one of those things that werenít planned. It just happened and that version of Galway Girl is out there now.
I played the Cambridge Folk Festival, singing the song with Sharon again, and I asked Steve if he would sing it with me the day after at a big festival in Ireland. He said he couldnít do it, but halfway through the song at Cambridge Folk Festival he walked up on the stage, grabbed the mike and sang it with me. That was pretty cool.
Mundyís Strawberry Blood is out now on Camcor. More info at mundy.ie