When it comes to the jewels of New England’s music culture, Mark Mulcahy is definitely one of them. He started out as the frontman for the New Haven, CT indie rock act Miracle Legion in the ‘80s. Then he gained cult status as the leader of Polaris due to being the house band for Nickelodeon’s The Adventures Of Pete & Pete in the ‘90s. Nowadays, he has built a stellar discography as a solo artist. The current Springfield, MA resident has a career that can stack up against any other musician in the region.
Mulcahy will be taking the stage at The Met in Pawtucket on November 15th as part of a small tour with Bird & Horse, the moniker of singer-songwriter James Erik Stark, opening things up. Ahead of the show, we had a chat about the recent Miracle Legion reunion, him having a giant beard for over a year, his fifth album The Possum In The Driveway that came out during the spring and having his own label.
Rob Duguay: Starting last year to earlier this year, Miracle Legion played a bunch of reunion shows in support of the live album Annulment. What was the experience like for you getting back together with the band? Can we expect any further releases from Miracle Legion in the future?
Mark Mulcahy: During the reunion shows, I really enjoyed myself. Those are great dudes to play with so it was really great to be back with them more than I would have imagined. We’ve made records sporadically in our career so I would not be surprised if we made another record but we don’t have any plans to make one.
RD: When I saw Miracle Legion at The Narrows Center For The Arts in Fall River, MA during those series of shows, you had this pretty giant beard. Do you still have it?
MM: No I don’t have the beard anymore. I made a video for my newest record and it’s about a guy who is kind of down on his luck and he actually ends up shaving the beard off in the video.
RD: How long did you have it for? It must have been for over a year.
MM: I would say longer than a year. It might have been going on two years, I didn’t really notice when I started growing it because I wasn’t planning on doing it. I had one for a year once and this one was more than that.
RD: Did you find it difficult to manage? From photos throughout your musical career, you’ve mostly been clean shaven.
MM: Well, do you have a beard?
RD: Kind of but it’s trimmed down.
MM: It’s a whole thing. There’s a lot of people with beards and there’s a lot of interesting ones in this world now. I never did anything to it, I just let it go. It was a total hayfield, I just didn’t do anything. You get used to having it but that’s about it. It’s definitely its own thing, having a beard like that is like a calling card.
RD: It was pretty big when I saw it. Speaking of that new album you mentioned, earlier this year you put out your fifth album The Possum In The Driveway. While making this record, what was your vision behind it? There’s definitely more of a melancholy vibe versus your previous album, Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You.
MM: I started making that record way before I started making Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You. The Possum In The Driveway was kind of lingering around. They’re flip-flopped. From making that record, I started making it, then I stopped making it and then I started again. I’m not sure if I had a great vision other than having that batch of songs.
I ended up recording them with a bunch of different guys that made it sound the way it did. I won’t say that it was slightly out of my hands but it just happened based on the musicians and the producer. I really like how it turned out, I’m glad it turned out that way. I did take a long time to make that record though, several years.
RD: It’s definitely different than your previous one but I liked the changes in the approach that you made.
MM: Thanks. At the end of it I thought I was doing it that way but in the end it goes together almost like itself. It’s like an opera or something where it all kind of fits together somehow.
RD: It fits along with a narrative.
MM: The last record was mostly a bunch of pop songs that I wrote while this one switches it up.
RD: Mezzotint is the label that you’ve released all your music off of and you also have a hand in running it. How much of your time goes into being involved in the label? Does it ever stress you out but you also find solace in having control over your own music? Have you ever thought about getting other acts involved?
MM: Sometimes people ask because putting something out on the label. Not too often but it happens sometimes. I would like that, I would like to grow it but I don’t really have that much to offer. It’s just a label that I use to put out my records. Having been on a label and having my own label, I think I prefer my own label because I can put out records anytime I want.
RD: You don’t have to deal with any paperwork or any middlemen.
MM: When you get on a real label, there’s a lot of people making lots of decisions about stuff that I don’t know if they’re that important. With Annulment, that record we made from recordings they made and it just turned out good and we put it out. If I was on a label, we would have struggled to get that out at anytime.
RD: After this little tour you’re currently on, what’s next?
MM: That’s a good question. I’m pretty much done with another record so I’ll probably finish that up and figure out how to put it out. That’s kind of how the way it is. It’s like Groundhog Day around here, you make a record, put it out, play some shows and do it all over again. Hopefully I’ll do something other than that too but in terms of music, that’s probably what I’ll be doing.