Marcus Mumford has said artists have a “responsibility to entertain”, after he released two new songs in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
The Mumford & Sons frontman surprised fans last month by released his powerful charity cover of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to raise money for the families of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, only days before the UK headed into lockdown. He followed it up last week with ‘Lay Your Head On Me’, an unexpected collaboration with Major Lazer.
Despite the world’s attentions being firmly fixed on the pandemic, Mumford believes that new music can provide a welcome dose of escapism during the darkest of times.
“It’s kinda funny releasing songs from quarantine, it’s pretty strange,” he told NME. “You’ve still got to have the same conversations and we’ve been making music videos from home which is hilarious. But it feels like now, more than ever, that artists definitely have a responsibility to entertain people and it helps that we’re given the technological tools to do so.”
He continued: “In some ways it’s kinda beautiful to see what you can do with what you have, and the truth is we have a lot to make music. Lots of artists are making things, and you just think more about live crews whose work has dried up – we’ve spoken to our crews.
“It’s a shocking time, but artists have a responsibility to keep making stuff so that’s we’re trying to do.”
Mumford also stressed that the role of recorded music has become increasingly important during the pandemic, as fans seek entertainment in the absence of gigs and other cultural events.
“We are a generation whose attention span has got so short that we need feeding, quickly and regularly,” he said. “We definitely still need entertainment, and it’s a time when both sport and gigs are not there. Recorded music is so important at a time like this. And the radio too, it gets people talking and helps to deal with loneliness.”
When asked how he is spending his time in quarantine, Mumford explained that he has joined a local initiative to help vulnerable neighbours secure essential goods.
“It feels like a time when you get the time to focus on yourself and your family, there’s a local scheme we’ve been taking stuff from the local village shop to our neighbours and it feels like a time for that, to focus on real relationship,” he said.
“But equally, it’s a time when we can fire up conversations to keep people talking and I think that’s great too.”
As for the cover of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, Mumford originally recorded it for an upcoming TV show from US comic Jason Sudeikis, but received permission to release it in aid of War Child UK and the Grenfell Foundation.
He said of the track: “All the stars aligned, it was the right time to get it out. The labels waived royalties and Jason was happy to have it out there, although we could still use it in the show. It felt like something we could do quickly, partly to entertain people and partly to raise awareness of these charities that I know are doing great work during these tricky times.”
Mumford has been an outspoken voice on the Grenfell Tower tragedy, using the band’s acceptance speech for the 2019 Steinbeck Award to highlight the incident.
“What became clear, in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, is that there was an endemic problem of voicelessness in this part of our community,” he said. “Or, rather, the voices of the marginalised were left unheard. Right on the doorstep of the famously wealthy Notting Hill, Grenfell Tower was occupied by residents all too often failed by both market and state.”