Mumford & Sons have long been fans of getting together with some pals for a jam session. Their most recent release, the ‘Johannesburg’ EP is a collaborative effort with Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenburg, but they’ve been making sweet music with their friends for years now. Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ted Dwane and Ben Lovett took the time to talk us through the onstage – and in the studio – collabs that have meant the most to them over the years, with Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Haim, The Vaccines, Ray Davies of The Kinks, John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Levon Helm of The Band and Neil Young all making an appearance. Talk about freinds in high places. Right lads, it’s over to you…
Ben Lovett: "Neil generously invited us out to his annual Bridge School Benefit, which is legendary. The best part was being able to perform songs like 'Dance Dance Dance' with the man himself, having covered him for years as a part of our main set. Oh and also playing the piano and harmonium recorded on 'Harvest'. And then there was the BBQ at his house... Crazy!"
Winston Marshall: "Glasto's a bit of a blur, when you get it right at least. I can't remember what we played in that tent but it was either Peter Green's 'Oh Well' or 'Honky Tonk Woman'. Those ladies can shred. We'd just finished touring with them so we learnt how best to play with them... Just stand at the back of the stage and turn down. They're gonna steal the show, so best not get in their way."
Ben Lovett: "So, there we were watching The Boss, side of stage at PinkPop. That in itself was crazy enough. Next thing we know, he's walking over and shouting at us to get out on stage and join him and the band. We met and spoke afterwards, having sung 'Hungry Heart' with him to 50,000 people!"
Ted Dwane: "We were in the middle of touring our first record when we got the invitation from Ray to cover a Kinks song as part of his 'See my Friends' album. We had just played Hop Farm and I remember opening my bass case on the first morning of the session to find my double bass in two very separate pieces. It quickly got better from there. We were at Konk studios, a place that obviously feels like a second home to Ray. It felt like we had him all to ourselves the few days we were there. We started working up a medley version of 'Days' into 'This Time Tomorrow' without interruptions from anyone, just us and him. Each night we'd order in some food and chat and it was just the most incredible time for us. At the end of our last day, we shook hands and as he was leaving, he turned back and told us always to be grateful to be in a band, and to look after each other. So we did."
Tom Morello, T Bone Burnett and Mark Hoppus
Marcus Mumford: "T Bone has been one of our most loyal and supportive allies since the beginning of our band, let alone an inspiration for us growing up. So whenever we can we try to grab him and bring him onstage to turn the cool factor up by about 4000%. We arranged a secret show at the Troubadour in LA quite late notice just for fun, and through mutual friends we found out Tom Morello was coming to the show too. So we called him with an hour before doors and asked him to bring a guitar and an amp, which he did, and after melting our faces with his solo on our version of 'Ghost of Tom Joad', then 'Dust Bowl Dance' which was the best it will ever sound. Then Mark Hoppus suddenly appeared and the weirdest supergroup ever was formed, with T Bone and Morello and Hoppus, we played 'What's My Age Again', and now can die confusedly happy."
Bob Dylan and The Avett Brothers at The Grammys
Ben Lovett: "They had us at The Avett Brothers. We've been hugely influenced and inspired by those lads since before we were even a band. We didn't even know about Bob Dylan until further down the road. They probably suspected we'd spill the beans like over excited schoolboys... They were totally right. It's fucking Bob Dylan! It's crazy enough to be in a room with him let alone actually playing and singing with him! The rehearsal day, which was just a closed room with us all hanging out for a day, will go down as one of the best days of my life for sure."
Elton John, Brittany Howard, Zach Brown, Mavis Staples
Marcus Mumford: "This was at the Grammys and as we were about to play a tribute to Levon Helm in front of a TV audience in the millions, Elton called Win over to the piano really urgently as the curtain pulled up and announced to Win that "now would be a terrible time to get your cock out."
Laura Marling and The Dharohar Project
Ted Dwane: "In December 2010 we embarked on a slightly strange tour of India. We played every kind of gig you could imagine over two weeks, from sports bars to hotel bars to a beautiful outdoor amphitheatre. But first we had five days in New Delhi recording with a troop of incredibly talented Rajasthani folk musicians. Sometimes people call us a folk band and if you met these dudes, you'd understand why we don't understand that people don't understand we are not a folk band. They were wielding instruments handed down through generations of their family. They were born into a long line of musicians who's job it is to carry on the stories of their culture. There was a language barrier for sure, but miraculously things just worked. It was all recorded live in a room and there really was a magical atmosphere around the whole recording. The guys then flew over from Rajasthan and we performed the music we had written at the iTunes festival at the Roundhouse. After such an adventure it was an amazing feeling to bring it full circle home to London."
Winston Marshall: "Baaba would be dozing in the room next door to us for most of the day. Maybe he knew it would take that long for us to be ready for him. Then come midnight, the rest of us worn out, sapped of all energy, and he walks into the room, armed with a plastic cup filled with red wine. He listens to the new song, the product of two days hard-work. "I like it" he says. Takes the microphone. One-take-wonder. It was so good we re-worked the entirety of the song around his part."
Winston Marshall: "Levon was a sweetheart. His family too. Larry Campbell was his band’s leader. That in itself was worth writing home about. It was quite literally a gig in their living room with 100 hundred or so music pilgrims in wait. Beers in the hall. Rehearsals in the kitchen, to make sure we had nailed the right harmonies for 'The Weight'. He was beaming throughout the whole night. Halfway through he got up to sing 'Ophelia' with his mandolin. He perched on a stool but through the song he kept slipping off it. He looked pretty worried, we were just nervous watching. After the second chorus he stood up, and put his hand in his back pocket. He started chuckling and pulled out a hunting knife. A real American rock star."
Marcus Mumford: "When we were left with 24 hours notice at one of our GOTR festivals with a cancellation from our Friday night headliner we had to call around a few legends to find someone to play a headline slot last minute. John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival picked up, said we just needed to get him a private plane, and to learn as many Creedence songs as we could. How hard could it be? Along with the Vaccines, we managed to be Creedence for a night as John came and totally smashed a headline set on 24 hours notice. Genuinely one of the best days of my life."
Vampire Weekend, The Vaccines, The Staves, First Aid Kit
Ted Dwane: "I used to live in Somerset. My mate used to know how to get into Worthy Farm when the festival wasn't on and some nights we'd go and sit under the frame of the Pyramid Stage and drink cider and talk about how amazing it must be to play that gig. We used to go to the festival every year and then all of a sudden we were playing the Greenpeace tent. Then the Joe Strummer stage, Then the Park stage, then the John Peel tent then the Other Stage. Then, just when we were lining up for the big one, I was sent to a Texas hospital for some casual brain surgery. We were cancelling gigs all over the place and it looked like the Pyramid might not happen. But the surgery went well and three weeks later, our headline slot was to mark the first gig back after a three week recovery. Glastonbury has always been about seeing all our touring mates and every year its a different cast of amazing people. We decided, at the very last minute (as usual) to herd all these unsuspecting people into our dressing room and work up a version of 'A Little Help From My Friends'. The show was an absolute riot and the crowd were just incredible. The gang flooded the stage for the encore and we played our hearts out. It was probably slightly scrappy, but damn it was vibey."