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Peter Mulvey: The throwback

Peter Mulvey
Peter Mulvey
Jonathan Ryder

For more than two decades, Peter Mulvey has had a romantic notion when it comes to his day job, one that says the music comes first. That means before Twitter, before marketing, before videos, before anything other than what happens on the stage or in the studio.

These days, that’s almost career suicide. God forbid the music part of the music business supersedes the business part.

“I absolutely forget about the business side,” he laughs. “When I’m on stage, all I care about is the audience. It’s the experience that we’re all collectively having. And I take that very seriously. This is a night of your life. How many of those do you get? You’re taking one of your precious nights on Earth to come to my show – I’m going to deliver.”

That’s a man fighting the good fight, so when Mulvey decided – to use the old phrase – put some hustle behind his muscle in the form of a Kickstarter campaign for his new album Silver Ladder, the fans that showed up on those nights and bought those CDs continued to let the Milwaukee singer-songwriter know that they felt the same way about him as he did about them.

“People wanted to reciprocate,” said Mulvey, who raised $62,247, smashing his original goal of $23,000. The result? A collection of songs that marks his first full-length album of original material in five years, and one that he describes as “the best thing I’ve ever made.”

That’s a bold statement from someone who has been delivering the goods for years, but as he notes, he’s recently been rejuvenated as a songwriter.

“For a whole variety of reasons, I decided to step up my game over the past couple years,” he said. “And probably the simplest thing that I’ve done is that I’ve started to write a lot. I used to be one of those guys who waited and said ‘oh well, I’ll write when I’m inspired to write.’ And I totally turned that on its head and now I write every Tuesday, and it really transformed everything for me. It feels like if you let the muse know that every Tuesday I’m in the driver’s seat, come visit me, the muse kind of shows up.”

On this Tuesday, the writing will have to come early, as he’ll be playing at Joe’s Pub in NYC tonight, but if you think the idea of having to produce something every week is stressing him out, think again.

“I’ve even given myself permission to write bad songs,” he laughs. “It’s fine. You sit down, you write, and if you’re not getting anything inspired, fine, keep the wheels turning. But it’s been a real creative time for me.”

It shows on Silver Ladder, even if some of the personal topics on the album were difficult to give out to the world. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My approach is that I try to write in a way where I’m talking about things that are very personal to me, but I’m trying to say it in a way that I could be speaking for everybody,” he said. “And hopefully when the concert is done, people feel more connected. Isn’t that the point, anyway? It seems to me that’s why we invented music.”

At least you hope so, but with Mulvey you don’t have to worry about authenticity, because he’s always been the real deal. And with Chuck Prophet joining the team as producer for Silver Ladder, Mulvey feels like he’s at the top of his game.

“Chuck is argumentative and contrary, and he’s just a born tussle,” he laughs. “Whatever proposition you throw out there, he sort of gets a hold of it and shakes it. But he’s just great. He was invaluable and he brought shots of espresso to the whole thing.”

So is everything coming together at the right time?

“It really does feel like that,” said Mulvey. “I feel like the sun is shining and I’m making hay. It just feels good.”

Peter Mulvey plays Joe’s Pub in NYC tonight, April 8. For tickets, click here

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