One of my favorite authors gave a TED talk where she spoke about the pressure to deliver on expectations after her freakish success of a best seller. She said ‘So check it out, I’m reasonably young, I have another 30 or 40 years of work in me, and it’s possible that I’ve already written my greatest work. Everything I write now will be judged as the work that came after the huge success. It’s increasingly likely that my best work is already behind me, and that kind of thought is the sort of thing that can lead to a person drinking gin at 9 o’clock in the morning’
It’s a funny statement, but brings up a very relevant point that is constantly on my mind in relation to the music industry. There’s bands that come out every once in a while that blow everyone away. They often have a different sound to what’s currently being overplayed, or they may just re-inventing something that people want to hear. But somehow, they fill a niche, some void everyone seems to have had that maybe we weren’t aware of. They usually seem to come out of nowhere, branding a new scene all on their own and paving the way for a thousand other bands in the same vein to come bursting onto the airwaves.
You know who I’m talking about. A few years ago it was Kings of Leon, then The Black Keys. After that wave, Mumford and Sons picked it up, and hundreds of amazing folk-rock bands like Of Monsters and Men and The Lumineers followed. I loved all these bands, loved their simple yet poignant lyrics and rich acoustics; loved their use of fiddles and suspenders. I personally favored Mumford and Sons, and didn’t even mind when everyone and their mother was overplaying their freak success of an album ‘Sigh No More’.
I did however, feel instantly bad for them when their last album skyrocketed up the charts. I mean, how do you live up to that? How do you write a new album or book knowing that it may not be as well received as your last? I’ve written before about staying true to a sound and growing as an artist, but that second album that directly follows a huge accomplishment has to be the worst. The pressure to please everyone is astronomical even in my daily life sometimes, I can’t even imagine commercial success that left thousands judging my work. So I was kind of holding my breath for their next album, I was worried. Could it live up to my hopes for it?
I got it the day it came out, of course. Picked a stretch of highway through New Mexico to preview it. Listened to it all the way through and finally let out that breath. It was good. Really good. It wasn’t as lyrically pleasing to me as the last one, but it didn’t stray from their sound, from their honesty. My favorite song, the one you’re getting today, is probably the simplest on the album. It’s something we can all relate to: wondering about someone we don’t talk to anymore. Do you have someone like that? Don’t you lie to me, you do. I know I do. Someone who I know would appreciate this song, even though I can’t show it to them. So hit play, have yourself a second helping of Mumford and Sons today. Maybe think of someone you wish you maybe still had around in your life. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe they’re somewhere, listening to this song and thinking of you, too.
“I hear of your coming and your going in the town, I hear stories of your smile, I hear stories of your frown…Where are you now? Do you ever think of me, in the quiet, in a crowd?”