“I feel that everyone has a responsibility to make the world a place that is fair and equal, and the best way I can achieve this is through music.”Andrew Mullen
Australian Alt Rocker Andrew Mullen is currently busy in studio working on his upcoming album which is set to release next month. Thankfully, Andrew took some time out of his hectic schedule to answer my questions, and share his views about the current popularity-contest trend in the music industry, his personal struggle with substance abuse, and the joy of playing live.
What (who) does your act consist of?
Andrew: It’s just me! I hope all the questions are as easy as this one!!
How did you and your band meet?
Andrew: Being a solo artist you’d think this would be an easy question to answer. However, there is a story! Years ago I was in a band as the guitarist. The vocalist of the band was a fine musician, but unfortunately his ego was bigger than Trump’s hairdo. I stuck at the band but eventually they had to ‘let me go’ as I was a bit too opinionated for the vocalist. I think I was heartbroken for a few minutes before deciding that I’m not the kind of person to take a backseat in a band, and the best way to do this was to only deal with my own ego. I don’t mind saying I was kicked out a band to get to where I am now.
Where are you and your band from?
Andrew: Currently I live in a little town called Yackandandah. It’s 3hrs drive north of Melbourne and is a small historic gold mining town in the lush Australian countryside. Yackandandah is essentially one street with 2 pubs and a bunch of antique shops. It is a quiet town, which suits songwriting perfectly.
Thinking back to early childhood, what was your first experience with music?
Andrew: My father is a muso so I can always remember music being central to life. The first CD I ever heard was Dire Straits ‘Brothers In Arms’. I don’t think you could ever not love music if that album is your introduction. It is a masterpiece.
What type of music did you hear the most growing up? Is it different from what you listen to now?
Andrew: Growing up there was lots of Bruce Cockburn, Bob Dylan and of course Dire Straits. Throughout my teenage years I listened to a lot of alternative rock bands like Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Tea Party and Tool. Although music has evolved, I think what I listen to today correlates with what I grew up with. Some good examples are Wolf Alice who have a grungy vibe, Savages are dangerous yet beautiful like Dylan and Tool play longer songs that take you on a journey just like what Dire Straits do.
What was the first song that you ever sang?
Andrew: The first song I remember being able to sing whilst playing the guitar at the same time was the Ugly Kid Joe version of Cats in the Cradle. The first song I sang live was Betterman by Pearl Jam.
What made you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
Andrew: As I kid I spent a lot of time pretending to play guitar with a tennis racquet. I probably started to notice that there aren’t any tennis racquet musicians out there, and decided I’d better do it properly. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a respected musician.
How did you become involved in the type of music you play/sing now?
Andrew:I’ve never been a big fan of playing other people’s songs. Sure I learned songs growing up in various bands, or learned some cool guitar stuff to impress a girl, but I’ve always been more interested in writing my own music. Stylistically my music has evolved naturally and perhaps therapeutically. I play the type of music I most enjoy which ensures I am proud of the songs I write. I don’t think I would be proud to write an overtly country song about reversing a semi-trailer truck when I am passionate about Alternative music.
For those who have never seen or heard your music before, how would you describe your music for the public audience?
Andrew: This is a musician’s most dreaded question. We’re all unique right? Ha! You would put me on the same playlist as Queens of the Stone Age or Biffy Clyro. I love devilish guitar riffs, and I’m sick of boring whimsical music. One of the greatest asset to a band is their drummer, so you can expect to hear lots of guitar riffs over rock beats. I try to keep my melodies catchy so there is an aspect of Motown vs. Stone Temple Pilots that comes through in my songs.
Would you rather play live performances or be in the studio?
Andrew:Great question, I can’t decide! I love the studio because of the creative process, the anticipation of what your creation will sound like and it is an environment that is safe, with trusted people. However, nothing can compare to the dangerous feeling you get playing live and connecting with the audience. Even if it’s to a room of 10 people, they may not necessarily like your style of music, but being able to connect with that audience member is the most satisfying feeling imaginable.
Have you ever entered any contests to enhance your musical career?
Andrew: No. I’m not a fan of contests. When I think contest, I think of TV shows like Idol and X Factor. Contests are destroying the music industry. TV show contests exploit talent, and leave artists worse than what they started as. Contests to get gigs are just rude. I don’t mind if artists submit their music for recognition within the industry, this can be beneficial, I just don’t think musicians should be getting involved in popularity contests – stick with what you do best, which is music.
Have you been involved in any benefit performances?
Andrew: Nothing as yet, but I am planning to pull together a bunch of artists to collate a compilation CD to support those who are in recovery from addiction.
What do you think your greatest accomplishment has been so far in your musical career?
Andrew: Being involved as an artist with the Vans Warped Tour was an experience I cherish. Sharing the stage with legends such as Deftones, Pennywise and Suicidal Tendencies was truly epic!
If you had to categorize your music, what genre would it best fit?
Andrew: Alternate Rock is the best fit, however, I do stray into a post-grunge genre for a number of tunes.
What are your songs about and what general themes do they talk about?
Andrew: My songs touch social and political themes such as addiction, mental health, marriage equality, refugees, war and of course I don’t mind taking a swing at politicians.
Why do you choose to focus on these themes?
Andrew: They are all close to my heart in someway. I am passionate about engaging with people to help them understand more about these topics. I feel that everyone has a responsibility to make the world a place that is fair and equal, and the best way I can achieve this is through music.
Are there any stories surrounding your songs that you’d care to share?
Andrew:I have suffered from substance abuse and I have been horrified to learn how unprepared we are as a modern society to deal with addiction. This is also true for mental health and race/sexual equality. I have a song called ‘The Devil is Innocent’, which talks about how quickly society is to judge someone as a ‘problem’ just because they are different. This is applicable to each of the scenarios I’ve mentioned. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that we were locking women up in an asylum because they had post natal depression – not to mention post natal depression in men which is a myth to society.
What has been your strong influence to continue performing?
Andrew: I have been very fortunate to have travelled the world many times over with my previous job. Through thid I have met many wonderful people who all share a common love for music and creativity. To continue travelling the world and performing music is my ultimate job as I can continue to connect with people over the world but with the added benefit of creating music.
Does anyone in particular influence you?
Andrew: Specifically, Mark Knopfler and Jeff Martin from the Canadian band The Tea Party. They are both exquisite guitarist and elegant songwriters.
What are your immediate music career goals?
Andrew: For now, I just want as many ears as possible to listen to my music and to be respected as a songwriter. Plus, I recon hitting the festival circuit would suit me very well!
What has been the biggest challenge for you or the group?
Andrew: As I mentioned earlier, I have suffered from substance abuse. Remaining sober in an industry that is known for excess is a great challenge. Musically, the biggest challenge for an emerging artist like myself is enabling people to access your music. The Internet has created a global audience, but it is very hard to raise yourself above all the noise.
What type of fan base do you have?
Andrew: My fan base is unique and has an awesome community vibe. I connect to a fan through music we both enjoy. My twitter feed (@MullenOfficial) is generally filled with my thoughts on music I like which allows my fans to know more about me, and in return, I can engage with them on a personal level.
Music tends to appeal to everyone, young and old. Do you have any advice for the youth of today?
Andrew: It annoys me when young artists treat music as popularity contest and adjust their style to whatever they think is hip. In Australia we have a national radio station that traditionally was the benchmark for success. Unfortunately that station is now behind the times and only plays music they think is hip, whereas they used to play anything new and exciting. So young artist try to mimic this ‘hipness’ in an attempt to get radio play and perceived success. One thing I love about the Internet is there is an audience for every style of music. So I say to young artists, if you want a long, sustainable career, write music you like. Enjoy what you do and remember that the music industry needs you just as much as you need the industry.
Do you have other interests or talents you would like to share with us?
Andrew: I love snowboarding; I’ll take any chance I get to hit the slopes. I also have a fascination with history. Which is probably why I enjoyed living and travelling in Europe. I just tend to gravitate to ruins and stuff! The downside is I have an unhealthy interest in the British TV show ‘Antiques Roadshow’. Ha!
What do you do with your time away from music?
Andrew: At the moment, I’m not far from finishing my time in the recording studio, so there is not a lot of time away from music. I do try to allow myself time at a cafe each day to catch up on life, and I always have time to watch the Australian Rules Football with my Mum and Dad.
As an artist, is there anything special you hope to be able to accomplish?
Andrew: I’d like to increase the understanding people have about addiction and mental health. I think the time for creating ‘awareness’ is over. People are aware, they just don’t know enough about it to truly understand.
Please feel free to add any other information you want to share with fans and readers.
Andrew: I’d like to thank you, Samantha, for the opportunity to speak with you. It isn’t an easy job being a music writer and you do a great job. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and ramblings. Finally I’d like to offer readers of this wonderful site my music for free. Just visit http://www.mullen.com.au/ and you’ll get the opportunity to be notified when the music is available.
Samantha: To learn more about Mullen and upcoming music, check out his website: http://www.mullen.com.au
and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MullenOfficial
and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mullenofficial/