Marcus Mumford reveals new song is about his childhood sexual abuse: 'I hadn't told anyone about it'
Marcus Mumford has opened up about his experience with sexual abuse as a young child.
The Mumford & Sons frontman revealed the single "Cannibal," from his upcoming solo album, Self-Titled, is about the abuse he endured when he was 6. "Like lots of people — and I'm learning more and more about this as we go and as I play it to people — I was sexually abused as a child," Mumford told GQ in a cover story published Wednesday.
"Not by family and not in the church, which might be some people's assumption," he said. "But I hadn't told anyone about it for 30 years."
The opening lyrics of "Cannibal" are direct: "I can still taste you and I hate it," Mumford sings. "That wasn't a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it."
Mumford's mother did not know about the experience until he played her the single, something that went over the musician's head at the time. He recalled that she listened and left, and then a few days later returned and asked him, "Can I ask what that song's about?"
"I was like, 'Yeah, it's about the abuse thing,'" Mumford said of their conversation. "She was like, 'What are you talking about?' So once we get through the trauma of that moment for her, as a mother, hearing that and her wanting to protect and help and all that stuff, it's objectively f---ing hilarious to tell your mom about your abuse in a f---ing song, of all things."
The upcoming album's second track, "Grace," is about the conversation he had with his mother. It wasn't until a stint in therapy years later that he began to unpack his experience as a survivor of abuse. During his second session with a therapist who specialized in trauma, Mumford spoke about it and then immediately threw up.
"Apparently, it's very common," he said. "Once you basically unhook the denial and start the process of removing some suppression, then it's very natural for that stuff to come out," he said. "I'd had problems breathing all my life. Not asthma but just, like, catching my breath."
He connected the dots, adding that the incident when he was 6 was "the first of a string of really unusual, unhealthy sexual experiences at a really early age."
"And for some reason, and I can't really understand why, I didn't become a perpetrator of sexual abuse — although I've done my fair share of cuntish behavior," Mumford continued. "String of really unhealthy shit when I was under the age of 12, which set my brain up in a way to deal with stuff later on in life in an imbalanced way. And so the last three years has just been trying to look at that and correct some balance."
In the expansive interview, Mumford also addressed bandmate Winston Marshall's departure from Mumford & Sons. The guitarist and banjoist announced his exit from the folk-rock band in June 2021 in the wake of controversy that stemmed from his support of a far-right pundit.
"I actually really begged him not to leave," Mumford said. While he doesn't share many of Marshall's beliefs, he explained, "I think you can disagree and work together."
Still, "I just don't think it's the job of musicians to have all those thoughts," he added, referring to Marshall's controversial tweets. "And I think Win probably agrees. I don't know. But I should think he probably agrees. Which is part of the reason why he wanted to quit. Because he felt like his priorities couldn't align in the way he wanted to speak about things and live life. He wanted to do a different thing."
The video for Mumford's "Cannibal" was shot by director Steven Spielberg, with behind-the-scenes contributions from Spielberg's wife, Kate Capshaw, and Mumford's wife, actress Carey Mulligan. Watch it above.
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