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The Mulligan Brothers will host Harrison McInnis and Abe Partridge for a pre-release party of their new album, “Songs for the Living and Otherwise,” April 26 at The Steeple.
Band: The Mulligan Brothers Album Pre-Release Party
Date: Thursday, April 26, 7 p.m.
Venue: The Steeple on St. Francis, 251 St. Francis St., www.thesteeplemobile.com
Tickets: $20, through Brown Paper Tickets
The Mulligan Brothers remain one of the Azalea City’s most precious musical commodities, with a rich brand of folk rock filled with lyrical emotion.
The Mulligan Brothers will be giving its local audience a special treat with a pre-release party for their forthcoming album, “Songs for the Living and Otherwise.” As the group’s first self-produced album, “Songs for the Living and Otherwise” promises to display the band’s growth and evolution while maintaining its trademark sound. From heartfelt ballads such as “Deal” to the New South introspection of “Great Granddaddy’s War,” this album promises to have something for everyone.
Lagniappe looked to songwriter Ross Newell for a preview of the album as well as this special performance.
Stephen Centanni: The Mulligan Brothers has become one of most ambitious acts to come out of Mobile in a long time. What’s life like for The Mulligan Brothers these days?
Ross Newell: Mostly we’re at home less than ever, and that’s a big adjustment. It’s also kind of surreal. It’s what we’ve been trying to do most of our lives. Life is good. The road has been treating us well, and we actually kind of got the best of both worlds this year. We took some time off and pumped the brakes for some writing time. We took some time off for recording. So we’ve gotten to be home this year, and it still feels like we’re busy touring. So, it’s kind of perfect.
Centanni: How would you compare the music on “Songs for the Living and Otherwise” to your previous material?
Newell: The sound is definitely ever-evolving. I think there’s some core stuff that has stuck and will stick. Sometimes you’re a fan of stuff forever. We’re definitely growing and exploring and trying new sounds and some new styles.
We produced this record ourselves. It’s the first time we’ve done that. So we’re incredibly pleased with the way it all turned out. We love the attitude of, ‘If we’re not happy with this record, then we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves.’ Trina Shoemaker mixed it. That’s kind of a fifth member that shows up. Trina is such a magical creature. Sometimes with those postmixes, it feels like there’s another instrument in there that’s simply not. She just makes everything better.
Centanni: In the press release for this album, you talked about how “outside influences” have affected your past recordings. Without pointing any fingers, tell me a little about that.
Newell: Well, there’s not really any great fingers to point. I find that most people, including myself, value their own opinion and like to share it. I fault us, particularly myself, with sort of letting those kind of things in. It could be something as simple as playing a gig where the room is small and echo-y, and you gotta kind of bring down the band for the night. Inevitably, there’s still somebody that pops up and says, “Play something that I can dance to.” That has inevitably seeped into the process for the past two albums. You’re making a record and someone just says, “I hope there’s more of this on the record or more of that on the record.”
Being secluded with the band in my house in Mobile, recording the record, really allowed us to hyper-focus and figure out what it is we want, first and foremost, and calculate everything else after the fact.
Centanni: What’s the story behind the title?
Newell: Particularly with (drummer) Greg DeLuca and I, we would catch ourselves in the control room moving one track to the next and lock eyes and say, “This is not a concept record,” because the record is diverse. It’s got a lot of different sounds and types of songs and themes. It just really felt very much like we were making more a record that more people could identify with.
Obviously, it’s a Mulligan Brothers record. There’s some death and darkness, and there’s some love and light on there. That’s what we were wanting to say with the titles. We wanted to say that there’s something for everybody on here.
Centanni: I also read where these songs are your “truest” so far. Could you elaborate on that?
Newell: I think there’s a natural process that happens after a couple of records. It’s not like I have a 20-album catalog where I’ve been able to find myself and lose myself dozens of times. Since I’ve been writing songs, I’ve been trying to write them as honest as I know how. The bigger your catalog gets, the more stuff you’ve made off-limits. You’ve already written about this or that. There’s no need to have a song about something that you’ve already written about.
When you’re coursing through your ideas and wondering if this is too similar to this other thing I’ve done, it’s through desperation that you just kind of find your most honest thoughts. I’m not trying to write like anything. I’m just trying to put down some honesty. Hopefully that gets better with every album.
Centanni: So far the only new song I’ve gotten to hear is “Deal.” What was the inspiration for that song?
Newell: I have a wonderful woman in my life named Carly. We have a house together and dogs together and have been together for, I think, going on seven or eight years. All the parts of my life that involve her are the best parts. I think that’s part of the honesty of this record. There’s still some leftover teen angst that I have no business having. It’s easier for me to write about a bad day than a good day.
I think when I really sat down to think about what my life is really made of and what are the things that I know enough about to elaborate on for three to five minutes, Carly was a reappearing star on this record. So that song is very much about how she affects my life and my thinking of the future and the afterlife. It’s not really a decision or a love song as much as it is a declaration of how much I love this woman and how she makes my every day better than anything else in my life.
Centanni: I’ve also read the lyrics to “Great Granddaddy’s War,” which is a powerful New South anthem. How did this song come to life?
Newell: I’ve grown up in the South, and I love it so much here. Becoming an adult in the South and having these new epiphanies about people you’ve known in your life, the song was born out of how polarized we are at the moment and people we’ve grown up with and loved dearly and still do. Suddenly, these polarizing things can happen, and you realize, “I thought that I knew everything about you. That’s something I didn’t know about you. I still love you, but I wish you didn’t feel that way.”
I suppose old heritage is such a sacred thing here, more than most of the world. I think that free-thinking suffers for it. I think people made a decision early on in life that they were born onto a team, and that’s the team that they will root for till the day they die. The mental process has already occurred, and they don’t ever have to reevaluate that. Ten years later, they never have to reconsider if they made the right call or not. They wake up every day and remember, “I’m still on the team of my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. It doesn’t matter if what I think is right. I was taught to believe it.”
That song is a study of that and trying to put myself in those shoes and just understand it and how I feel about it.
Centanni: What will the pre-release party be like?
Newell: It’s going to be great! We’re doing it at The Steeple on April 26. Our friends Harrison McInnis and Abe Partridge have agreed to do a songwriters round. There will be plenty to see. We’ve been doing some rehearsals and learning how this album should be played live. I think it’s really coming together great. It’s gonna be a cool night of music and atmosphere. There’s something magical about The Steeple, whether any music is played there or not. I hope for it to be a magical evening.