“The Embers Are Still Burning” nothing,nowhere Interviewed
Music can take a role similar to that of psychotherapy, and the narrative of DIY artist nothing,nowhere. supports this perception. From the perspective of being a music fan, the versatile rapper and producer’s approach to music mirrors that of millions of other people around the globe, still his point of view stands out in more ways than one.
As some of the issues around psychological health and wellbeing are given more space, music offers a tangible space for talking to others or connecting. Musicians are now far more likely to let issues inform decisions they take in their careers. Things are moving in a positive direction. Vocalist and guitarist Joe Mulherin has not kept the relationship between his music and mental health a secret.
Commercial success is not everything, if you don’t believe things are going in the right direction, then it could be time to shake things up a bit. “I try to remind myself that, yet at the same time, I couldn’t help but think about it in the studio, a thought kept coming back. “If people aren’t gonna listen to me, I’m gonna make them listen, that’s why a lot of the album is energetic and explosive. I have something to say, and I want people to hear it.”
Released in March, he started to write ‘Void Eternal’, the new record, over a year ago. The whole process evolved over a year, and the songwriter views it as one of the healthiest recording processes he has been a part of. Taking a moderate stance in terms of his own expectations this time, things turned out remarkably well, and it marks a shift in attitude from the big goals he set out with ‘Trauma Factory’ from 2021, and the success achieved with ‘Fake Friend’ and other songs that made it onto the Billboard Charts radar and received radio play.
Things look positive for the Vermont based creative. He gets to play incredible shows and festivals, there is a healthy flow of music releases and numerous artist collaborations, yet something is missing. Knowing that his impact has the potential to be even greater. “I’m at a point in my career where I’ve accomplished a lot, but I do have a chip on my shoulder, where I feel I’ve been overlooked in a lot of realms. It feels like what I was doing early on, a lot of people started doing it after, and they got massive because of that.”
Viewing music as an ongoing source of support throughout, it helps him through good and bad times. The love for heavy music is a recurring thread in his life. Many of his fans feel the same way about his music, and the songs he writes. More often than not, they share their experiences, how the songs help them through difficult times, it inspires them to believe in themselves, and be confident.
Sometimes, the self-acceptance of what’s challenging can be half the battle. “It’s no surprise, the way things have turned out. The music is very mental health centric. Many of my fans have had their own struggles with it, for me it was coming to terms with the fact that I’m a grown adult now. I’m always going to have these struggles, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Keen to write and produce a different type of record, the desire to make a difference in music, and to people’s lives, he seizes an opportunity to approach things differently. “I just wanted to make a cathartic record that someone could listen to, when they inevitably come across that next depressive episode or that next anxiety attack. It’s something where you can get in the car and scream your lungs out, let go of that negative energy in a positive way, as opposed to turning to substances or self-destructive behaviours. That’s what music always did for me.”
His songs tend to originate from notepads. If he is not feeling good, he will journal it. Experiencing the feelings he goes through, from a third party perspective, he will go back and delve into it more, remember how he was feeling. “If I’m having a tough day, there’s remnants… it’s like when a fire burns out, the embers are still burning, and inside of me, I need to get them out.” Naturally, the creation of music is essential, there is a need to put these feelings somewhere.
The explosivity that oozes from every track of the post-hardcore and metal influenced record seems to accurately monitor his journey, the twists and turns show that it has not been straightforward. The heaviest record from Mulherin yet, it demonstrates a process of making music, almost as a way of life, it paves the way for broader creative routes and strengthens the bond with the fans. Showing where his interests are, who he is, it has an honesty, an openness and a fresh emotional transparency. But above all, it depicts the genuine zest he has.
“I am excited to explore a new realm of music. When nothing,nowhere. started, what I was doing was fresh and innovative, and then it became a genre. A lot of people were doing it, which happens. But that started to feel a bit soulless to me and the whole scene. I wanted to switch gears, I’m just excited about exploring new avenues.”
As an adolescent, he discovered how much heavy music resonated. There was Linkin Park, who became a favourite band, and he soon added Deftones to his favourite pool of musicians. “I started getting into certain bands, a lot of my influences are on this record, some of my biggest influences are Underoath, Silverstein and Fall Out Boy. I just wear my influences on my sleeve.”
The aim to maintain a healthy mind always figures in the background, and nothing,nowhere. appears to be at ease as he embraces positive as well as negative feelings. Knowing full well that the new project does not fall into the ‘radio record’ category, he is upbeat about the future. The sense of just letting go feels right, as does the idea of seeing where this outlook can take him.
Autonomous, as if by instinct, the pursuit of independent thinking is never far from the Mulherin way of working, and the latest project seems to almost depend on it. As the ‘Creative project director’, songwriter, instrumentalist and producer, he has been overseeing the process. Collaborating with people he knows, the focus is as much on working with players he admires, as connecting with people he likes to hang out with. Working and recording from his home studio represents a stress-free environment full of good vibes.
“It was fun to make. I made it in my studio and a few close friends joined me. It was an organic process, I didn’t do anything in LA, I was making music with my friends, like I did in 2008. It’s unfiltered, there’s no pressure, there’s no executive looking over your shoulder, no industry pressure. It’s just pure music.” Referring to it as the “anthesis of what we’re seeing now with the meteoric rise of TikTok stardom”, a perfect balance between fun and work was struck, one where video game consoles were equally matched by walks and bike rides in the woods.
Then there’s the increase in confidence, which isn’t limited to the record itself, fans that have been present at recent live shows, are likely to have witnessed it, too. Delivering a magnificent live show can be a challenge for any artist, but the songwriter saw an opportunity to reinvent his live performances, igniting a process of change.
Of course practice makes perfect. Going through footage of his Reading and Leeds Festival performances, he found himself smiling – and laughing. “I had zero stage presence, a lot of that is my anxiety, it took me a long time to let go, and actually become the performer that I know I can be. Getting thrown in at the deep end, I had to adapt or die, so I approached performing from a different perspective.”
Growing up Mulherin attended a large volume of concerts. From those gig experiences, he knew how critical the quality of a live performance is. “People pay money to see me and what I do, I don’t want to let them down. It got to a point where I realised I was my own biggest critic, me being shy or not giving it everything wasn’t helping. Everyone in the crowd was there to listen, to see a performance, they deserve to see the best performance that I can give. It took me some time to get out of my own head, and become that performer.”
Having the best team right behind him helps, and record label Fueled By Ramen is a part of his story. Being free, with support, works for him. It’s a resourceful, very capable team. “They just let me do my own thing, which is all I ever wanted, it’s the best scenario. It’s not like there’s anyone telling me how I should sound. They trust me, and I trust them.”
He is an interesting performer, a compelling writer, and he has so much more to give. It’s a broad set of skills, broader than that of many musicians. Not to mention his background in film, an entire palette of visual expertise and knowledge. He has got that in his locker, on top of all the aforementioned.
‘VOID ETERNAL’ is out now.
Words: Susan Hansen