- 12 Aug 22
Trigger warning. Dublin Rape Crisis Centre National 24-Hour Helpline: 1800 77 8888.
Marcus Mumford has spoken out for the first time about the sexual abuse he experienced as a six-year-old child.
The frontperson of English folk/pop group Mumford & Sons released his debut solo single 'Cannibal' last month, accompanied by a video directed by Steven Spielberg.
In the press release, Mumford said that he wrote the song in order to face “demons [he] danced with for a long time in isolation.”
The lyrics begin, “I can still taste you and I hate it/That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it/You took the first slice of me and you ate it raw/Ripped it in with your teeth and your lips like a cannibal/You fucking animal”.
Now, he has elaborated on the song’s meaning, telling GQ writer Zach Baron that it describes his experience of sexual abuse as a 6-year-old child.
“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 Baron. “Not by family and not in the church, which might be some people’s assumption. But I hadn’t told anyone about it for 30 years.”
Mumford’s parents were international leaders of the Vineyard Churches, a neocharismatic evangelical Christian denomination.
Mumford commented that his mother, after hearing the song for the first time, asked what the lyrics were about. “I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s about the abuse thing,’” he recalled. “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 fucking hilarious to tell your mom about your abuse in a fucking song, of all things.”
Mumford wrote the album’s second track, 'Grace', about that conversation and reckoning with the experience of being a survivor.
“That thing that happened when I was ,” he added, “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 behaviour.”
He says he spoke about the abuse for the first time in a therapy session and immediately threw up. Managing to “unhook the denial” eased other problems in his life, like sporadic breathing difficulties, he added. Therapy also helped him to identify other unhealthy behaviour related to that period, and “the last three years has just been trying to look at that and correct some balance,” he said.
Mumford added that he had spent his life until now “in layers of shame. And it probably started there when I was six, but I just got kind of addicted to shame, layers and layers of shame, which is why I feel now like I’ve done lots of figuring that out.
“And some of the areas in which I was trying to make that shame go away just led to more shame for me. And now being able to pick those apart a little bit and, like, chip away at the layers of it is why I feel kind of free, more free than I have in a long time.”
The NSPCC praised Mumford for coming forward with his trauma.
“Speaking out about child sexual abuse is a truly brave thing to do and Marcus Mumford has shown a great deal of courage in sharing his experiences publicly,” a spokesperson said.
“By doing this, he highlights an important message that it is never to late to speak out about abuse regardless of how long ago it took place. Moving forward, we hope that he receives the support he needs and that others who have had similar experiences will feel less alone and empowered to speak out and seek help and support.”
Mumford also confirmed that his band will continue as a trio after the departure of Winston Marshall, who quit the group in June 2021 after his support of an alt-right journalist Andy Ngo sparked backlash.
He admitted that he “begged” Marshall not to leave the band: despite not sharing many of his beliefs: “I think you can disagree and work together".
Mumford’s debut solo album, (Self-Titled), is due out September 16. Its guests include Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo, Brandi Carlile, and Blake Mills, who also produced the record.
Along with its release, Marcus Mumford will partake of his first solo tour - starting in Ireland at the 3Olympia Theatre on November 28th, 2022.
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