Monday, February 14, 2011

My Mumford & Sons Story

Mumford & Sons prior to last night's Grammy Awards

So, it appears that despite losing out to Esperanza Spalding for Best New Artist, Mumford & Sons turned a lot of heads last night.  First for their performance of "The Cave" and then (along with The Avett Brothers) backing Bob Dylan on "Maggie's Farm". I'm not here to claim that WOXY was the first in the US to get behind them, but we probably were the first to get behind them so strongly. Late 2008, early 2009 to be precise. It reminded me of when I booked them for SXSW in 2009...

(From his comfy sofa, your narrator cocks his head slightly and glances skyward, strokes chin and sees all vision blurring, finally to refocus on a radio production studio...)

Booking our SXSW sessions was one of the highlights of my year. My colleagues and I sought to put together an eclectic mix that would best represent our station, a lineup of established bands alongside some handpicked up-and-comers that would make not only for good radio, but provide us with an abundance of content.  Usually, this meant booking acts that were probably not going to pass through Cincinnati.  In 2009, we wanted to take full advantage of our long week and decided to go balls out: 6 full days, 5 sessions a day. We were determined to make this our biggest and best yet.

One of the acts I hoped to get was (unnamed folk artist), who I thought would be a good fit for us and fill a void for that genre. I mean, we had rock bands, R&B, electro, dance but not much in the way of sensitive folk music. So, I put in a call to my friend at the artist's label to get the ball rolling. Now by this time, my experience had been that increasingly, labels had become just another hurdle to jump and I'd made it a habit to go straight to management.  It depended on the act, the label and the relationships involved.  But I knew this person for a long time, and put in the request for a session there. The label definitely wanted to make it happen.

Turns out, the management co. was being super fussy about agreeing on a slot for the (unnamed folk artist) to play.  To demonstrate how much I wanted the session to happen, I told them they could choose any open slot we had, but advised them that invites were out to others who were inclined to make a commitment.  So, further dragging their feet was limiting their choices, if indeed this was something they wanted (unnamed folk artist) to do in he first place. Still...nothing, and indeed, our dance card was filling up.

Well, sometimes you have to offer specifics in order to get specifics so finally, I offered up a first session of the day, an 8am arrival, 9am performance. The kind of spot a folk singer would be a ideal for. I mean, perfect world, you don't book a band like Future Of The Left at 9am and at this stage I wasn't going to put a sleepy singer/songwriter on at 5p, especially after failing to commit to a near-open schedule. After a few days, word came back: no.   I then asked my label friend if it was because that slot was deemed too early a time? The answer: yes.

That was it for me. Here we had bands doing backflips to do sessions for us. Case in point, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, who were playing about 15 shows during the week and were white hot at the time, asked specifically for 9a session so they COULD fit WOXY into their schedule. That's how much they wanted to do it. So the fact that this (unnamed folk artist, or management) couldn't be bothered, well, the hell with it. It should be noted that TPOBPAH showed up right at 8am, and were complete sweethearts.

So, Mumford & Sons. Around this time, I stumbled across M&S..saw they were playing SXSW..and this time, instead of going through a label (basically because they were still unsigned), I went straight to management. They accepted our invite right away for a 5p session. I think it took about 72 hours from invite to acceptance, rather than dragging out for weeks as with the (unnamed folk artist).

Well, what I didn't realize until afterwards was that M&S and (unnamed folk artist) shared the same management company. Different reps within the co. handled each act but for the same firm. So when the rep for the (unnamed folk artist) found out this still-unsigned band of theirs was doing a session at SXSW for WOXY, at 5p no less, I guess he got pretty pissed off. He fired off a nasty email to my label friend saying that we were playing dirty pool and our behavior was unacceptable, etc.  Besides, (unnamed folk singer) was one of their star acts!  There's a bit more to it, but I'll leave it at that.  I think the old saying goes: if you snooze, you lose. Certainly, the label found no fault with us.

SXSW comes and we're having a great week, until Thursday. One of my colleagues received a call that one of the bands he booked, Iran, featuring TV On The Radio's Kyp Malone, were canceling. Something about being stuck somewhere. Then about 90 minutes later, I get a call from Mumfords's management begging off. She said they'd played so many shows between official & day party gigs, that Marcus' voice was shredded. She goes on to tell me if there's any way they can make it up to us, they will. Probably talk, I figure....but I don't forget easily.

A few weeks later, I notice Mumford's UK tour takes them through Cardiff, Wales, which was home base for Drunk Country, he of The Waiting Room, a program that we carried on WOXY. I knew he had access to a studio and experience hosting sessions. So, I hit management to make good on their promise to make it up to WOXY and after a few e-mails, they did.

It turns out that on that same UK tour, I caught the band (May 2009) at The Great Escape in Brighton, playing to and totally winning over a packed house. All this well before Sigh No More ever came out. It confirmed my belief that this band was special and we were right to be behind them. It was a few months before Drunk Country premiered the session on his show before we played it back during the week on mine. Read his session recap.

And that's my story.

[DOWNLOAD] Mumford & Sons "Sigh No More" (live, WOXY Lounge Act)  
[DOWNLOAD] Mumford & Sons "Little Lion Man" (live, WOXY Lounge Act)
[DOWNLOAD] Mumford & Sons "White Blank Page" (live, WOXY Lounge Act)
[DOWNLOAD] Mumford & Sons "I Gave You All" (live, WOXY Lounge Act) 
[DOWNLOAD] Mumford & Sons "The Cave" (live, WOXY Lounge Act)


  1. Great read Mike, although I think M&S are probably one of the most wildly overrated bands I have ever heard. The Lounge Act was good, but I find nothing remotely intriguing about the band.

  2. Keep the stories coming. Whether you like the act or not it's interesting to hear about the choices the band and their management make as they try to make it. Would love to know who the "un-named" act was.

  3. Thanks for reading, Charlie. You never miss a chance to let me know how you don't like M&S. Glad to give you that platform.

  4. Yet another example of how much WOXY was on the forefront for new music here in the US.

    Great post, Mike!

  5. You gotta give me credit Mike. If anything, I'm consistent. Keep the stories coming, they are as good as the tunes.

  6. I hope someone finds Chuck and kills him, removes his eyes with a spoon, then pisses into his ocular cavities. With M&S playing in the background.