Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: A Conversation with Mulherin

Mulherin © 2017
Mulherin © 2017

Musical group cooperation is an interesting dynamic. Ego plays a big role when it comes to the creation process of a musical work; jealousy, hurt feelings, and lack of teamwork are all plausible results from this sort of pretentiousness that can lead to the downfall of a musical group.

Family dynamics are an even more interesting phenomenon. Working professionally with a loved one requires a delicate balance of praise and criticism. Luckily for Memphis-raised brotherly duo Mulherin, two heads are, in fact, better than one. Parker and Marshall Mulherin exemplify this adage not through some sort of twin telepathy, but rather by keeping each other in check, by offering new perspectives, and most importantly, by acting as a support system through what has proven time and again to be a challenging industry through which to navigate alone.

Alumni of Loyola University New Orleans’ Music Industry Studies program, the two have developed their own strategy to attain unsigned success thus far. Putting their music before all else, the two have earned reputations as emotionally complex heartthrobs that never fail to deliver. Often compared to Frank Ocean, Mulherin find their niche in the ever-developing R&B scene by incorporating hushed vocals, delicate harmonies, and hypnotic electronic elements into each new single. By experimenting with new sounds and melodies, they find a way to keep one step ahead of the genre that is becoming more and more commercial.

With their recent move to Los Angeles, Mulherin have lots in store for their fans. Atwood Magazine spoke to the brothers about their recent successes and plans for the future, both near and far.

Listen: “Rendezvous” – Mulherin

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Atwood Magazine: Now that we are well into the new year, let’s talk about what your biggest achievement has been so far.

Marshall: I’d say probably Red Bull Music Academy. That was a pretty big achievement, I guess. Like getting to win a spot out of the 4,000 people that applied – it was pretty cool to get recognized on a platform like that.

Tell me a little bit more about the whole process with RBMA.

Marshall: You submit a really long application that’s really personal and creative. Then you also submit a CD of your music so that all they know about you when they’re checking you out is what they hear. Out of all the people that applied, they picked sixty people. We were in the first session of the academy, which was a two-week long session of master classes, studio time, and just meeting some awesome people. That’s how we met our manager, Joey, also.

That’s awesome. And I’m sure it’s taken a lot to get where you are now. What would you say your biggest challenge was?

Marshall: A lot of it is more personal like believing in ourselves. Which isn’t always just music-related, but also self-related. Getting over personal demons that don’t allow you to go out there and try as hard. Any insecurities you have will come out when you’re doing music, so there’s no better place to face those demons. That’s the hardest thing, but it’s also kind of the best thing.

What’s it like working together on music that’s clearly so vulnerable and personal to each of you? Does the fact that you two are family make it easier or harder?

Parker: That part’s not even the hard part necessarily but sometimes if Marshall makes something that I think is really good and I haven’t made something that I think is good for a while, I’m just like, “This sucks.” If one of us outdoes the other at one time, it’s hard to not let it reflect on our self-worth. You know you’re good as an artist and good as a person when what you make as an artist doesn’t reflect how you think of yourself as a person. And I’m not there yet. When I’m just sitting there for like an hour and can’t come up with anything, it’s just the worst feeling.

What are your own personal strengths when it comes to your music that makes you two such a good team?

Marshall: We each approach writing and melodies in different ways, so if one of us only has half of a hook or half of a verse, the other can come in and approach it from a different direction and take it in a way that I wouldn’t have thought to take it. Because our styles are very different as producers and as writers, it’s kind of cool to work together on tracks and it makes our discography a little more diverse.

Mulherin © 2017
Mulherin © 2017

So you guys self-produce and release all of the content that you put out. What’s it like having that full creative control?

Parker: I love it very, very much. We make the album art with our friends. The girl who made the “Leagues” and “Rendezvous” covers, Briana Wade, she’s our friend from Memphis who’s really great with photography and Photoshop, so it’s cool just hanging out with friends and we like having our hands in everything.

Marshall: We’ve even started learning to mix our own stuff because it really is such a huge part of the creative process and what the music is going to sound like to the world, so we want to make sure it’s done well.

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What’s it like to see your music pick up and see your hard work pay off? You’re getting noticed by Pigeons & Planes, and I saw you’ve opened for Pell and Kehlani. How does it feel being where you are now?

Parker: It’s hard to feel all of the progression just because there’s so far to go still but it’s definitely cool. Getting to open for Kehlani and seeing the positive reaction from the crowd, hearing people reach out and tell us we’re good — it’s nice to have affirming moments when people just seem to get it.

I really respect that even though you’ve seen some pretty notable success, you still don’t have the mindset of “We’ve made it. We can stop trying.” But now that the new year has come around, what are you most looking forward to?

Marshall: We’re working on an EP right now, so I’m looking forward to putting that out as it’s our first real project. I’m looking forward to doing some shows out here in L.A. and hopefully getting on a tour. We’re just ready to present ourselves to the world in the biggest way we can.

So the EP will be the next release, or are you thinking of putting out a couple of singles before?

Marshall: Yeah, we’re definitely going to be releasing a couple of singles before.

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Anything similar to what you’ve already released before or are you taking a new direction with these?

Marshall: More of a natural progression. More along the vibe of “Take Two” and “Rendezvous.” With “Leagues” and some of our older stuff have more of a Drake vibe, but we’re trying to take a direction that’s a little more unique to us.

Which song do you have strongest connection to that’s been released so far?

Marshall: I would say “Rendezvous” because that song was a huge learning experience where I sat down and mixed it all on my own.

Are there any artists that put something out in 2016 that was significantly your favorite of the year?

Marshall: Well, [Frank Ocean’s] Blond, and I really liked Moses Sumney’s EP, I listened to that a lot at work this summer.

I always hear references to Frank Ocean when people talk about the music you two make. So Frank aside, who would your dream artist collaboration be?

Marshall: I know it’s lofty, but it would be tight to collaborate with Paul McCartney.

Parker: And Stevie Wonder.

Well now that you two are in Los Angeles, what are you hoping to accomplish?

Marshall: LA is the music destination just like everyone says it is. Our manager is here, lots of other artists and producers are here and we want to come out and make these moves we’ve been making in person. We wanna do more shows and bigger shows and y’know, just chasin’ that dream, baby.

Has your exposure to the Memphis and New Orleans music scenes influenced your sound and approach to the industry at all?

Parker: Going to Loyola and being able to meet a bunch of like-minded people has been really inspiring. We moved out here with Zack [Villere, aka Froyo Ma] who is insanely talented. A couple of other people whom we’ve met along the way have been super valuable. As a creator, the music we create isn’t only influenced by the music we listen to, but also the people we hang out with, and hanging out with all of these talented people makes me want to be as good as they are.

So what do you guys do to put in the extra mile and reach out to connect to your fanbase?

Parker: We just did a show in Houston where we’ve had a group of about 5 or 6 really loyal fans. We interact with them on social media and for this show, we DM’d each of them to invit them to the show. We got to meet them and it was pretty dope. We just make sure to respond to people on Twitter because it’s really easy to do that, especially when these people are so genuine and really showing love.

Yeah, fan interaction is definitely so undervalued, and it’s cool that you guys just get it. My last thing for you would be this — what’s your next move and what’s your next long-term goal in the span of the next one to three years?

Marshall: Short-term would be to finish the singles off the EP. We have a show on February 19th at the Union in Los Angeles, so just getting ready for that. Long-term? We just wanna be able to live off of music alone and do music all the time.

That is the goal, I respect that and wish you the best of luck with everything!
Listen to Mulherin // Buy tix for 2/19 @ Union LA

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Rendezvous - Mulherin
Rendezvous – Mulherin
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Read: A Story of Mistrust with Mulherin's “Leagues”

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