We take a trip to Camden with Joe Mulherin, aka nothing, nowhere.
I’m running around Islington looking for The Garage, where I’m meant to meet Joe Mulherin aka nothing,nowhere. I’m late and I’m lost, as per! I circle a corner and see a long queue cascading down the road. Surely not? I think to myself. It’s only 2pm in the afternoon and his gig doesn’t start until 8pm, but to my surprise, this is The Garage and these people are a long line of nothing, nowhere fans waiting for his headline gig. I hammer on the door of the venue a few times (much the bemusement of fans who think I’ve queue jumped) and then a text directs me to a door round the back.
In this doorway stands Mulherin, who pulls me inside and directs me to a small room backstage. Around us, people are dragging and lifting equipment, hurriedly getting ready for the set. When we’re alone, my first impression of Mulherin is that he seems very shy and very fragile, but there’s something about his presence that is ultimately calming. You can tell that while he can literally destroy the stage with his epic and fierce presence, he’s genuinely a nice guy.
When the room finally clears, I press Mulherin on his progress so far…
How did you first get into music?
I started playing guitar when I was 11 or 12, and I remember I went with my cousin to her guitar instructors place and I saw him play “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne on the electric guitar and I thought it was magic. I really felt like I wanted to learn how to do that myself, so my mom started taking me to guitar lessons and I think I started writing my own music when I was 13. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Boston and I would go to shows there. I was always around music. I used to skateboard, and at the skate-park people would bring CDs from the new local hard-core band. I can’t remember not being into music!
You write and produce, why do you feel it’s important for you to have complete ownership of your sound?
I think it’s nice to not really have any filter. When you’re working by yourself it’s purely your own vision and imagination, created into this like baby that you made. That’s not to knock on the collaborative process because I do love that as well, I like digging inside my mind and puking out onto a song or video or something!
In terms of production, compared with writing, do you take the influence from the same places?
I say my production influence comes way more from the Hip Hop side of things, and my writing side comes from the vulnerable, alternative stuff that I listen to. Everything is really experiential and anecdotal and I try to always be authentic and not tell any tall tales. My music is kind of like an open diary, so it certainly is just my life!
Do you keep diaries?
Just this last Summer, I did journaling for the first time, just to keep track of my emotions and stuff like that. It was really interesting, and it’s interesting to look at it. I remember before I started journaling I didn’t even remember what I had for breakfast! I can go back to my journals now and write a song about a certain day! It gives you a perspective because when you’re in that tornado, it feels never ending and it’s nice to look back and see the peaks and valleys.
Do you use writing an emotional outlet? Can you describe that feeling?
When I’m in my happy place in my studio area and I’m working, I have a guitar riff that I really like, you enter a Xen flow state. And you kind of shut off and it is, in its own way, some kind of meditation. Sometimes I have a bad day where I can’t even get out of bed let alone write a song, but for the most part, writing music – I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have that.
What do you want your fans to take away from the music? What do you hope they feel from it?
I think the word would just be solidarity. It’s a companionship, and to remind them that they’re not alone. And by me sharing my own experiences, I’m hoping they find themselves in what I have to say. I want people to find solace. I’ve heard from kids who say it helps so I think it’s a lot bigger than music at this point.
Can you sum up what your fans mean to you?
Everything, in a way. I was really lost before this nothing, nowhere project and I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I was just floating around, and fast forward to now and I’m in London playing a sold-out show! I don’t know how it happened, but I’m just kind of rolling with it.
I just came to the front door and there was already a queue outside!
I’m so grateful for it! They really connect with my music, and it means a lot to me.
Speaking about coming to a sold-out show, looking at your Instagram and Twitter, you seem quite shy, how do you handle being on stage?
I’m anxious more than shy. Introverted and anxious. I’m very self-aware. This past Summer was a really hard time for me, thankfully I’m on the mend now, I’m not better but I’m across the pond. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store! I’m just a naturally anxious person but going back to the supporters and fans who listen to my music, we’re all cut from the same cloth and having those conversations after the show helps me to know I’m not alone, so we help each other.
Do you think that there’s a lot of stigma around anxiety as an illness?
I think it’s probably misunderstood. People use the word anxious about anything. If you’re anxious for a test, that’s one thing, but if you’re having a panic attack every day and you can’t leave your room because you’re terrified, that’s something entirely different. It’s one of those things that, if you haven’t experienced it, it’s really hard to understand.
When you go on-stage, how do you put your anxieties aside?
It’s the people in the audience. I know there are kids in the crowd that are nervous, because being in a room full of people is really hard, and I suffered from that when I was younger and I missed out on a lot of shows. So, it helps me to see all these kids and have them screaming the words back at me, it’s like we’re all the same person in a type of way. It’s really hard performing live, but the more I do it, the more being on stage feels like home.
You’re signed to Fuelled by Ramen, what does it mean to you to be part of such an iconic label?
It’s an honour to be on such a prestigious label. Obviously, I grew up listening to Panic and Fall Out Boy and Paramore. Fuelled by Ramen was everything, and I just can’t believe that I made it to them.
Given that you do your own production and writing. Do you feel that they give you a lot of creative freedom?
I’m like a kid running around with scissors! They understand me, and they just let me do what I want to do, and what else could you ask for?
How does the UK music scene compare to the US, particularly when it comes to rock and punk-rock?
There’s so much I don’t understand about it. From what I’ve seen the energy at the shows is amazing. People really appreciate and respect live musicianship and I’ve started getting into some Grime stuff and listening to it in the van! The music scene is really energetic.
I read online that you never drink alcohol. Has that been a conscious decision for your entire life?
Yes! I never really had an interest in it when I was younger. I saw these kids at school going to parties and it never appealed to me, I didn’t really like what it did to people I guess.
You’re also a vegan, right? How long for?
7 years! It’s funny, it just kind of happened in a day. I was just on a YouTube binge and I ended up watching a speech by an Animal Rights activist, and it was about a two-hour video, but I just came out the other side of watching the video and decided I didn’t really want to participate in animal agriculture.
I read a Reddit threat about your fans and getting tattoos! There’s this craze where people are getting tattoos inspired by you. Do you know about this?
Yes! It’s particularly interesting because I’m not a massive artist by any means, but, there are more nothing, nowhere tattoos than I could ever count. A couple people have them on their face, on their neck, on their hands. It just shows me that it’s really resonating with people and it’s authentic and real to people. Every morning I wake up and see two new tattoos. I don’t know where it comes from though! I’m not complaining!
What makes you the happiest?
I’d say if I were to paint a picture of my at my happiest, I’m in the State of Vermont, just sitting in contemplation and meditation. When I’m meditating, I’m happiest or when I’m riding my skateboard, or when I just come up with a really catchy guitar riff, or when I’m with my family or girlfriend or every time I see an animal, or a dog or a deer.
Speaking about what you’ve been through. What advice would you give to fans who are struggling?
Whatever you’re going through, it doesn’t last forever, no matter how much your brain tries to convince you. This has been the hardest Summer of my entire life, and I would just say self-care is a buzzword but really pay attention to your bodies need. Get enough sleep, get outside, ride a bike. Lead feet-first because your brain might not want to get out of bed, but as soon as you get your feet moving, your brain will start to realise that you’re doing something and it will set off a chain reaction. The main thing I want to recommend is mediation, you can use an app or YouTube.