About a decade ago Edmund Enright sat in the London office of his lawyer and was told the best thing for him to do would be to kill off Mundy. “Tarnished” was how the guy at the other side of the desk described the pseudonym of the Birr native, who had just been dropped by Sony when he was due to record to the follow up to his 1996 debut, Jellylegs.
“He said to me that if you want to re-establish yourself, you’re probably better off changing your name now,” says Enright in his local on Clanbrassil St. “You’ll probably get a record deal in the morning I was told, Mundy as a name was damaged because in a lot of people’s minds I’d flopped.”
Considering it’s a decade and two best-selling albums (24 Star Hotel and Raining Down Arrows) later and Enright is still known by his popular moniker, we can all guess that this particular confrontation ended up with him saying ‘fuck you, you’re not my lawyer any more’, and that’s exactly what happened.
A knackered Mundy is a new dad, has a new album and pointy facial hair. Speaking days before the release of his generally excellent fourth record, entitled Strawberry Blood, he admits, “I get this feeling I think before every album, a little bit of anxiety, kind of excitement as well. I don’t know what sort of album it is really. It’s a very important album to me because I’ve put every penny I have into it. That’s why it’s important for one thing, that it makes a few quid back. It’s scary times out there.”
It’s an album that goes from all-out rock to simple songwriting, with some left-of-centre structures and just the right chunk of moodiness; it’s 14 tracks long as well. “I think the 14 songs are all quite different and the hardest thing was tracklisting the album. It’s probably a few tracks too many in some people’s view but I just find that I tracklisted it as an A and a B side and you don’t have to listen to the fourteen songs as a row but when you listen to it as seven and seven it definitely makes sense.”
He continues, “I don’t think it’s a comfortable album, as in comfort zone, because I think ‘Galway Girl’ threw a spanner in the works in that I don’t know what people expect now. I mean, I’ve made a lot of new friends but I’ll probably end up losing some as well. As a Mundy fan originally this is definitely a good, long awaited thing though.”
The success of his collaboration with Sharon Shannon on the cover of the Steve Earle tune has had its side effects. “What I’ve started doing of late is playing ‘Galway Girl’ and ‘July’ earlier in the set, just because I felt it was fairer. There was a lot of kids turning up and a lot of older people as well and I was kinda goin ‘these guys are only here for two songs’ so I moved it up to the front. I think now that if the original Mundy fans get to hear this (Strawberry Blood) they’ll think ‘okay right, that#s where he’s going’, cos I think ‘Galway Girl’ confused a lot of people, they thought that was the new direction I was going in which it wasn’t, it was just a little side thing.”
Enright says the ‘little side thing’ has had nearly all positive effects though, and indeed he got to meet Earle a few years back as well. “I was playing at the Cambridge folk festival about two years ago and he was on the same bill and Sharon was on too and he came in to say hello to Sharon and I was saying to her that I was doing a festival the next day in Ireland and he was on the same bill and I’d love to get him to come and sing it the next day because I don’t think he knew quite how big a song it had become at home. And he came in and said ‘listen I’m sorry I won’t be able to be there tomorrow”.
“Then Sharon got called to the stage and I was just chatting away to him, then halfway through the set Sharon was like ‘I’d like to welcome Mundy’. So, I came on sang ‘July’, ‘Mexico’ and then I started ‘Galway Girl’, then turned around a minute in and he was standing beside me singing the second verse, like he never said to me he was going to come on it was spontaneous. Savage man, savage.”
He puts the moment up there with playing guitar on ‘Fairytale of New York’ with McGowan and Shannon during gigs in the past few festive seasons. “It was just like, the biggest lump in my throat the minute the piano started and you’re just…the crowd, the fuckin…energy…because it means so much to so many people.”
Strawberry Blood was produced by Joe Chester after he bumped into Mundy and had a mini-piss up in Stansted Airport of all places. Names such as JJ Cale, Josh Rouse, Ryan Adams, Fleetwood Mac and a few others bounced around the conversation and the two agreed they’d record a track together. After teaming up to record a tune for a charity album, the two then decided it was time to get into the studio to record the follow up to Raining Down Arrows.
Ã¢€Å“I loved recording this album because I knew all the musicians on it, they’re all the lads who have played live with me for years and I really believed in Joe Chester and his taste and his tone and his kind of….what’s that word…he was very precise with his sounds,” he says.
Enright is obviously happy with the results, with some tunes having finally seen the light of day after nearly a decade in the locker (‘The Corn and the Orange Sun’), while others were born ‘in five minutes’ (such as album highlight ‘I Miss the Country’). The only real mis-step is ‘It’s All Yours’ which takes it’s inspiration from a gym poster (yep, a gym poster) with fairly aimless results. The rest is a richly mixed affair.
Inspiration, he says, is often to be found in the notes section on his mobile phone where most lyrics are saved when he’s on the move. “There’s some stuff from there that has made it’s way on to the record, I have some fair oul’ shite in here to be honest though (he begins scanning through what’s written)…. ‘Zimbabwe $700 loaf of bread’.”
“It makes sense when I research the facts usually,” he laughs. “Lyrically though,” Enright continues, “I think it’s very important that you speak in your own language. Like I was asked some question in a magazine yesterday – your favourite Dublin book of all time?”
“I could have said like fuckin’ ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, ‘Dubliners’… I only read half of one of those, I didn’t read ‘Ulysses’. You have to speak your own language and people don’t believe you, if you start throwing in wanky words if it’s not in your nature to do that. You’re fucked then. I just think you do have to speak in your own language to be understood.”
Strawberry Blood is out now.