Mumford & Sons Covering Mariah? Marcus Mumford & Ben Lovett Talk Christmas Music, Senegal Film and More

Mumford & Sons
Gavin Batty

Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons rocked the stage on night two of KROQ's Almost Acoustic Xmas on Sunday night, and Billboard caught up with Marcus Mumford and Ben Lovett backstage. Perhaps spurred by sharing a stage that night with Twenty One Pilots, The 1975 and Of Monsters and Men, the talk turned to collaboration, whether it was in their upcoming film about going to Senegal with Baaba Maal or their dream collaborators for their version of the Band farewell blowout from the legendary Last Waltz film, directed by Martin Scorsese in 1978. 

Check out Billboard's chat with Mumford and Lovett below.

Last night Jimmy Eat World covered Wham's "Last Christmas." 

Ben Lovett: I was just thinking: "Why the f--- aren't we doing a Christmas cover?"

What Christmas cover would you do?

Marcus Mumford: Mariah Carey "All I Want for Christmas," without a doubt. There are only two acceptable Christmas songs in my opinion: That one and [The Pogues']? "Fairytale of New York." All the others are completely unacceptable.

I am going to respectfully disagree.

Mumford: I thought you might, it's quite a controversial thing to say.

Lovett: I'm a complete sucker for the whole [thing]. Give me the '80s and '90s, I don't think there's been a great Christmas song for 15 or 20 years. I can't think of anything that's come out.

What is coming up for you in 2020?

Mumford: We're actually going to release a film and some music to go with it about our trip to Senegal with Baaba Maal, who we collaborated with on the Johannesburg EP and we toured with a bunch. And we finally got around, after many years of being invited to his hometown of Podor, which is a 12-hour drive from the capital of Dakar. And it's a very small town on the river of Senegal and people from four or five different countries come and there's a sort of great meeting of minds in the desert. I think we're the first western band to play it. And we went and recorded some music in our little courtyard of the hotel we stayed at, little guest house. We went to Baaba's house, recorded some music there. And it was just one of the most extraordinary experiences we've had. We like to try and do different things and see the world differently. That was up there on our hit list. It was great and we made a film with Kevin MacDonald, and Maggie Rogers came along for the ride. And it's something we're really proud of. We've just been finishing up the music for it at last. So that's sort of spring. 

Environment plays such a big part in writing. How did being there influence you musically?

Mumford: We had about 40 drummers in the courtyard when we were in the field recording setup. And I grew up playing drums. I tried [to play]. I was very out of my depth, and watching these guys in their element was great because they were all from different parts, either from Senegal or other countries around Senegal. And there was a jam-based section. There were all sorts of different percussive elements and like five guys in each section. So it was the equivalent of a very sophisticated marching band with just drums. It was awesome.

Does that type of collaboration keep music fresh and vital for you guys?

Lovett: Yeah, there are lots of examples of bands who have done it historically as well. We always liked the spirit of the Band and the idea that we would pick up musicians, the four of us, and we all just ended up with this band as a collaboration in its essence initially. And I think that going out and around and finding other people who are kind of kindred, it doesn't really matter necessarily what genre they occupy or relevance or coolness or radio, all that stuff doesn't seem to matter. It's kind of whether we connect on some other level. And then we're like, "Let's just communicate with each other through music." And a lot of that stuff doesn't even see the light of day. There have been a bunch of collaborations we've done that we've never even released.  But it's just stuff for our own peace of mind.

In honor of the Band, if you do your version of The Last Waltz, who are the five musicians you have join you?

Mumford: Wow. I think Baaba would have to be in there, we've collaborated with him a lot. Tom Morello would have to be in there, similarly, collaborated with him a bunch. 

Lovett: Jerry Douglas, I feel like a key player.

Mumford: Mavis Staples, seeing her tomorrow. 

Lovett: Maybe Maggie Rogers.

Mumford: Something like that at the moment. Not quite Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and all that, but those are the guys we play with. Be fun.