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Q&A with singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy, performing Saturday in Hamden

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HAMDEN — Acclaimed singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy returns to his roots by playing a hometown show this weekend.

Local audiences may know Mulcahy as the frontman of New Haven-based 1980s rock band Miracle Legion, or as “Muggy Polaris,” ringleader of Polaris, the fictional house band of the beloved 1990s Nickelodeon series “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.”

The Springfield-based musician and owner of record label Mezzotint is slated to play Saturday at the Space Ballroom, on the heels of the release of his latest album, “The Gus.”

“The Gus” is Mulcahy’s sixth solo record, and follows 2017’s “The Possum In the Driveway” and his celebrated 2013 return record, “Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You.”

Mulcahy spoke earlier this week with the Record-Journal as he prepared to head out on a tour of the eastern U.S. and U.K.

Who are you going to be touring with? What sort of band will you be taking with you on the road?

“I’m touring with the guy who produced our record, Marc Seedorf (J Mascis, Dinosaur Jr.), and then a drummer, Jake Wardwell, who I haven’t played with before but I’m really enjoying playing with, and another guy who played on the record, Dennis Crommett. It’s going to be a four-piece for most of the shows, and maybe another couple people that just show up.”

The new album, “The Gus,” has been out for six weeks. How has the reception been?

“The reviews that I have gotten have been really positive for the most part … It takes a long time to make a record, for me anyway, and so it’s interesting to finally have this thing in your hand, and to see what at least somebody thinks of it.

You can extend that by going actually out and playing in front of people and seeing how it goes live when you play the songs. I have other records I’ve made that I can play from, and people would know those songs, but these songs, they would know them less. It’s always kind of interesting to play new music in front of people, see how it goes.”

Sure. So for this tour, are you going to be incorporating some of the older songs, too? I know last time (with the release of “The Possum in the Driveway” in 2017) you played the whole album just start to finish.

“No, I only did three shows like that, and I had an enormous band that I could never afford to keep. And also I didn’t play any instruments. Everything about that, that was like a dream, I didn’t have to do anything but sing.

I have a lot of (upcoming) shows to do. I’m going to do, probably, overall 25 shows, and more later. I’ll play all kinds of stuff. Whatever I know how to play, I would play.”

All right. So how is the new album different from past albums, in terms of songwriting?

“I always try harder and harder every record to make it a more, like a clearer version of whatever I’ve been trying to think about. I try to think about what I want to do and then try as hard as I can to make that happen.

And so this record, we really kind of dug in and we spent quite awhile on a lot of things that I don’t usually do. This one, sort of lyrically and musically … there’s not a lot of extra. There’s only really what we decided belonged on each song. It’s just kind of polished, but hopefully not in a bad way. It’s as polished as I can polish something.”

You said that you’re doing things you don’t usually do, spending more time on things. Can you elaborate on that a little bit more?

“I like to write lyrics, and the vocals and the singing and the lyrics, that’s the part I’m most interested in. That and the drums. So I really try to make sure all the words I used, and I’m sure that a year from now I’ll listen to something and wish that I’d done something else, but I tried my hardest to write lyrics so that every word counts.

“Then musically, we just recorded a ton of things. Just to record a lot of things doesn’t make anything better, but we were sort of trying to get a version of anything, whether it was a basic track or any overdub or a vocal. Trying to get one that when you were done, you thought, ‘OK, that is as good as that could be … It’s a weird bunch of decisions to make, but we try to make good decisions and work hard on making them, instead of just taking it as it came and stitching it all up later on.”

What elements do you feel came out strongest on this album?

“The overall thing, the collection. I’ve listened to it a million times, but at one point when I put it on, I listened to from start to finish and I thought, ‘This feels really like a cohesive record.’ … Even down to the artwork, the name and everything about it, it’s just a satisfying feeling to have made a record that feels like a record to me, not disjointed.” There’s a lot of reasons why, but just generally at some point it just locked into itself and became a Rubik’s cube that was solved or something.”

Do you have anything on the horizon? Do have many unfinished songs lying around? What’s next for you?

“I probably am going to find a way to record more music and put it out, but I feel like I don’t know what that’s going to be at the moment. If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would say, ‘well probably just start working on another album.’ But I don’t know if that’s exactly what I would do, I don’t know if an album is all there is anymore. I feel like I could make an album, and I’m sure I will, but I’d like to find other ways to present either music or just ideas.

“There’s a million things that you can do nowadays. I’m always just kind of thinking about a way to get an idea across to the public.”

Mark Mulcahy plays Saturday at the Space Ballroom, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, with The Split Coils. Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$20, available at www.spaceballroom.com.

Twitter: @LCTakores


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