Marcus Mumford Opens Up About Childhood Sexual Abuse, Banjoist Winston Marshall in New Interview

The songwriter says he "actually really begged" Marshall not to leave Mumford & Sons

Photo: Robin Dua

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Aug 10, 2022

In July, Mumford & Sons bandleader Marcus Mumford revealed plans for a (self-titled) solo album with single "Cannibal," a song he said was born from "facing demons I danced with for a long time in isolation." Now, he has elaborated on the song's meaning in a new interview.

Speaking with GQ's Zach Baron, Mumford revealed that "Cannibal" describes his experience of sexual abuse as a six-year-old child. The song's lyrics read, "I can still taste you and I hate it / That wasn't a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it."

"Like lots of people — and I'm learning more and more about this as we go and as I play it to people — I was sexually abused as a child," Mumford told Baron. "Not by family and not in the church, which might be some people's assumption. But I hadn't told anyone about it for 30 years."

Mumford also shared that after playing "Cannibal" for his mother, she asked him what the lyrics were about days later. "I was like, 'Yeah, it's about the abuse thing.' She was like, 'What are you talking about?' So once we get through the trauma of that moment for her, as a mother, hearing that and her wanting to protect and help and all that stuff, it's objectively fucking hilarious to tell your mom about your abuse in a fucking song, of all things."

Mumford noted that the album's second track, "Grace," was written about that conversation with his mother. He added that the abuse, "was the first of a string of really unusual, unhealthy sexual experiences at a really early age. And for some reason, and I can't really understand why, I didn't become a perpetrator of sexual abuse — although I've done my fair share of cuntish behaviour."

The singer-songwriter also speaks of how therapy, where he spoke about the abuse for the first time, helped him identify other unhealthy behaviour, saying, "the last three years has just been trying to look at that and correct some balance." The profile also points to cutting out drinking, unhealthy food habits, and seeking advice from lawyer and social justice activist Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Mumford's GQ profile also finds him discussing the departure of banjoist, guitarist and childhood friend Winston Marshall from Mumford & Sons. Marshall left the group last year after he was rightfully slammed for his support of right-wing mouthpiece Andy Ngo, leading him to put down his instrument to become a conservative blogger

Looking "visibly uncomfortable" when asked about Marshall's exit, Mumford told GQ, "I actually really begged him not to leave," telling Baron that he didn't share many of Marshall's beliefs. "But I think you can disagree and work together."

Mumford was asked about Marshall's political pivot as follows:

I asked if Mumford was surprised at his friend's turn toward this type of thinking. "I just don't think it's the job of musicians to have all those thoughts," Mumford said, wearily. "And I think [Marshall] probably agrees. I don't know. But I should think he probably agrees. Which is part of the reason why he wanted to quit. Because he felt like his priorities couldn't align in the way he wanted to speak about things and live life. He wanted to do a different thing. And that's why I support him doing a different thing. Even though we disagree on a lot. A lot. And more now."

Disagree with his politics?

"With a lot of it, yeah. And the way of interacting. This is why I love Bryan Stevenson. And this is why I don't like Jordan Peterson. One of the reasons. It's the way of interacting with the world. I think grace matters in the way that you talk with people. I think if you present like a cunt and you are an angry man, particularly at this time, an angry, older, white man — I'm just fucking bored of it, man. We need grace. So, I, you know, I don't want to get into an argument with these guys at all. It just feels like a zero-sum game. A race to the bottom. Boring. Mostly it's boring. And mostly it's not my job."

Mumford's complete GQ profile can be read here.

(self-titled) arrives September 16, and features collaborations with Brandi Carlile, Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo and Monica Martin. In November, Mumford will bring the album to Toronto on a fall North American tour.

Latest Coverage