Scott Mulvahill's new album, Himalayas, is available now.
Scott Mulvahill: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert Joined by bandmates Jesse Isley and Josh Shilling, Scott Mulvahill performs his song "Begin Againers" during NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert series.
Frontman. Singer-songwriter. World-renowned upright bassist. Multi-instrumentalist. For the past decade, Scott Mulvahill has left his unique mark on the intersecting worlds of Americana, bluegrass, folk, jazz, rock & roll, and roots music. Already acclaimed for his work alongside icons like Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby, he turns a new page with Himalayas, a versatile solo album that celebrates the full spread of his abilities.
Raised in Houston, Mulvahill cut his teeth as a member of Ricky Skaggs’ acclaimed band, Kentucky Thunder. The group toured internationally for five years, backed by the bottom-heavy pulse of Mulvahill's upright bass. Along the way, he also composed music of his own, shining a light on the genre-jumping influences — Paul Simon’s sophisticated pop, James Taylor’s folk, Jaco Pastorius’ innovative jazz, and more — that would eventually inspire the material on his solo debut, Himalayas. His performances as part of Skaggs’ nightly shows laid the brickwork for Mulvahill’s transition from hotshot sideman to compelling frontman.
Encouraged by musical mentor Bruce Hornsby, Mulvahill developed a unique approach to his songwriting — one that mixed his chops as an upright bassist with hook-heavy melodies and compelling narratives. Himalayas spotlights that distinctive style. A true “musician’s musician,” Mulvahill fills his solo debut with complex fingerwork and innovative progressions. At the same time, Himalayas is a song-driven record that focuses its attention not upon Mulvahill’s virtuosity, but upon the sheer listenability of his material. This is acoustic-leaning roots music of the highest caliber, shot through with elastic vocals, dobro, fiddle, and the honest, biographical lyrics of a songwriter who gave up an enviable position in Skaggs’ band to pursue his own muse.
“I wanna go over where I’ve never been,” he sings during the sparsely-decorated title track, one of several tracks to deal with the universal themes of facing one’s fears, taking leaps, and chasing down new horizons. Those messages are reflected in Mulvahill’s own career, as he pioneers a sound centered upon his voice and upright bass.
“As important as the bass is to the sound of my music, it’s not a crutch,” he says. “To me, the songwriting, the voice, and the message are what really matter. Himalayas is based upon this idea that there’s more to your life than your current challenge — that any setback is surmountable. There’s a ‘we’re in this all together’ mentality to these songs.”
Although bound together by universal themes, Himalayas also makes room for a diverse range of sounds. “Begin Againers” kickstarts the album with several bars of gorgeous a cappella, while “Gold Plated Lie” nods to the galloping urgency of rock & roll. Elsewhere, Mulvahill duets with Alanna Boudreau during a gospel-inspired cover of Paul Simon’s “Homeless,” then serves as a one-man band during tracks like “Fighting for the Wrong Side” and “Indefensible.” Together, these songs bridge the gap between disparate worlds — roots music, chamber music, free jazz, classic pop, and beyond — with ease and eclecticism.
“For years, I had a split personality to my music career,” says Mulvahill, whose solo career has already racked up a long list of milestones, including a tour with recent multi-Grammy winner Lauren Daigle, an NPR Tiny Desk concert, and a performance on the Mountain Stage radio show. “I was known as a bass player, but I was also a singer-songwriter. Himalayas combines those two halves together. It makes a statement about what can be done with an upright bass, while leaving room for me to explore other sounds on future albums.”
For a lifelong musician like Scott Mulvahill, the climb is never over. Himalayas marks his latest summit, showcasing the work of a songwriter whose songs swoon, soothe, and startle in equal measure.