Artist Profile: Singer-Songwriter and Guitarist Peter Mulvey

Artist Profile: Singer-Songwriter and Guitarist Peter Mulvey

This Milwaukee native returns to his home town for a show at the Back Room.

Singer-songwriter, guitarist and Milwaukee native Peter Mulvey, who began his musical career busking on the streets of Dublin, Ireland, more than two decades ago, will return to Brew City at 8 p.m. April 12 at the Back Room at Colectivo as part of a nationwide tour to promote his latest album, There is Another World, released in February. 

Mulvey, whose music is influenced by Americana, jazz and folk music, has had a productive career, which has included eighteen studio albums, numerous national and international tours, a children’s book and teaching music and writing workshops across the United States.

During a recent telephone interview, we asked Mulvey a few questions about his long and varied career. 


Full Name: Peter Mulvey

Age: 49

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin; now lives in Massachusetts

Other Titles: Writer, teacher

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Although you were born in Milwaukee, you’ve traveled to and performed in many places. For example, what brought you to Ireland, and then from Ireland to Boston?

I did a semester abroad in Ireland, while a student at Marquette University, and returned to Ireland about ten years later. I was looking for a place where there were lots of people close together, and I found that in Boston. Also, there is an incredible music scene there. Boston is really where I cut my teeth as a musician.

Since 2007, you’ve gone on tours around the United States — completely on a bicycle! When is your next tour, and do you have a favorite type of bike you like to ride?

This September, I’ll be playing gigs from Minneapolis to Boston — a total of 1,500 miles in about a month’s time. I’ve been an avid biker since I was young, and for my tours I ride a German Recumbent bike. It’s kind of like a lawn chair with wheels.

Your spoken word poem “Vlad the Astrophysicist” is now the subject of a TED talk and a children’s book. What was your inspiration behind the poem?

One night, when I was in West Virginia, I met this Czech astrophysicist. We were having a chat, and I asked him why we (people on earth) have not been contacted by another intelligent species. He gave me a fairly simple answer, and, as he was giving me this answer, I as a writer was thinking ‘how can I frame this as a book?’”

Your 2015 song, “Take Down Your Flag,” about the shootings in the AME Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, inspired many artists, including Keb Mo,’ Ani DiFranco, Jeff Daniels and Paula Cole, to do their own versions of the song. What was it like working with these artists?

Well, the movement behind the song was online, so I never actually met a lot of these artists in person. However, I have opened for and worked with Ani DiFranco a number of times. She produced my 2017 record, Are You Listening, on her label, Righteous Babe Records. Ani is just great to work with. She is the best listener, and a born leader, which seems redundant to say — the best leaders are great listeners, especially in today’s society.

What inspired your new album There is Another World?

The album is personal, really close to the ground, close to home. It’s about upheaval and loss. I was living alone in a home in Fort Atkinson, and I’d go for many walks. I’d often see wildlife in my yard, like foxes and owls. The first track on the album, “The Fox” was written about a fox who kept coming to the yard. One day I saw its tracks in the snow, departing.

Who’s your favorite musical artist these days?

I’ve been listening a lot to Mean Dog, Trampoline, an album by an artist, Matt Lorenz, who goes by the name The Suitcase Junket. The album (engineered by Jason Pizzoferrato, who has worked with Dinosaur Jr., and mixed by Steve Vance, who has worked with Jack White) is great.

What can fans expect from your upcoming Colectivo performance?

I’ll be performing with Nathan Kilen on drums and Allen Cote on guitar. We will play a mix of old and new stuff. We’re gonna get out there and make magic happen—that’s all we ever do. I’m very excited to play with SistaStrings — they are incredible, one of my favorite Milwaukee groups. I’m really looking forward to playing in the town I grew up in.