2012 brought with it many hip new trends for the music industry. The diverse range of nominees in this month’s Grammy awards proved just that. From the mellow smooth R&B beats of Frank Ocean to the quirky rock-pop jingles of Fun., new music certainly gave us a lot to talk about. But one genre rising in popularity is that of folk-rock. Take a folk song, add some guitar, some bumpy percussion, and certainly a banjo, then poof, you have folk-rock. This oftentimes upbeat music gets a crowd clapping their hands and stomping their feet, but always wanting more.
A wide range of musical groups made this new style popular in 2012, most notably The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, The Avette Brothers, and, of course, Mumford and Sons. While groups like The Decembrists and The Civil Wars have certainly added their influence as well, let’s focus on Marcus Mumford and his quartet of British musicians.
Popularized through 2010′s “Sign No More,” Mumford and Sons reached musical super-stardom with 2012′s “Babel.” This release won them Best Album award at the Grammy’s and, if not already, pushed them from the label of “new artist” to “household name.” But much more went into the epic leap Mumford and Sons has made in music fame. Whether they realized it or not, this group proved the power of building a fan base first and producing more music later.
Mumford and Sons toured for nearly 2 years off of one album without releasing new music. Throughout Europe, the United States, and Canada, they played the small festivals, focusing on the live performances and the connection an artist makes with the audience. Through word of mouth, their songs slowly started to pop up on the radio. Then they were making it to the bigger festivals, but always remaining on the road. New songs came from time spent on the tour bus, not in the studio.
The slow climb up the ladder of popularity hit an all-time high in the summer of 2012 when Mumford and Sons launched the Gentlemen of the Road concert series. As opposed to typical summer tours, the group set up a select few small music festivals in unsuspecting locations around Europe and the U.S. For an entire day, Mumford and Sons and some of their friends would put on a 2-stage, nonstop concert experience in an intimate setting. The acts to tour with them ranged from popular bands, like Dawes and Dropkick Murphys, to the up-and-coming Indie groups, like Haim and The Apache Relay. Fans were hooked by the concert experience, selling out each festival to great acclaim.
Months later, “Babel” was finally released. The philosophy “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” reigned true, as Mumford and Sons used the same formula from their previous album to refine and supercharge their newest tracks. From start to finish, this musical work had Best Album written all over it, both for quality and completeness. Listeners might find it difficult to listen to one song and not listen to the rest of the album along the way. Yet, several tracks emerge as great singles for radio or playlist use.
Mere days before the recent Grammy awards, Mumford and Sons announced the second summer for Gentlemen of the Road. Fewer locations and nearly a 100% spike in price of admission did not slow ticket buyers down, as most shows sold out in only 10 minutes. Many wonder if the sellout time would have been decreased should tickets have been sold following the big Grammy win 2 days later.
Consider the Best Album award only a kickstart to what is ramping up to be a phenomenal 2013 for the world’s favorite folk-rock band. While it will be difficult for Mumford and Sons to find time to write new material in-between the heavy tour line-up(including the recently announced headlining of Bonnaroo Music Festival), if we’ve learned anything over the past 2 years it’s to expect the unexpected out of this energized folk-rock quartet.