Marcus Mumford, frontman of the band Mumford & Sons, has said that he was the victim of childhood sexual abuse.
“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,” he told GQ magazine. “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’s parents were international leaders of the Vineyard Churches, a neocharismatic evangelical Christian denomination.
Mumford said that his recently released debut solo single, Cannibal, reflected on experiences that took place when he was six years old.
The lyrics to the first verse run:
I can still taste you and I hate it
That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it
You took the first slice of me and you ate it raw
Ripped it in with your teeth and your lips like a cannibal
You fucking animal
It continues to detail the freedom that Mumford found from starting to be open about the experience, “even though it follows back down / Stares into the dark with me”.
In the interview, Mumford described coming off tour from Mumford & Sons’ 2018 album Delta at “rock bottom … I’d had the people closest to me hold up a mirror and say, like, ‘Dude, something’s not right here and it’s your responsibility to go figure it out.’ ”
He sought a therapist who specialised in trauma and, in their second session, talked about his childhood experiences and threw up. “Apparently, it’s very common,” he said, “once you basically unhook the denial and start the process of removing some suppression, then it’s very natural for that stuff to come out. I’d had problems breathing all my life. Not asthma but just, like, catching my breath.”
He described what happened to him as a six-year-old as “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.”
Mumford said he had spent his life until now “in layers of shame. And it probably started there when I was six, but I just got kind of addicted to shame, layers and layers of shame, which is why I feel now like I’ve done lots of figuring that out.
“And some of the areas in which I was trying to make that shame go away just led to more shame for me. And now being able to pick those apart a little bit and, like, chip away at the layers of it is why I feel kind of free, more free than I have in a long time.”
Cannibal is the first song on Mumford’s debut solo album, Self-Titled, due for release on 16 September. “I felt like it had to go first,” he told GQ. “I started sort of apologising for it, in my head.”
Mumford also confirmed that his band will continue as a trio after the departure of Winston Marshall, who quit the group in June 2021 after his support of a conservative journalist sparked backlash.
He admitted that he “begged” Marshall not to leave the band: despite not sharing many of his beliefs, “I think you can disagree and work together”, he said.