When iconic “college rock” band Miracle Legion announced its 2017 reunion tour would also serve as its last, fans like myself were saddened thinking this would be the final time we got to hear the brilliance of desperately under-known singer/songwriter Mark Mulcahy and company.
Mr. Mulcahy has also released a superb new solo CD, “The Possum in the Driveway.” Although it is missing the subtle guitar genius of Mr. Ray Real, the album delivers that wonderful weirdness and heartbreaking raw truth we’ve come to expect from Mr. Mulcahy’s singing and songwriting.
Mr. Mulcahy is hitting the road for a handful of intimate dates, which include a stop at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Nov. 19. I sat down with the artist in advance of the show to talk about the Miracle Legion and the strangest thing he has ever seen in his driveway.
Question: Is Miracle Legion truly over?
Answer: We’re never done as far as I can tell. We’re aliens. You just can’t get rid of us.
I really enjoyed the last tour. If there was a demand and a way, we would definitely do it again. If we did it again, I would imagine there would be a record involved — more of a forward moving thing.
Q: How about your offshoot band, Polaris?
A: That is a one-trick pony. If we did that again, it would just be [playing] those tunes and having a good time, which I like doing too.
But that band is never going to go forward most likely. With Miracle Legion, if somehow [Mr. Ray Neal] and I could get it together to write some more songs and make some kind of record, I would like it.
Q: Is there more freedom or more pressure in being a solo artist?
A: My brother used to say, “Freedom is its own prison. Since I went solo for whatever reason back then, I was happy not to be in a band. Now you are asking me, on the other side, [about] having gone back to being in a band? I like the feeling of being with a group of people who are all single-minded. When you are a solo artist, you’re the single-minded one. The other guys, whoever you’re playing with, are great and still onboard in a way, but it’s not that same group effort that you have when you are a band and have a name and walk around being this thing.
The freedom of being able to do what I want and make whatever kind of record I want and not have to talk to anybody else about it is a great feeling, but I don’t know that it is the best feeling. It’s 50/50 I suppose. I’m happy to do either one now that I have a perspective on each.
Q: How did you assemble the group of musicians for the new record?
A: There is a guy I play with a lot called Kenny; it was rooted in the two of us. I can play drums, so he and I would switch back and forth. The other guys were just people from where we were. They were just guys that I knew or the producer knew, really.
It was never a band in the studio. Kind of a hodgepodge.
Q: How do you approach recording?
A: What is going on with the song in the moment? There is no patented way of doing it. I like to go till it’s done, and knowing when it’s done is the trick. It’s like trying to get a good piece of energy down. There’s no real trick to it. It’s almost like it’s always an accident for me.
I don’t have a process.
Q: For you, creating music is haphazard in a way.
A: It still feels random. It comes out. Whenever I write anything, I listen to it and say, “Man, that didn’t exist a minute ago.”
I’m amazed at this kind of thing. That’s the best part for me.
Q: Is the title of your new CD, “The Possum in the Driveway,” literal or a metaphor?
A: Kind of both, but there was actually a possum in the driveway. Just kind of describes a certain point in time that sums up the record.
Q: Beyond the possum, what is the strangest thing you have ever seen in your driveway?
A: Probably a bunch of oil spilling out of my car that I didn’t realize was spilling out of my car. Not that that was strange, but it was certainly frightening. (Laughs)
Q: What can people expect when they come out to see you on this tour? Is it just acoustic or with a band?
A: I started playing with a band around here called Luxe Deluxe. They became my backing band. I’ve never done this before: I usually play with guys I know, and I don’t really know these guys. They are really good players and singers.
Q: What songs will you play?
A: I try to do some part of everything: some from Column A, Column B and a few from Column C.
When the album first came out, I did a tour of just playing that record. It was pretty cool, but I don’t know if that was satisfying to people. I remember as a kid going to see Lou Reed, and all he played was his “New York” album, and I was pissed.
Q: Do you get any downtime on tour, and if so, how will you spend yours in D.C.?
A: In Miracle Legion we used to have good days off, but this tour is a little more focused where you kind of go, play and leave.
I would really like to go to the Lincoln Memorial. It is something I always like to see when I’m in D.C. — probably my favorite thing in D.C.
Mark Mulcahy plays the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Nov. 19. Tickets are available at Ticketfly.com.