“I wanna go where I’ve never been,” Scott Mulvahill declared on the title track of his debut album, “Himalayas.”
That revealing line nails the essence of the vocalist/bassist, who is coming to The Mill in Iowa City on Friday night (8/16).
“I like to take chances,” Mulvahill said by phone from his Nashville home. “I’ve never been afraid musically.”
Mulvahill proved that in 2012 when he accepted the bassist gig with Kentucky Thunder, which backs bluegrass icon Ricky Skaggs.
“When I started playing with Ricky, I knew nearly nothing about bluegrass,” Mulvahill said. “That was part of the excitement. There was that challenge, and I had the chance to play with one of the greatest musicians in the world. It was a chance I took and it paid off.”
The laid-back native Texan takes plenty of risks with “Himalayas.” He mixes blues, jazz and even gospel.
“What I play is the music I grew up listening to,” he said. “I would listen to my dad’s CDs. He exposed me to a lot of different music through his collection.”
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No album impacted Mulvahill more than Paul Simon’s seminal and inventive “Graceland,” which turned the music world on its ear a generation ago.
“I remember just picking up a random CD from my dad’s collection when I was cutting the grass as a teenager, and it was ‘Graceland,’” Mulvahill said. “I was blown away. I almost crashed the riding mower. I couldn’t wait to hear those songs without the buzz of a lawn mower. I was drawn in by the bass lines. The sound is so big and amazing. I never heard anything like Bakithi Kumao’s bass lines. He helped take ‘Graceland’ to another level. That whole album inspired me.”
Mulvahill, who has played “Graceland” in its entirety at some of his shows, will deliver a tune from the album during Friday’s performance.
“I’ll probably pick ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,’” he said. “The combination of bass and the songs, the lyrical content from ‘Graceland’ are so moving. The songs like ‘Boy in the Bubble’ are so abstract. Those songs helped form my musical identity.”
Skaggs played a vital role in Mulvahill’s development as a recording artist. While Skaggs was on tour with Bruce Hornsby, Kentucky Thunder played a version of Jimmy Martin’s traditional bluegrass tune, “20/20 Vision.”
“After that tour I got up the nerve to ask Ricky if I could be the featured singer on ‘20/20 Vision.’ Ricky was kind enough to let me do it, and it was huge for me, since I connected the concept of bass and voice. It made me step up as a vocalist and I gained the confidence to be able to sing and play.”
After five years of playing with Skaggs, Mulvahill had the courage to become a solo singer-songwriter, and in 2017, he started work on “Himalayas.”
“I wanted to move on and try other things,” he said. “I asked myself what I could do that no one else could. My concept was playing bass, singing and writing songs while drawing upon the diverse influences I grew up on. I had to take that chance.”
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His concept is simple. He plays bass, sings, adds some background vocals, and a few other musicians contribute.
“I don’t think I need much more at this time,” Mulvahill said. “That may change, since I don’t want to do the same thing forever. You have to keep moving on as a musician. I don’t ever want to become stagnant.
“I’m excited about what’s going to come next. I have a lot of ideas going forward. I’ll explore with different textures. I’ve been at this for a few years, but I feel like I’ve only just begun.”
WHAT: Scott Mulvahill
WHERE: The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (8/16)
TICKETS: $13 advance, $15 show day, Icmill.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Scottmulvahill.com/about