Analogue Music | Victor Mucho

Victor Mucho

By Matt Conner

In a year marked by isolation for everyone, Brian Macdonald went the extra mile—make that 4,600 miles.

The members of Judah & The Lion were already ready for a year away from the demands of the road, but as Macdonald tells us, a graduate school opportunity for his wife on a small island off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea came calling. Just like that, the young couple with dog in tow took off for Visby, a small town marked by brick streets and Viking ruins.

It is within this year away from everything that something began to stir and eventually emerge from Macdonald that signaled a sea change from his previous musical work. Victor Mucho was born in the process, and the 14 acoustic songs on Moonlight in Visby chronicle his experiences and emotions from his time away. The end result is a beautifully vulnerable release and a transformed artist now cognizant of his need for space.

We recently caught up with Macdonald, who is now back in Nashville, to tell us more about his time in Sweden and what the presence of Victor Mucho means for his other band.

Analogue: Victor Mucho comes to us from a Swedish island. Did you expect something like this to emerge from your time there?

Brian Macdonald: When I really got that space and was physically alone, I had so much time and a whole world to explore that I didn’t necessarily expect. It happened organically, but I think a couple of days after we got to the island I was writing songs.

That paralleled with our journey of discovering a new home in Sweden and, or me, the mourning process of having to leave my home in Nashville. We love it here and we love our house. It's tucked away in the woods, so it was hard for me to leave that, but I did just because it was a very good opportunity to support my wife’s dream—for her to go to grad school.

"I think I recognized the importance of giving myself that space. It really helped me discover my identity."

I knew I was going to work on music there with time on my hands, but I didn’t know what it was going to look like. It really just paralleled with a rediscovery of what home means and having to find it not in a physical place.

It was hard because Judah & The Lion had been gone for such a long time on the road and then it felt I’d finally have a chance to be home. And then right after that, we moved to Sweden. I think a lot of the songwriting comes from that journey and we also went through a lot of growth as a married couple.

Analogue: “Many Moons” was the first song, right?

Brian: Yeah, the whole heart and genesis of the story come from the song “Many Moons,” which is a simple statement basically saying that as many times that the moon cycles through, our love is paralleled to that. It will ebb and flow but it will hopefully be consistent.

Analogue: Did you have to work some things out with the band when making a shift like this?

Brian: It was kind of serendipitous. At the beginning of 2020, before we knew the pandemic would be a thing, we’d already planned to take the year off. We’d just come off of a lot of touring and we hadn’t really had much of a break in seven or eight years. We were already thinking that way, that we’d avoid any big tours and that we’d take the time to reset and relax a bit. So that just worked out.

Analogue: You said this started with “Many Moons”. Do you look at that and decide, “Hmm, what else is here?” Are you just noodling around and look up and there’s a whole album’s worth of songs?

Brian: I would say I didn’t decide I was making an album until I had six or seven of the songs. The whole summer and fall of 2020, I was just writing songs and recording and living this very slow-paced life on the island. It really felt like time was slower there. I think the songs just started coming to me and I don’t know how to describe it. They just didn’t stop until the last day. The last song on the album is one I wrote the day before we left home and recorded it in a hotel room at the airport. And the first song that I wrote, I have the voice memo from a few days after we got there. So it feels like a complete story.

The lens I’m presenting it through is very mythical and almost fairy-tale-like of this town we lived in, but it did feel like we were living some sort of dream, and then it was over. You don’t want to let it go, but I think that’s such a picture of life in general.

Analogue: Was this process steeped in creative surprise?

Brian: Definitely. I think it felt very empowering. The whole thing about it is that I’m the type of person who would lean more introverted. If I don’t have that space to catch up and process, then I’m not necessarily thriving. I’d not had that space with the amount of touring we’d done, so when we moved there, it felt like I could suddenly pour all of these things in. It was empowering to see what was coming out and what I was learning about my identity and self through this. It gave me a lot of confidence as an artist and has changed how me and Judah interact when we write songs. I think it was just really important for me to give myself that space.

I wouldn’t have had that space at home, looking back at it. After this, I’m going to go power wash my patio. I’m not going to write music. So in Sweden, I didn’t have that. I got to write songs and then take my dog for a walk, so I think I recognized the importance of giving myself that space. It really helped me discover my identity.

I think this album is a very raw representation of me and that feels really good. I’ve never felt this way before where I just can’t help but tell everybody about it. My friends are probably annoyed at how much I talk about it [laughs], but it’s something that I don’t have a choice but to share. It’s just how I feel and I’m giving my all to it.

Analogue: If this is so transformational, how do you come back to what you had musically with Judah & the Lion with this in hand? Was that an island project? Is there more here?

Brian: Great question. I think it’s a mix of the two. I very much am going to continue to create the space, as I said, to explore Victor Mucho. I think my hope is it will ebb and flow over time. For example, we moved back in ’21 and the purpose of us moving back was to do the Judah & The Lion album, which I spent eight or nine months on that with Judah. Now that it’s finished, I have more time to focus on the Victor Mucho album.

I think it ebbs and flows. You can’t really put 100 percent into both at once, but what’s important for me with the Victor Mucho project is the release day. It’s such a raw thing that feels like I’m exposing who I am and how I think, so being able to release it is such a cool experience. It’s a letting go in a way.

The thing I see for this project is that the albums are me processing my identity and how I’ve changed, and the release of that art and music is closure on that period of time.

VISIT: Victor Mucho