By Amaris Pollinger
Joseph Mulherin, better known by his stage name, nothing, nowhere, started as all good things do; in the shadows. Blending elements of pop, hip hop, rap, emo, and trap beats, Mulherin sparked the hearts of fans before he ever made it into the mainstream. He released his first album as nothing, nowhere, The Nothing in 2015 on Bandcamp. By 2017, The New York Times had hailed his mainstream debut, Reaper, “the most promising album of the year,” and in 2018, Mulherin officially signed with the label Fueled By Ramen.
Released on April 19th, “MEMORY_FRACTURE” is the latest single by nothing, nowhere who was simultaneously on his North American tour. Mulherin took a brief break from the tour to meet with me. Through a haze of frankincense and lavender soda (a ritual that I would soon learn was familiar to Mulherin) we talked about plots of land, touring, and the trials that come with living with anxiety—and the threat of panic attacks.
“I really, really, really don’t like leaving the house or anything,” says Mulherin. He grew up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, but now calls Vermont home. There, on a plot of land, the alt-rap musician is allowed to live as the hermit he’s so comfortable being. Mulherin is quite open about his struggle with anxiety and depression, having even canceled shows in the past because of it.
“Touring can be challenging for me, but all it takes is for me to be in front of these crowds.” Seeing people cheer, cry, and releasing their emotions makes overcoming his own fear worth it. When Joseph Mulherin first started nothing, nowhere, he noticed something he’d never seen before—at least not in independent music.
“The amount of [my] lyrics tattooed on people, the stories I’ve heard from them, …I feel like I’ve created a strong bond with essentially strangers; just through the words I write,” Mulherin comments.
nothing, nowhere is a true blend of genres, beautifully executed and painful…but it is the kind of ache that haunts you in all the ways you want music to. If this is the next step for emo, I suddenly find myself a fan. That’s quite a statement for someone like myself, who plants a firm boundary between ‘goth’ and ‘emo’ (they are NOT the same, but that’s a topic for another day). While many emo bands tend to sound angsty and immature, (i.e., not really being upset about anything), Mulherin is not just telling us he’s upset—and he’s certainly not telling us anything trivial. nothing, nowhere is very well executed and I don’t think there’s a word strong enough to express the power behind Mulherin’s work. It’s exquisite and like nothing in the mainstream.
You can also feel Mulherin’s gratitude, not only when he sings but when he speaks. To date, he is probably one of the most grateful entertainers I’ve come across. He truly cannot believe what music has done for him or where it’s taken him. Mulherin sees his music saving people the same way it saved him not so very long ago, when he was a lost, scared, and anxious kid.
“Music was there for me when no one else was,” says Mulherin, “so the fact that I’m here on tour right now, that I get to give that kind of solace to people… It means the world to me.”
“MEMORY_FRACTURE,” is a tribute to the bands that Mulherin says are inspirations of his that will never fade. They include Taking Back Sunday, Senses Fail, Silverstein, Mineral, American Football and The Promise Ring. Music is something Mulherin loves without boundaries, and like his melting-pot sound, his taste is scattered across genres.
“These days I’m really into Nine Inch Nails, Vain, Deftones, a lot of hardcore stuff,” the singer says, remarking on his varied musical tastes. “I just love music. My Spotify playlist is kinda all over the place. I try to take what I can from everything I listen to and try to make my own thing.”
While most of nothing, nowhere’s subject matter is about wrestling with mental health, “MEMORY_FRACTURE” is about Mulherin’s acceptance of aging, the burden of anxiety and how it may potentially be there for the rest of his life. For him, “MEMORY_FRACTURE” is about handling the struggle of anxiety and depression with grace while having the courage to overcome it.
“It’s not about suddenly getting better one day,” he says, “[but] recognizing that this is something that I was born with, and sort of learning how to navigate life as smoothly as possible throughout the mental turbulence.” [sic]
Anxiety can be crippling, and those of us who suffer with it have an entire mental and emotional routine that needs to be conducted before performing some of the most menial tasks—like getting groceries or, oh I don’t know, going on tour. Joe chuckles as we exchange calming rituals and our own preparation techniques that come before either of us interacts with society. For Mulherin, he burns incense on stage and meditates before performing live.
“It’s a whole process,” he laughs. “This is the worst profession for someone with anxiety, but I do it somehow. It’s a good challenge, getting out of your comfort zone and doing something that scares you frequently. I think that’s important.”
That’s part of the beauty of life for Mulherin; powering through challenges and living symbiotically with the things that would hinder us.
So far, “MEMORY_FRACTURE” has been well received, with one fan referring to nothing, nowhere overall as “a cure” for them. That sort of feedback left Mulherin nearly speechless, awe-struck.
“I never had any grand expectations with music,” he admits. “I did it because I love it. It’s nice to know that in this small amount of time we have on Earth, that you’re doing something worthwhile… that you’re impacting other people… That’s honestly all I ever wanted to do. You know?”
Joseph Mulherin’s tour (which he’s so graciously paused to speak with me) has exceeded his expectations. After Covid reared its ugly head in 2020, Mulherin canceled nothing, nowhere’s intended tour, and released Trauma Factory (2021). The praise for the album was satisfying enough but experiencing that praise emanating from the audience is another level of gratification for Mulherin. He is grateful for every face that’s appeared in the crowd, every ticket purchased, and more.
Of all his tours, Mulherin is proudest of this one. “It feels so surreal,” he says. “It’s been very rewarding and everyone on the tour is just unbelievable. [They’re] such good performers. I’m really proud of this line-up. After the pandemic, it just feels like a big reunion. It’s been really special.”
At the end of the day, Joseph Mulherin—aka nothing, nowhere—just wants to make music. He wants to create something new while doing everything he can to leave the world better than he found it, one small gesture at a time.
“MEMORY_FRACTURE” is available on all streaming platforms. Catch nothing, nowhere on tour with Poorstacy, Guccihighwaters, SNARLS, Scarypoolparty, & carolesdaughter. Follow nothing, nowhere on Facebook, Instagram, & keep up with him at nothingnowhere.net
**Cover photo courtesy of Elektra Records, taken by Jonathan Weiner.