In 2015, a reclusive twenty-something by the name of Joe Mulherin took to putting his dark inner struggles to music and uploading the resulting melancholic emo-spliced-hip-hop to Soundcloud, and thus, Nothing, Nowhere was born. Fast forward three years and the music created in solitude out of a basement in Vermont, USA, is chanted in unison at a sold-out show at Manchester’s Deaf Institute.
Having cancelled a large part of his US tour only months earlier due to an on-going battle with anxiety and depression, it already feels like a triumph that Mulherin feels strong enough to play this show. Speaking to RIDE Music in July, Mulherin described touring as ‘a big challenge’. “It’s hard being in a different city every day, being away from your family and friends”.
But, there is nothing about Mulherin’s performance in Manchester that shows the occasion is getting the better of him. From the first chord of opener “Clarity in Kerosene” to the final of encore “I’m Sorry, I’m Trying” the enigmatic rapper charged around the stage like he owned the place, a confidence fuelled by the fact each song was being screamed back at him by an adoring crowd. Mulherin rewarded this adoration by regularly pointing his mic towards lucky fans as he got lost in his music, delivering lyrics with a visible outpouring of passion and pure unfiltered emotion.
“It’s amazing that this thing I created in my basement has made it international,” Mulherin says as he soaks in the atmosphere between songs. “It’s great that it’s made you all smile… or maybe you wouldn’t be smiling when listening to me, but whatever.” Despite the vulnerable and sombre tone that dominates Nothing, Nowhere’s back catalogue, his live show is a much higher energy affair.
Aided by a live band, N,N’s sound has an added edge, an added ‘heaviness’ that injects the show with drama and intensity, making it feel more akin to a straight-up rock show than a Soundcloud-wave rap gig. The highlight of the night came as arguably his biggest hit to-date “hammer.” kicked in. The sound of the moody intro riff triggered a wave of excitement, with bodies moving everywhere as Mulherin did the same, throwing himself around the stage, pirouetting and seemingly having the time of his life.
This performance felt special, not only marking a year since the release of N,N’s breakout album ‘Reaper’, it also marked a triumphant victory over Mulherin’s inner demons. Nothing, Nowhere’s dark genre-blending sound sets him out as an individual in a landscape where most artists are trying to ride the same tired trap wave. He brings a brand of theatrical drama and true emotion to his live performances that most of his contemporaries have yet to achieve.
Photos courtesy of The Deaf Institute, Manchester and JK Photography