The drum beat at the beginning of “Wilder Mind” from the new Mumford & Sons album Wilder Mind had me confused. It’s upbeat and happy-sounding and fairly fast. The previous songs released had been moody and heavy, but this song was so much lighter, suggesting far lighter tone and subject matter. However, the difference didn’t last; the music thickened quickly and the lyrics in “Wilder Mind” are still intense and near-brooding.

Screen Shot of Mumford & Sons Website II

The lyrics in “Wilder Mind” are almost mournful, but there’s energy behind them, derived from Mumford’s voice and the drum beat. The song is a bemoaning of a relationship that failed Mumford because the woman in it tried too hard to control him. She had a vision for how their relationship should look and knew what she wanted but didn’t consider what Mumford wanted or who he was. She tried to artificially create a relationship that she thought would be perfect but failed both herself and Mumford.

The title, “Wilder Mind,” is a reference to the narrator’s own restless nature. When, in the song, his female friend attempts to tame him, his mind will rebel.

Screen Shot of Mumford & Sons Album Cover“The Meaning” 

Mumford begins by singing, “It’s in my blood, it’s in my water,” showing this wildness to be vital to his own personality. One cannot function without blood and water, and Mumford’s wildness is inseparable from him because it’s in those two things. He sings that she tried “to tame [him] from the start.” She is controlling and wants to remove his wildness-the existence of which is reinforced by the powerful, and quick rhythm of the song that contrasts with the intense, moody lyrics.

This woman seems to have tried to use sex to control Mumford: “With that deadness in your eye, flash your flesh / Desperate for a need to rise.” Her advances on him are tactical and unenthusiastic; she has no real passion for him. She merely uses her own flesh as a way to ensnare him, hoping that sex will enthuse her and give her “a need to rise.” (Of course, this could also refer to the woman wanting her body to be a “need to rise” for Mumford.)

However, as sung in the hook, this woman’s promises of sex and “flesh” aren’t enough to make Mumford stay; he “had been blessed with a wilder mind.” And her “proper” and formalized nature keeps her from understanding him. Mumford describes her as having “silver crystal on,” and he sings, “How well you used to know how to shine,” both lines suggesting that she is good at performing a highly polished and successful version of herself for others.

In the next stanza of the hook, Mumford sings, “You can be every little thing you want nobody to know / And you can try to drown out the street below.” The first line suggests that her usual persona is fake, that she is someone else, and that she wants to be that person with Mumford. When she is with him, she loses her “shine,” “polish,” and perhaps her good nature, revealing a controlling manipulator underneath. The second line shows that her attempts are not sustainable; she can try to be this person she wants to be, but just as she can’t drown out the noise of traffic, she will never make her actions right. (In addition, perhaps this is also an implied reference to the noise of sex, the action of which she hopes will help her to forget and ignore the outside world.)

Marcus Mumford ScreenshotWhatever the reasons for her actions, this woman is desperate and trapped, and she is trying to bring Mumford into this trap with her. Mumford sings, “And you can call it love / If you want.” This form of control and manipulation may seem right to her, but Mumford will have none of it. He doesn’t buy in; his mind is wilder.

Verse 2 shows Mumford’s restless spirit in action. He thinks that he is “[b]eholden” perhaps because he feels he owes the woman something for her sex. And while she sleeps “so sound with [her] mind made up,” he “find[s] [himself] awake / Waiting on the edge again.” This could be a subtle reference to the edge of a bed or the edge of a decision as he must choose whether to stay with her or not. While he feels tense and restive, she sleeps “sound,” her spirit satisfied by “[d]rinking from [her] cup of broken ends.” These “broken ends” are a reference to the false world she’s built up around herself-a world that Mumford will be leaving even more broken.

Mumford ends the song with the echo of a pitiful, “But I thought we believed in an endless love.” He seems bewildered. The results of this relationship leave him unsure of the existence of “endless love.” He seems to be asking, “What happened to endless love? Did we ever actually believe in it? If so, where did it go?” His relationship with this woman has left him wandering and wondering.

What do you think? Is this song about a controlling woman? Is it about a relationship? Give me your theories and ideas below. I’d love to talk.

If you want to keep listening to “Wilder Mind” and Wilder Mindyou can find them on Amazon. Also, if you want notifications of future posts, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and here on the blog. Cheers!

Explanations for other songs on Wilder Mind:

  1. Tompkins Square Park
  2. Believe
  3. The Wolf
  4. Wilder Mind
  5. Just Smoke
  6. Monster
  7. Snake Eyes
  8. Broad-Shouldered Beasts
  9. Cold Arms
  10. Ditmas
  11. Only Love
  12. Hot Gates
  • Julio

    increible song! amazing analysis!!!

  • Catherine

    Wilder Mind: Synical Mumford is saying good/bye to her in every line. He sees every play by her, every motivation. He seems to be studying her, seeing the lengths she will go to bamboozal him into staying with her, but for naught. He catalogues her actions in song for all of us to learn: don’t be a fake, be true in your thoughts because your thoughts lead to your actions, thus your destiny.

  • Jude Merkel

    This is a great theory, one I had not thought of. However, it meant something entirely different to me. I’ll start with the hook, “you can be every little thing you want nobody to know, and you can try to drown out the streets below”. I think he is talking about a woman he used to be in love with and something happened between them and she is now with another man. But the woman is in denial and doesn’t really love the man she is with. She is trying to be someone she is not and drown out everyone else below. And she calls this love with the other man, but in reality she is just searching for security through a relationship. “You drink so slow with your mind made up” she is certain that this new man is the one she is going to marry. Mumford then says “but I have been blessed with a wilder mind”. To me he is admiring her from a distance and will always think about her, he is giving her the space and says “you can call it love, if you want”. But to him, he knows she doesn’t love him but he wants her to be happy and thinks he won’t interfere with her relationship. Then he goes on to say, but I thought we believed in an endless love. Meaning that even if she does get married to this guy they will still somehow end up together because he believes in an endless love even if she doesn’t. That was just my take!

  • Lon Marshall

    I wondered if it was talking about a religious institution or tradition. The Church is often referred to as “her.” A tradition can be conforming and reject new ideas, science, etc. There are ultimate questions asked of a loving God that some restrictive traditions will not entertain. One can be left asking, if love never ends? Mumford has had some history in regards to these ideas.

    • That’s a great point. Thanks for giving that suggestion! I’ll have to look into that.

  • Chantal

    I really enjoyed reading your interpretation and analysis of the song. Thank you for sharing it. I also am intrigued with Lon Marshall’s take on the song and will be thinking on that a bit more.

    For myself, “Wilder Mind” reflects a relationship between a girl who values appearances over authenticity and a guy who’s trying to get her to let her guard down and be vulnerable with him.

    “With that deadness in your eye (…)” refers to his partner being an empty shell who uses sex as an attempt to feel something.
    “With a silver crystal on (…)” When they first met, she showed him a version of herself that was alluring to him.
    “in a place that’s safe from harm” this line points out that no one had challenged her false pretences until he came along. His wilder mind doesn’t allow him to take things at face value and craves authenticity.
    “You can be every little thing you want nobody to know (…)” He’s encouraging her to let loose and forget about what other people think.
    “You can call it love (…)” He’s pretty much saying that if she can figure out a way to do this, they might have a real chance at love.
    “Beholden now (…)” She seems content with leaving things the way they are which makes it pretty clear to him that they won’t be able to make it work. He’s mourning the relationship he thought they had.

    This is one of my favourite songs of the album.

  • Chantal

    After re-reading the comments, I’ve realized that my interpretation is very much in line with Catherine’s.

  • Mike

    So the song is in reference to a conversation Mumford had with his father. Because of their deeply religious background that Mumford at the time was questioning he made an offhanded comment that was something like “well dad, you know I have A wild mind.” His father quickly responded, “son it takes a much wilder mind to believe and have faith.” This was relayed to me through a personal connection.

    • Really? Is there anyway you can give me confirmation on this? If so, I’d love to do a podcast on this song.