Marcus Mumford, lead singer of the band Mumford & Sons, has opened up about an experience of childhood sexual abuse which has become the main subject of his latest music.

In an interview with GQ published Wednesday, Mumford said the crux of his new song “Cannibal” is “that thing that happened when I was six.” 

In the interview, he clarifies that the abuse was not perpetrated by a member of his family, or a member of the church he grew up in, “which might be some people’s assumption.” 

The song – which is the opening track on his self-titled debut solo album due out next month – opens with the lines, “I can still taste you and I hate it. That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it.” 

Mumford said the song has sparked difficult conversations with those closest to him, including with his own mother, who was unaware of the experience prior to listening to it. 

“I hadn’t told anyone about it for 30 years,” Mumford told GQ. 

Mumford & Sons’ debut album, “Sigh No More,” was released in 2009 and sold more than three million copies in the U.S. Their most recent album “Delta” came out in 2018. During that nine-year stretch, Mumford told GQ, “I leant pretty heavily into booze and picked up some probably addictive behaviors.” 

Mumford told GQ that in 2019, he hit a self-described “rock bottom” and started trauma therapy, where he spoke about his experience of abuse for the first time. 

“The last three years has just been trying to look at that and correct some balance,” Mumford told GQ. 

He said he has since stopped drinking entirely, and addressed unhealthy habits around food as well.  

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 1 in 13 boys in the U.S. experiences childhood sexual abuse, along with 1 in 4 girls. 

A 2005 CDC study conducted on San Diego Kaiser Permanente HMO members found that 16% of men were sexually abused by the age of 18. A 1998 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that survivors of childhood sexual abuse were found to have had a four-fold to 12-fold increased risk for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and suicide attempts.

A 1997 study published in the Clinical Psychology Review found that men are less likely than women to report instances of sexual abuse. 

Mumford has made it clear in “Cannibal” that finally speaking out about what happened has allowed him to begin healing:

“But when I began to tell,
it became thе hardest thing I ever said out loud
Thе words got locked in my throat
Man, I choked
And this is what it feels like to be free
Even though it follows back down
Stares into the dark with me.”

If you or a loved one is experiencing sexual abuse, please call the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) confidential 24/7 National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.